How to Avoid Traffic to Your Bicycling Website
Jesus said that no one lights a candle and places it under a bushel where it can't be seen, but it's actually a very common website technique. Note that the follow practices are all very common errors on cycling websites, even on some of the largest websites.
1) Don't give it a title. That way, the search engines will ignore it, and people won't be able to remember it. A title is enclosed in the title tags within the header <TITLE>Your Title</TITLE>. It's the number one thing that search engines use to categorize results; for instance, use the search term "bike" and you'll notice that most of the sites have "bike" in their titles. There's also supposed to be a title at the top of the page for humans to read <H1 ALIGN=CENTER>Your Title</H1>. Although the search engines also use this title, humans will tend to pay more attention to this title than to the other one. So, to avoid traffic, avoid it too.
1a) If you must give it a title, call it "Bill's Homepage," so no one can figure out what it's about. They also are not going to be very curious about visiting a site with a name like that. In addition, when searching for "bicycling OR bicycle OR bike OR cyclist" (my search to find all bicycling pages), "Bill's Homepage" will rank 1,679,502 (if it ranks at all) while the typical web searcher won't look past the first 10 to 20 search engine results. As an added advantage, web directories refuse to list sites with titles such as "Bill's Homepage."
1b) If you must mention what it is about, call the page "Bicycles" or "Bike Links," so it has the same name as 10,000 other sites. Never give the site a descriptive or memorable name, so someone will be able to say, "I saw a great site named "Cycling," but I forgot to bookmark the URL, and now I can't find it in the search engine." "Ken Kifer's Bike Pages" is not a particularly good name, but it does have name recognition, which you must avoid.
2) Don't write a description for it. A description is supposed to be right after the title in the header <Meta Name="Description" Content="whatever">. The description is the number two item that websites use to determine the content of your site. Most search engines print out these descriptions in their listings. If you have neither a title nor a description, you can bet that your site will be almost ignored by the search engines.
2a) Also, don't include a description of your site or page anywhere on the page. A summary or description near the top of the page is used by people to determine if your page or site is worth investigating or not. Search engines consider that information content, and it will give you a chance to list key words and boost traffic, which you want to avoid.
2b) It's even better not to have any content on your home page. Let it be just a blank white page with only a couple of unidentified links. You might have a huge graphic instead; see number 7 below.
3) Don't tell anyone about your site. Don't send the URL to the search engines, web directories, or to other people with cycling websites. This is the most effective method of all, as it's impossible for anyone to find your site without links to it.
3a) Or, if you do send the URL to another webmaster, steadfastly refuse to provide a link in return. Your site is wonderful, and that site is nasty and degrading. Why should anyone who has ever visited your site ever wish to link to that one? Be sure to let the other webmaster know exactly how you feel.
3b) And, in passing along your URL, send it to just one or two people. Believe it or not, in many cases when my link would no longer work to a site, I would look in up in the search engines to discover that I had the only existing link to that site! One of these sites had a well-written and detailed account of a long tour along the East Coast and must have taken many long hours of work.
4) If you have already sent the URL out, change it without telling anybody. You don't even have to get a new site to do so, just change the name of the home page from bikes.htm to bike.html. It's impossible in most cases for those linked to you to figure out what the URL is supposed to be, and most won't try.
4a) Also keep changing around the URL's of the various pages on your site to keep anyone from linking to them. Even the American Medical Association does this trick. I no longer link to any of their pages (except the home page) as a result.
4b) If you do move the site and leave a forwarding link, make sure that the link points to a non-existing page.
5) As an alternative to moving the pages, use frames. Don't use the kind of frame that allows each page it's own address; instead, use the kind that hides the location of all your pages except your home page. Then don't provide a title, description, or content on the frame. As a result, the search engines will be unable to index your site, so the only page they can point to is the empty frame. Since it has no content, it won't show up in any searches. But just in case you have slipped up, and a search engine is able to spider some pages, make sure that they contain no links to the rest of your site. This is almost as effective as having password protection.
5a) Even if you don't use frames, not having links from your individual pages to other pages on your site is still an effective tactic to make exploring your site impossible for those arriving via search engines.
6) Leave lots of dead links on your page. On one website, the author had ideas for dozens and dozens of pages, none of which he had actually yet written, but he went ahead and put in the links to the non-existent pages anyway. This is a great way to get blackballed by humans and search engines alike.
6a) If you have working links, make sure that they are all to dissimilar (that is, non-cycling) sites. For instance, if you mention drinking a Coke, add a link to the Coca-Cola web site.
6b) If you feel that you must have some links to cycling sites, link only to bicycle manufacturers. The greater the number of sites linking to the big guys the poorer the search engine traffic to the little guys, so this is a great way to punish all your fellow cycling websites.
6c) If you must link to some fellow sites, be sure that your links are separate from your text and that none of them explain what they are linking to. Both search engines and people use the context of links or the explanations provided with links to tell them what the content of the site or page will be. Google especially uses this link information.
7) Be sure to have a huge graphic (i.e. photograph or animation) and compulsory music on your home page. This will cause many browsers to crash, and the slow loading will drive others away. And, in case that doesn't work, use a graphic or music selection that is loud and clashing.
7a) Java is pretty good at crashing pages too, especially if you have complex code. Make the person wait for ten minutes, so you can produce some dumb effect. The nice thing about Java is that it makes the visitor's computer inoperable the entire time while it is downloading.
7b) Badly written code is great at crashing browsers as well! A simple way to crash browsers is to leave off end tags. Speaking of poorly written code, using MS Word to write the code and MS Front Page to publish it is a great way to end up with garbage HTML. Yesterday, I was using MS Internet Explorer 5.5 at the library, and it told me that the bicycling page (written with MS Front Page) was defective, and that I should download the latest version of Flash (I don't get the connection, since the page wasn't using Flash). The page itself displayed incorrectly and said that it must be opened with IE 6.0 or above. This is a great technique for selling MS programs, which makes it highly worthwhile for avoiding traffic to your site, as few people are going to want to go to that much trouble just to view your lousy page.
7c) Flash animation is great for locking out visitors too, as many computers don't have the browser, memory, speed, plug-in, or high-speed connection required. Put it on your homepage and provide no alternative. Someone told me, "But I did add a link at the bottom of the page." Of course, the page wouldn't load without flash, so the link would never be seen by the person who would need to use it.
7d) While rather dull, huge tables can lock up browsers as well. Make sure that the table size is several times the screen width, so the table can't be viewed, even if it doesn't crash the browser.
7e) If you don't know how to do any of these things, get a free web-host who uses triple pop-ups! There should be the little pop-up on the left side of the page, the scrolling pop-up on the right side of the page, and the hidden pop-up which is loading out of site. These pop-ups should be designed so that when they are clicked off, they load additional pop-ups. They should each take a lot of bandwidth too in order to really bog the visiting computer down.
8) Use lots and lots of very short pages with just a paragraph or two on each. Make sure that most of the pages say little. Avoid anything of interest to your reader. I notice that many of the help screens for Windows XP use this tactic. Very little information is provided on each page, and the information is stupid, unnecessary, and unhelpful anyway.
How common are these bad tricks? If one visited a hundred bicycling websites at random, one would find almost every one of these errors. The mandatory music is now becoming rare, fortunately, and the huge graphic is on its way out. But the almost empty home page named "Home Page," the lack of a description, and the lack of links to other pages are extremely common.
How to Have a Good Cycling Website
Pick a good name and provide a description for each page, put interesting and novel content on each page, exchange links with similar sites (have your email address easy to find on your website, so webmasters can write you to offer to exchange links -- also, always send a description of the site or page), send your pages into the most popular search engines and get them added to directories and link sites, and you will be amazed at the difference. There is a great need for good sites with solid material, so it's not difficult to get some traffic if you are willing to do the work. Don't expect everything to happen in a few days, however. Traffic builds slowly over the months and years. Still, after a concerted effort, you can start to see a difference within a few months.
I had the following experience with my own site. I created it in January of 1998, put in a couple of dozen good articles and added some pictures and home-made graphics, announced it in the newsgroups on several occasions, and sent it into the search engines. My traffic remained stuck at about 200 visitors per month to my main page (much more important than my main page today, as everything branched off of one page at that time). Then, in November, I moved to KenKifer.com, started exchanging links with other sites and then, and only then, did my traffic begin to grow (not because I got my own domain but because I exchanged links). There were 61 links to my site by Christmas time. By the end of January 1999, I was receiving about 200 visitors per day. At present, well over 500 sites are linked to mine, and my traffic has grown to about a thousand visitors per day. As far as I'm concerned, links to my site and traffic to my site are equivalent. That's why that when I helped start Bicycling Life, I worked to get as many people to link to it as possible. Links work two ways, first, they send traffic directly to my site, and second, they improve the ranking of my pages in the search engines. They will benefit your site the same way.
There is only one thing more important than links to your site, and that is good content. No one is going to visit your site twice or to bother to link to it unless they find it worthwhile. One of the decisions I made was to share everything that I know; my "secret" skills have become public knowledge. In addition, I have taken the trouble to hunt up information that was not already available on the net and have published it. I have always sought to publish unique information, and many of my pages contain information that can not be found anywhere else. Almost everyone, through the very fact of having been alive and of having ridden a bicycle in different circumstances, has something significant and unique to tell. Find your story and your knowledge base, and tell that. There is a great deal of useful cycling information that still can't be found in any website.
One popular idea is to create a web ring to link small sites together. I admit that web rings have their places. When your site has material that is non-topical in nature, such as art, photographs, stories, or travelogues, then search engines can't find it, and getting into directories and web rings makes sense. But most cycling sites are sources of information and profit from good search engine placement. Even for non-topical sites, it makes better sense for the webmasters to exchange links with each other than for them to create a web ring. Assume that they have six sites. If the webmasters create a web ring, each site has one site it links to and another site which links to it. If any one site closes, the ring is broken. Instead, it's better for each of the sites to link to all the others. Then, each site has six links going out and there are six links pointing to it. But, with cycling sites with articles on various subjects, the strongest way to link is to link related articles together. Each link should describe its outgoing links both to help the reader and to help boost the search engine traffic to the other website. Why boost traffic to the other site? If you are linked together, its traffic is your traffic. Why link related articles? Because after someone finishes reading what you have to say about patching a flat tire, the person is most likely to want to read what other sites have to say on the same topic. By going ahead and researching related pages and choosing the best, you help the reader find additional useful information, and this is just as valuable to the reader as if that information was on your own site.
In fact, if you are not the best writer, you can still have a great site by gathering links on various topics and providing one page per topic with an introduction to the page and a description of each link on the page. Such a web site would be much more useful than any directory, and the only thing that has kept me from making such a site myself is that I already have too much to do.