webrings & traffic

Here’s some anecdotes and observations for whoever’s interested:

I used to have an analytics script on my site that allowed me to monitor traffic, to watch it chug along at its comfortably low level for many, many years. I got rid of the analytics ages ago, figuring that the information wasn’t really doing me much good and that if someone wanted me to know they’d visited, they could leave a message in my guestbook (which I built in 2015).

For decades, I kept a carefully curated list of keywords in my <head> to appease the search engines - before finally getting fed up and turning my back on them to start joining webrings in August 2023. I’m currently part of 32 webrings and directories, and I love them all.

But have they done anything for me? The guestbook is now my only traffic barometer (beside the wildly inaccurate server metrics), and imperfect as it may be, it does show a significant uptick:

Where I previously got about 5-10 messages a year, I now get about 20 to 30 - the pace is still increasing. I’m sure it’ll level out, or even dip, or do loop-de-loops, but I’m happy as a clam and I’ve been chatting with more of my visitors than I have in years.

Webrings: they worked then, they work now, they’ll work forever. Ask your doctor if webrings may be right for you.

I am curious about the experience that others have with current-day webrings. Any good or bad experiences?


this is interesting data! i’m curious if others have seen an increase as well over time on longer-held sites. especially when i’ve seen folks lament this side of the web “dying” — probably because we’re not hyper-tracking everything like big tech and there’s a bit of siloing happening among communities, hosts, etc.

i’ve only had xandra.cc since 2021 and don’t have anything to track outside of neocities’ stats, but i do feel like being part of webrings has helped me immensely in finding new websites to browse.

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Blue Dwarf was just having an interesting discussion on a similar matter: Return to “link farms”?

I personally join a lot of collectives (not just webrings). But I don’t really keep track of my traffic. In fact, I’d actively recommend against doing so, actually. I’d advise webmasters strongly against “number games”. Like, homie, you want engagement? Then you’re doing it wrong. This? It’s not the way. So my eyes kinda glaze over when I see talk about traffic.

That’s not to say I don’t want visitors, right? I think we all want visitors. But the “maximizing visitors mindset” is a slippery slope. I didn’t start joining collectives for the metrics, I read, and did, as Sadness advised. I just wanted to be a junction for people (like myself!) that enjoyed exploring the personal web. A potential hub for wanderers to depart or continue onward from. Another blog post I can’t recall, stated: “Don’t let your website be a dead-end.”

I realize this wasn’t the topic at hand, but I think it’s important to address. Traffic should not be a primary source of motivation. But, yes, you should put some effort into connecting the web, including yourself! Like, damn yo, how is anyone supposed to find you otherwise? In Spanish we have the saying: “El bebe que no llora, no mama” or “Only the babies that cry get milk” But there’s a difference between that and creating the “Milk-Industrial Complex”!

So, yes, connect the web. Put a gotdang ring on your site. But not for likes, retweets, comments, karma, shares, reactions, or whatever the fug else big tech companies want to call their vanity points. Do it because it’s how the web should be.


On the money. It’s irritating to me that the term ‘traffic’ has become tainted by the numbers game - it’s about people visiting my site and finding some joy in what I put there, getting in touch, leaving a message. That does matter to me; if it didn’t, I’d just build my site and keep it on my PC, for me to play with and for no one else to engage with (engagement, another one of those poisoned terms). So I guess it should be ‘webrings & community’ or ‘webrings & meeting new people’…

At the end of the day, I like it when I get visitors, but not because line go up (please ignore the image in the OP, no don’t look at it please ignore). It’s why I did away with analytics; I’d rather delight in reading the occasional guestbook message than check the weekly graphs to see if the line marked ‘humans’ has gone up or down.

I guess it’s about some measurement of community building - and my main takeaway from how much fun I’ve been having since I started joining webrings is that the way of the SEO has yielded very little worthwhile for me for the last decade or more, while a couple of months of joining rings and directories has shone me a light on a whole new community. There, that sure sounds better than anything involving the word ‘traffic’!

It leads to an interesting question. Where’s the balance between tippy-tapping away at your site, beholden to no one, and wanting people to actually visit and look around? I guess it’s different for everyone.

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Good point! My website is designed with the site-hopping visitors in mind, which is why I added in a list of clickable banners in my Links page. I even made my own banners so other people can link back to me.

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I’d admonish both the quiet loner and the attention seeker. Naturally more the latter than the former, but, still, people should advocate for themselves.

If they’re just alone but not lonely, great then! No problem. But if they’re lonely and endlessly bemoan the absence of visitors; maybe also just passively blame the powers that be and do nothing about it themselves? Like, dam, yo. What did they expect?

I mean, I also don’t blame them if they decide against it. Connecting is work. They have to want it, truly. But anyone can do it! I really believe that. From deep to superficial, you can interact with others. They’re ain’t no shortage of people, but, more importantly: you only need a few to satiate a lifetime.

With popular figures online, their ridiculously large audiences essentially become a hivemind, that, sure, maybe, sometimes, conflicts with itself, but they’re basically treated as a single amorphous entity. But that’s not real life. Real life is made up of individuals - constantly thinking, experiencing, evolving; each a world onto themselves. Yes, connection is a most infinite resource.

It just ain’t a profitable one.

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My heart kind of sank when I saw the title of the article. Many years ago I was an admin for a web host and have deleted literally thousands of websites and closed the user accounts for being nothing but link farms. These were all black hat SEO sites, not simply directories of useful or interesting sites. Blue Dwarf and a couple of commentators touched on the differences. These spammy sites were deleted to protect the company and it’s legitmate users.


I have kept the server log files my sites produce for years and use various analyzers to make sense of them. Am I obsessed with the pages of numbers and graphs they produce? Of course not, writing the sites for my own pleasure always comes first. The stats are useful in some ways, knowing which sections and pages are most visited helps prioritize which pages I choose to write or update first.

To reply directly to rmf, the sources of traffic have changed over the years, take a look at one of latest non-search engine referrer pages, I think you’ll find some familiar sites in that.

What I really like about the sites is the interaction I get. Some are funny, some lead me to write new pages and some are very sad. I write a site about an old warship, HMS Gambia, of the 3,000 sailors who ever served on her, there’s only a couple of dozen left now. I had an email on Monday saying another had just died. The day before I received one entitled “Technicolor Yawn” about the 8mm film loop projectors I collect. It seems someone else collects them as well - and I thought I was the only one who had even heard of these old machines.


Your observation about the interactions is quite right - quality trumps quantity. Those guestbook messages are all delightful, even when I can’t make heads or tails of them, and I know that at this point a significant percentage of my traffic, same as yours, comes from the 'rings, which consist mainly of people who love personal websites as much as I do. Who knows, my actual click-for-click traffic may have gone down, but my interactions have gone up. I’ll take that any day of the week.

I’ve found over the years that my site can be a nice outlet for hobby projects. Transcribing a book, documenting a collection: it’s fun to do but if I don’t have somewhere to put it, I end up not doing it. It’s the reason I’m planning to get more storage so I can start a section with field recordings and maybe one with digitised reel-to-reel tapes (I’ve got some weird ones) - it’s a good way to keep a hobby alive. Sadly, none of my loved ones share my passion for hourlong recordings of people studying out loud for their exams in the sixties - so on the Internet it goes.