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Coolboards Are Cool

Today I discovered a wonderful thing. I asked another site for a link exchange (which was granted) and the webmistress mentioned something called "Coolboards". She said that I might be interested in setting up some forums on my web site.


I was intrigued, as this lady had a very nicely done site. Not only was I happy to get a link exchange (sure to boost my traffic) but now I was getting some tips myself!

I have very mixed feelings about extensions to web sites, as they are usually so tacky, so poorly done and so different looking than the web site that it's not even funny. I mean, look at all of the guestbook entry sites on the web. You get a "free" guestbook, which seems to be down 20% of the time, advertises a competitor sometimes, and also seems to pull your visitors right off your site! And to boot, it looks totally different. What I want is a seamless, coordinated experience for people who visit my site. It makes visitors more comfortable and more likely to stick around and to come back later.

Coolboards is totally configurable. I made it look exactly (and I mean exactly) like my site. Navigation menus, advertisements, everything. I even could add the hitbox counter to the site so I could find out how many people were using this feature!

But what does it do? Coolboards allows me to add message forums (places where people can post messages and receive replies - much like a newsgroup only using a web browser) to my website! Even better, other sites could add those same forums to their sites also! And best of all, each site that adds the forum makes it look exactly like his or her site.

I have my own list of forums, which are each linked to other sites all over the net. This means that people can enter the forum from many other web sites and post messages. They can also get my site URL, which translates to more traffic.

So you see what I mean? I've added over two dozen different forums, each of which links me up with other sites of similar interests.

This gives my visitors another reason to come back to my site - to post and review messages. It also links my site to others, which improves traffic. Now that's a great product!

Essential Websites

Here are some of the most essential web sites that I've found on the internet so far.

essential websites

http://updates.zdnet.com/ is a great place to visit once a month or so. The site scans your system for all of the software that you have installed. It compares this against a list of the most recent versions available and let's you know which programs need upgrades. This is very useful if you believe you need to keep your products up to date.

http://britannica.com/ has the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica online. This is easily one of the most awesome and useful sites on the internet.

This is an excellent resource for learning about health and related issues. I find this is to be one of the best general purpose medical reference sites available.

http://pcwebopaedia.com/ is a dictionary of computer related terms. I use this site virtually every day to ensure that I know exactly what people are talking about. Is one of the better places to find shareware, trialware and freeware. It does not have as many programs available as some of the other sites, but I found it to have more of what I need.

If you want to join webrings, http://www.webring.org/ is an excellent site to visit. By far the larger of the webring hosts, this site has tens of thousands of rings available. If you want to tweak your system, visit this site for some great registry hacks. I love this site and visit it often.

If you have a DSL connection to the internet, then http://www.dslreports.com/ is essential. Visit this site if you are trying to decide between internet access methods.

And finally, for a little fun, visit http://www.zark.com/ for one of the best on-line comics available. My only complaint about this site is the length of time between updates.

Spend the Time On Your Site So You Can Win Awards

There is an interesting phenomenon on the web called awards. What happens here is that a webmaster agrees to visit a site and review it based upon certain criteria. If the site passes the review, it gets a graphic known as an award. In return for the time spent on the review, it is understand that the winning site will link back to the award site.

site awards

Many webmasters feel that awards are nonsense, they just take up time and bandwidth for no good reason. If you hop onto a newsgroup and post the question, you will get this response. They will patiently explain (and point out that they've explained it a hundred times before) that award programs do not build traffic and thus are useless.

Well, in my humble opinion, this is blatent nonsense from webmasters who do not understand what award programs are all about. While they do not build huge amounts of traffic, they do have a huge number of advantages and benefits which should not be overlooked.

When a webmaster applies for an award, he is asking for his site to be reviewed by a third party. Usually this third party will check the site for a number of factors, including load times, clean graphics, good navigation and so on. So one immediate fall-out from the awards process is better sites. In order to win any "real" award (as opposed to awards just blindly given out), a webmaster has to clean up his site to a certain degree.

Of course, if that webmaster continues submitting his site to awards he will eventually run into one that he does not win because it requires a really good site. Now the webmaster has a challenge - really clean up his site and make it very good indeed! Thus, this causes even better sites to be created.

Okay, so one benefit is awards lead directly to better sites. Are there other benefits? Of course. Most award programs of any value have a list of winners - thus you get a link exchange. And since you link back to the awards site, they also get a link exchange. This raises the popularity of both sites in the eyes of some of the major search engines, perhaps improving the rankings of the sites.

Oh wait, but won't this increase the traffic to a site which has won a number of awards? It can lead to quite a few more hits to a site. Hmm.

On top of that, if you win any of the big awards such as those put out by any of the major PC magazines, you will see a very large increase in traffic.

What an award really is, at it's base level, is not a traffic builder. What an awards program is is a way to get some peer review going on the web.

And that makes it a wonderful thing.

So what is my advice to any webmaster, good or bad, beginning or advanced? Apply to at least a dozen awards a week! If you don't hear back within a couple of weeks, review the criteria again with an eye towards determining why your site might have failed (you won't hear back from any award if you lose).

For example, if the criteria are "quick load time", "good graphics" and "good navigation" you should check all three. Get on a modem and verify your load time. See if your pages have dozens of tacky animated GIFs and double check your navigation. If you have to fix some of these things, feel free to resubmit to the award when you have finished. Be sure to let them know you have make major changes so they will review your site again.

You see how it works? If you don't get discouraged and simply take a non-response as a way of saying "do better and try again", you'll do great.

What's the long and short of it? Awards programs are excellent! They cause peers to review sites against posted criteria, which improves the state of the whole web. They do increase traffic, and last, but not least, they cause webmasters to start communicating with each other.

Isn't it grand?

Add Searching to Your Web Site the Easy Way

add searching easy way

For the longest time I was looking for a utility of some kind that could allow visitors to search my site for whatever they wanted. One of the limitations of my web host is that they do not support CGI routines, which means I was limited to external search services.

I checked out several companies which provide these kinds of tools to people. Some of them cost money and some of them were "free" (they get to advertise on the search pages). All of them suffered some fatal flaws that made them almost useless as far as I was concerned.

The biggest problem was that all of these services tended to take users away from my site instead of adding value. By this I mean the search worked fine, but the results were posted on a seperate page which looked nothing like my web pages. They were plastered with advertisements and links to entice my visitors to go somewhere else, which is not the result that I desired.

A second problem that I ran into with one service in particular was performance related. Slow, slow, slow. Another's server seemed to be up and down like a yo-yo.

I had given up completely on adding search to my site when I ran across a URL in someone's signiture in a newsgroup posting. I visited some websites and soon found the perfect add-on search engine.

And I do mean perfect. The free version of this wonderful service allows you to index on a weekly basis up to 500 pages on your web site. The indexing spider understands and honors robot.txt files  and allows additional pages to be excluded if necessary. This is great for removing things like awards pages, guestbooks and other similar materials from the search results.

Oh, and you can tailor your results page to look exactly like your web site. Exactly ... a perfect fit. Don't believe me? Try a sample search using my search form at the top of my home page and you'll see what I mean. Perfect.

Atomz is fast, very fast. My site is over 350 pages and the spider requires less than 4 minutes to index the whole thing. Searches seem to require a second or two most of the time, which is very acceptable.

A further advantage is the log files that are created. By examining the indexing logs you can find all of the internal links that are broken, which is wonderful for ensuring that your internal navigation is working perfectly.

Okay, so what's the catch? In the free version, Atomz gets to place a small ad on the top of the results page. That's it. One ad and a logo.

Hmm. It's fast, it's easy to use, and it's totally customizable. Now that's a great tool for webmasters!


If you spend any time at all watching the news lately you should know something about computer viruses. They are getting pretty scarey lately, with some real bad ones on the loose. It's almost enough to unplug your computer and swear off the internet forever.


Don't do that. There are ways to protect yourself. And if you do connect to the internet in any way (or get files from an outside source) YOU MUST INSTALL ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE ON YOUR COMPUTER. In addition, you must keep the virus definitions up to date.

To buy some anti-virus software, check out some sites with suggestions and choose one of the programs offered. I prefer Norton Anti-virus - it's one of the best all-around solutions.

In addition to purchasing an anti-virus program, it would be a good idea to periodically check out the virus research sites. By reading through these on a regular basis (once a month perhaps), you will gain a better understanding of what is going on and how to protect yourself.

A very good place to start is the Symantec Anti-Virus Research Center (SARC for short). This site always has great information as well as a full blown, online virus encyclopaedia. When you visit this site for the first time, be sure and subscribe to their monthly newsletter.

Another good site to check out is Content Technologies. These guys create software which scans emails and web pages for undesirable words and phrases as well as viruses. I've found their site (under Threatlab) is a great place to get data about the most recent virus threats. They also have a newsletter which is great for keeping up to date.

The site run by McAfee also has great information, and they also send out periodic newsletters to your email. Register for their service (it's free) in order to gain access to their online database.

An excellent site to visit once a month or so is the Microsoft Security site at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/default.asp. If you use Microsoft products at all you should subscribe to the security bulletin and visit this site occasionally. This will help you plug the security holes in your Microsoft products as soon as patches are released.

And, of course, the best advice is to beware of opening emails and files (executables) from unknown sources. If you follow this practice, read materials from the above sites regularly, install and regularly update your anti-virus softeware, than you should be fine.

Wanna Build Real Traffic? Then Exchange Links!

Okay, so you've created a web site. I'm sure it's a great web site, but no one seems to be visiting. What do you do?

build traffic exchange links

Well, the first thing to do is to check your site over again. Make sure it's finished (or at least there are not under construction signs and gaping holes), that all of the links work, spelling and grammer checked and so on. In other words, put a little polish on your masterpiece. Oh yes, be sure you have metatags and a title on each page.

Now what? Submit to all of the major search engines - BY HAND. There are only ten or so engines  and a few major directories (primarily Yahoo.com) so it's not that much work.

Search engines take anywhere from a few days to a few months to get your site listed. DO NOT resubmit more than once a month or you may get dinged for spamming.

While you are waiting, it's time to build a link exchange network. This is a way to build a large amount of traffic to your site - steady traffic from interested audiences.

To begin, add a section to your web site for your link exchange. This could be just a single web page or it could be a real directory with categories or topics. My own web site has over 80 categories and a submit link to allow people to add their own sites. Get as fancy as you want, but please avoid the temptation to make this all automatic using CGI or a free service. Why? Because you most definitely want to censor your list.

What's this about censoring? Be aware that many people will use this (as well as guestbooks) to try and get advertisements posted and you don't need to advertise someone else's affiliate program for free directly on your links pages. On top of that, you will get some submissions for sites you don't like - pornographic sites, for example. So it's a good idea to take a look at each submission and decide if it's appropriate.

Once your page or pages are set up, go surfing. Find your favorite site which is somehow related to your own site. See if you can find his links page or link exchange section. Most really big sites will not have one, but perhaps half of the other sites will.

If you find a link exchange page, follow the directions and submit your request to exchange links. A politely worded email stating your name, the purpose of your site and your URL is all that is usually needed. Now, surf all of the sites in HIS link exchange page. Do the same thing for any site which is related to your own topic.

Don't include any advertisements or anything else in your link exchange request. Personally, I don't even include a signiture line. And be careful not to send more than one request (at least no more than once per month). Why not? You don't want to have any appearance of spamming. You want to appear like what you are - a webmaster who wants to exchange links.

Believe it or not, you will get positive answers to most of your requests. Be sure and add them all as appropriate to your links pages, and always send a thank you message.

What does this buy you? I mean, it's a lot of work. Well, first of all, you are going to generate a lot of traffic just from the webmasters who visit your site to check it out. Since they all presumably have similar interests to your own, they may stick around, sign up for your newsletter and even purchase products. So just by asking you are getting traffic - very targetted traffic.

You will also get a few hits from each link that other webmasters create. Some sites may only generate one or two hits a month, others may create hundreds.

Ah, but there is yet another advantage. This will dramatically increase your search engine ratings, thus giving you a higher listing in some of the major engines. Don't expect that result right away - this can take months, but it is a definite benefit.

On top of that, you will be surfing sites similar to your own. This should give you lots of ideas of things that you can do with your own site. Don't steal anything! But for example, sometimes I'll find an article on a web site which I don't agree with and write my own article rebutting it. Or perhaps I will create a new article which has a different slant. In these instances, you can even propose to the other webmaster that both of your articles reference each other!!

What happens is your site gets better, you build a lot more traffic, and you get to communicating more with people who have similar interests to your own! It's truely a great way to get people to visit your own web site.


Okay, you're a Star Trek fan or you like Barbie dolls or perhaps you are interested in finding more out about the internet. One thing you could do is proceed to your favorite search engine or perhaps even Yahoo, put in your search terms, and get some sites that interest you. You could do this, and you would definitely find some cool stuff, but you'd also get a lot of unrelated junk.


You know what I mean. You're interested in model railroading so you go to the search engine and enter "model railroading". Now you've got to wade through sites on railroading, models, glamour, dozens of pornographic sites and lord knows what else. While the railroading sites are probably of interest, the rest is just junk that gets in the way. If you're interested in something like "barbie dolls" it's even more frustrating - that will probably match a lot of junk and a heck of a lot of pornographyc trash.

You could stay frustrated or you could visit http://www.webring.org/ and use their search engine. Let's say you enter model railroading. You'll get back a dozen or so entries, each of which has something to do with railroading or model railroading. In fact, the first one is the "Railroad webring" which has 764 sites. A little ways down you'll find the "HO Scale Model Webring" which has 35 sites.

Click on the webring name and you are transported to the first site in the webring. Look it over - it's more than likely on the subject that you want. Need more? Find the "webring fragment". This will often have some graphics, a "next", "prev", "random" and "list" button or link. Click on "random" to get any old site from the ring. Click "next" or "prev" to go backwards and forwards in order. If you want to see them all, click "list".

You see the beauty of this concept? It links together two or more sites which are somehow related together to make it easy for people to find what they need.

I'll tell you from experience that a well run webring which has a good ringmaster is a pleasure to surf! (Of course, a poorly run or abandoned webring is a nightmare of broken links, unrelated sites and, oftentimes, quick money-making schemes and other stupid things).

These are great for webmasters also. You have a site which, say, is about the "Renaissance Faire" and you want to get some more traffic. Of course you should list in the search engines and directories, as that will get you a lot of traffic quickly. Once you've done all that, go to the webring directory  and enter your first keyword. Join as many webrings as you can.

Before you join, make sure you spend a couple of minutes reading the ring charter to be sure your site is appropriate. Then surf the ring for a while to make sure the ring is maintained and stays roughly on topic.

Now, find a page within your site (don't use your index or home page as the ring fragments often have large graphics and can look a little tacky) which is appropriate. Get the URL for that page and go to the "join" section of the webring. Fill in the data and submit the form. You'll get an email which give you the ring fragment code. If the fragment has any associated graphics, copy that to your own server (don't steal bandwidth), then copy the fragment code into your page. Upload to your server, send a quick email to the ringmaster, and in a few days you will most likely be added to the webring!

Don't expect an incredible amount of traffic right away. Just keep adding pages on your site to applicable webrings, perhaps a few a week, and you'll see your traffic numbers climb steadily. One of the good things about webrings is that they require little maintenance after you get added. They just draw traffic, and once in a while you get a request to do something from the ringmaster (change a graphic usually).

You can be a member of as many webrings as you want so don't be shy. Every one of them, as long as they are reasonably well run, will help to bring traffic to your site.

If you are really courageous, you can even create your own webrings. This can be a lot of fun, although the initial phase of setup and promotion is a lot of work. Yes, you need to promote your webring to get people to join, especially if it is new and unknown.

So webrings are a great secret of the web! They make surfing easier and more on-target, and they are a nice way for a webmaster to build traffic. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.