Old School Site Promotion 1998 Style


To set the scene, back in the late 1990’s everybody on the web was trying to come to grips with web discovery.  That is the discovery of different websites.  There were search engines, lots of them large and small, and frankly none were any good.  There were thousands of general web directories again large ones, smaller ones, many regional ones.  There were also thousands of niche directories: dedicated to different genres, some dedicated to Star Trek, Star Wars, sports, collecting, hobbies etc.  And there were webrings and banner exchanges.


Even the best search engines of the day were unlikely to find a personal website by crawling, in a timely manner,  like they do today.  So that raised the question: How do I get people to notice/visit my website?


The solution was to Add Your URL to as many search engines and directories as you could.  The idea being that no matter what web index a visitor used you and your site were listed. People would see the name of your site over and over again and eventually check it out.  Mind you, this was all before SEO and link popularity was a thing.  This was about navigating the web, not about getting inbound links like today.


Modern search engines have made us webmasters passive about building traffic and recognition.


What went Wrong?


All this came home to me when I built site submission guides for personal static websites and personal blogs.  I’ve written up similar guides 20 years or more ago and back then I could come up with 20 – 30 quality free directories without even trying.  Today I was hard pressed to come up with a dozen.  It showed me how much of the underlying Web 1.0 infrastructure has been lost.  It wasn’t just the homepages on Geocities that went dark, it was also all the infrastructure that supported those free websites that also has disappeared.


Help Bypass the Big Tech Silo Overlords


The few tiny search engines and directories that still have a means for you to Add Your URL, need your support by doing just that – submit your URL to them.  This helps fight the Big Tech silo duopoly of Google and Bing, Twitter and Facebook. It helps you to reach beyond Neocities to the general public.  It all helps raise your “Channels of Visibility“.  The more channels you are on the better off you are.


The Common Wisdom Tips of Old School Self Promotion


  1. Submit your URL to every search engine and directory you can, as mentioned above.
  2. Be sure to include the keywords that describe your site in any description requested.
  3. When a new search engine or directory is announced, submit your URL right away.  It is easier to get into a directory or search engine when it is new and needs URL’s to satisfy search queries.  Later on they get fat with both real submissions or spam submissions so getting listed gets harder or they change the criteria to make it harder to get listed (ie. only allowing top level domains and forbidding subdomains, or requiring payment.)  The point is, get in while they really need you and while it’s free.
  4. On personal websites, static or blog, only YOU know what is important on your website.  Don’t expect a directory editor to intuit and find everything on your site and then custom write a description for you.  The editor is busy, has 20 other sites waiting in line they don’t have time to really ruminate on your website contents.  This is why you should not wait for a directory to find your site and maybe add it.  You need to be proactive, if the directory allows you to add your URL you should do it so you have a chance of getting the best description.
  5. The above holds true webrings.


The New: Social Networking


What did not really exist back in the 1990’s was social networking as we understand it today.  The practice of POSSE: Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere, is another way of bypassing the Big Tech search engine gatekeepers.  It helps, but the effects are fleeting.  A directory listing lasts a long time but a mention in a Tweet might give you a burst of traffic but then that disappears.  So do use POSSE, where appropriate, but don’t rely on it alone.




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I made a Thing!


I made a new webring, Retroweb Ring


A webring for non-commercial personal pages be they static homepages or blogs or non-commercial directories that list the 1995 – 2005 style Web pages. No hate, no resumes, no third party advertising.


You are invited to join if you have a qualifying site, because the ring is new so it’s kind of lonely here.  *cricket* *cricket*  🙂  See link above.


After a number of false starts a few years ago, I finally made a functioning webring.  Another thing I can cross off my bucket list.  And it comes at a good time because I’ve been surfing other webrings and having a great time doing it, which started the itch to build one back up.


The Retroweb Ring is powered by webri.ng.

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What if you combined a webring with a blogroll (or linkroll?)

We need to define an important difference between the two:

  1. Webring: the site webmaster must ask to join a webring and place a special ringcode on his website.
  2. Blogroll is a list of websites compiled by one person.  The sites listed have not requested to be included as they would with a webring.


What if you could combine aspects of the two?


What if you had a script that let you create lists of websites, navigate through the list – going to each site (actually “around” the list because once you reached the end you would start over at the beginning)?  The navigation would be handled by a narrow Frame which would which would have links to Previous, Next, Random and Index, plus a link to remove the frame and drop out of the ring if you found a website you really wanted to explore in depth.

Additional features:

  1. Anyone could create a “ring,” subject to moderation.  This means anyone can create and curate collections of related links without running their own server or paying for hosting.
  2. Rings, once approved, would appear in a directory of rings.
  3. Webmasters could apply to join an existing ring and have the option of placing a link to the ring on their website.
  4. People creating rings do not have to wait for webmasters to apply for ring membership.
  5. The ability to Navigate around the sites listed in the ring makes it different than just a blogroll or linkroll.


Huh?  Wait a minute, This sounds familiar.

None of what I just described is new, if you are old enough you will remember that what I just described is how Bomis and Bomis Rings worked!  See Bomis on Archive.org.

Bomis and it’s directory of rings (the directory built on top of a copy of Dmoz.org) was intended to be a sort of crowd sourced directory for navigating the web in a manner similar to the indexes of rings at the traditional webring hosts (see the directory of rings on Webringo as an example.)

Bomis had the advantage of speed vs. traditional webrings.  You could make a Bomis Ring almost as fast as it took to create a blogroll.  You did not have to wait for webmasters to apply to join, place a ringcode etc.  Bomis was about just doing it.  Not waiting for permission.  Collect your links and then share them with the world in a fun to navigate fashion.



  • Some webmasters may object to their website being shown in a frame.  This area is a bit fuzzy.  Opt-in webrings like Webringo (above) have frames as one ringcode option – but again they are opt-in and the webmaster has to place the JS code on their own site.  Discovery services like Stumbleupon used browser toolbars but may have also used frames but I don’t remember.
  • Bomis style was very plain compared to the flashy HTML webrings of old.
  • Because most sites are added by the ring owner, the sites do not have a link back to the ring so they cannot feed traffic back to the ring.


Anyway, is anything I wrote not clear?  We are not talking about a commercial for profit enterprise, but would it work today?  I wish somebody would code it up because I think it would be useful today.



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