Maybe you have seen them at the bottom of website pages, those cute little graphic tables with arrows pointing you in different directions. Or, if you are a frequent blog reader, you may see a more streamlined code of carats and plus signs indicating a jumping point for you to try. These bits of code are known as webrings, and have been used for years as a promotion tool for websites. While webrings enjoy some degree of popularity along specific sites, whether or not they are an effective promotion tool can be debated.
The original purpose of the webring was to connect, by a special code, a group of websites with similar content. For example, sites dedicated to baseball could each have the code placed on a main page, allowing visitors to jump from site to site seamlessly via the code links. If applied correctly by each participating site, a visitor could circumnavigate the roster of themed sites, all the way around and back again, like a ring. At present, there are two major webring databases at Webring.com (which was once acquainted, and later dumped, by Yahoo) and Ringsurf.com. While there exist other webring resources, these two provide the most traffic and brand recognition.
As for whether or not involvement in a webring will increase traffic to your site, there are pros and cons to joining:
- Involvement in a webring may bring new visitors to your site, who in turn could become regular visitors or provide referrals
- A listing on a webring directory may improve link popularity if linked from a quality ring or site
- Research into a webring offers you information on similar websites with which your site could form a linking relationship outside the ring, thereby increasing your chances of link popularity.
- Some webrings may require a specific HTML code, which may compromise the design and structure of your website
- Some webrings are not well-maintained, started by a well-meaning ring owner who lost interest. When sites fold and the ring does not update, there results a number of broken links that will frustrate a Web user.
- Some webrings may hold thousands of sites, causing yours to be lost in the crowd.
Site owners looking for methods to increase visibility and traffic may wish to consider joining a webring only if it is actively managed and features code that will not compromise site design or structure. With regards to SEO, however, the time is better spent improving the site with solid, relevant content and establishing direct linking relationships with companion websites.