What if a Tree Fell

treefellOn the internet, but no one saw it. One of the hardest things about creating and operating web sites is trying to attract enough traffic to make it worthwhile. You can have the best web site in the world, but if no one notices, it becomes a ghost site. Often, web sites that one might think should be popular go unnoticed while others become popular overnight.

I have created a ton of web sites: AVBoards.Com, The Cats Domain, The Cardinals Nest, Songwriting.Org, ACCBoards.Com and others. Of those, I caught lightning in a bottle exactly once- with ACCBoards.Com. It became the most visited Atlantic Coast Conference sports site almost overnight. Not because of some nifty angle I dreamed up, but because it filled a need. Once the dot.com bust forced me to affiliate with a network, ACCBoards was surpassed by other sites, but it still gets a ton of traffic. The Cats Domain and Songwriting.Org are still active, but neither of them get a fraction of the traffic ACCBoards.Com used to get. In fact, I keep those sites online mainly because I am grateful for the small group of core users who have used them for years. The other sites are but memories of a virtual day gone by (the links above are from the Internet Archive).

So here we are in 2005. I don’t start many new web sites these days. I still write and speak frequently at seminars and conventions; I still make music; I still write articles for various publications. Other than my music, all of these endeavors, which generally cost money to attend, are popular. I also write almost every day on this site, which is both free and much less popular. Why is that? A couple of reasons come to mind.

First, a lot of people who attend my seminars and read my articles are less comfortable using computers to gather information. That will change over time, but it hasn’t yet. Second, I am not an A-Team internet commentator. Randy Charles Morin’s interesting piece yesterday about this problem got me thinking about what to do about it. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I know this: just because people will pay money to hear me speak and read my print articles doesn’t mean they will bookmark my web site and read my posts.

So how do the rest of us get noticed? Here’s my approach so far:

1) Let folks know you have a web site- I have just begun adding a reference to this site to the bio I use when I give speeches and write articles. It will be interesting to see how this affects traffic, since previously most people I interact with in that way didn’t know I had a web site. My guess: moderate traffic.

2) Use blogrolls and trackbacks- I link to other writers fairly regularly. Eventually, the hope is that some of them will link back to me. It’s not cool (at least in my book) to ask for a link, so I keep writing and hoping. My guess: not a short term answer, but some potential for traffic over the long term (limited perhaps by the fact that it will be harder and harder to get linked as more people clamor for the same audience).

3) Cross promote- I have started linking to this site from ACCBoards.Com. I have to be careful because that is a college sports site and this is not. But occasionally there are things here that might be interesting there. My guess: steady traffic (the most promising so far).

4) Keep on keeping on- I think my legal/musical/technical experience gives me a somewhat unique perspective. Everyone else may think it’s the cure for insomnia. But I’ll keep writing in the hopes that if I build it right, they will come.

We’ll see how things go. In the meantime, check out Randy’s interesting RSS blog.

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