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Product Review: Zeus

By Richard Lowe
Posted Thursday, October 14, 2004

Have you ever thought about promoting your site? It does not really matter if your site is about your cat, a product you want to sell or mythology ... presumably you are trying to communicate something to the entire world, or at least a portion of it. It's a pretty sure bet that somewhere in the world at least one (or hopefully more) person would want to see your site.

However, site promotion offers perhaps the biggest challenge of all to most webmasters. How in the heck do you get the word out about your site to the people who need or want to know? To make matters even more confusing you have to follow a poorly defined set of ethical standards; if not, you might be accused of spamming, and who wants that?

If you are like most other webmasters, you've tried just about everything. You've submitted to search engines (these are fair traffic generators) and FFA lists (worthless), created an ezine (good source of return traffic), added your site to webrings (minor but sustained traffic) and even added your site to dozens of top site lists. Sure, you've managed to get some traffic to your site, but still no where near the big leagues.

If you've done all this and nothing else, then you've missed a couple of the biggest traffic-generators of all: viral marketing (not discussed in this article) and link exchanges.

Exchanging links should be a normal part of your promotional habits. In fact, the best strategy that I've learned over the years is simply to keep my eyes open as I surf. As I visit sites, I enjoy what they have to offer, learn what they are attempting to teach, and decide if I want to exchange links with them. What is this decision based upon? Whether or not I believe the web site has value to my own readers. That's the only criteria that's important - if the link does not have value to my readers then they will figure it out and will lose trust in me. This can be fatal to getting return visitors.

Building up a proper link exchange is a constant, daily effort which should never cease. This is perhaps one of the most time consuming efforts of all - building up and maintaining a link exchange.

That's where a product called Zeus comes into play. This interesting program theoretically automates a fair portion of the link exchange process. What you do is "teach" Zeus what kind of sites you want to include in your exchange. At first you do this explicitly by specifying keywords, then you do it implicitly by accepting or rejecting sites.

It's a long and tedious process, but in the end you do wind up with a reasonably intelligent robot. Now you cut it loose on the internet. The robot (it's really a spider) examines web pages, looking here and there for pages (sites) which match it's internal set of rules.

Once you have let Zeus run for a while it will build up a list of a few sites (or a few hundred, depending on what it finds). Now Zeus works more or less like a surfing tool - you just visit each site using the Zeus browser, examine it, then indicate which category (if accepted) you want it to appear in. You can then tell Zeus to send an email to the webmaster of the site, and handle any additional correspondence as needed.

The other task that Zeus is good for is maintaining the link exchange pages themselves. This is especially useful in the PRO version (costs a few hundred dollars), as you can customize these pages as much as you want.

So the typical daily cycle is (a) let Zeus run for a while (a full day, perhaps) looking for sites, (b) examine what it finds and accept or reject sites and assign to categories, (c) send emails to the webmasters, (d) update the status of sites as webmasters respond, and (e) upload your new link exchange pages with updates. If that's really all you want to do, then Zeus is an excellent choice for you.

Zeus is very good at the things it does. The robot is excellent (if properly trained) at choosing web sites for your exchange. The email organizer is excellent for keeping a record of webmaster contacts and the page creation system lets you create a very nice looking link exchange program. The templates are complex out of necessity, but they are very functional and can be heavily modified without much trouble.

On the other hand, I've found that using Zeus is a major headache at times. The program is difficult to train and very difficult to correct later if you happen to train in a pattern which you do not like. It requires constant attention, and the robot is exceptionally slow (my system is a 2-gigahertz, dual processor monster and the program runs sllloooooww).

Perhaps the major problem with Zeus is a huge feature that it does not have. Zeus does not check links for you. This is an issue because it is important that link exchange sites maintain a link back to your own site, and it is a serious drawback to the program. You must check the linkbacks manually.

Another issue is a choice that the developer made - he uses an Access database. Access is infamous for data corruptions and other issues, especially as databases get larger and more complicated. In addition, Access databases tend to be exceptionally slow. There are many better choices for databases which are faster and more robust.

I think my final hesitation towards this program is the extremely confusing and frustrating user interface. Program controls are in strange places, they are poorly explained and difficult to find. There is an incredible amount of data presented which is probably very thrilling to the designer, but to most of us it simply doesn't matter. I would highly recommend to the developer that the next version do a complete redesign, and this time field test it with some actual users.

There is a free version of Zeus, but you will need to purchase the PRO version if you want to make it's link pages match your site. Check out the free version, but be prepared to spend several long days learning the system and training it to know what you want.

Would I recommend Zeus? Well, it depends. Zeus is a valuable tool and it is useful in a link exchange strategy. On the other hand, I've found that Zeus tends to turn a daily activity which is a chore into an organized chore. The major drawback, and my main hesitation, is the exceptionally poor performance. I purchased the tool and I do use it on a regular basis - however, even on my monster machine it is annoying slow. So I would hesitantly recommend this program, with the above-mentioned caveats.

About the Author
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at ( - Visit our website any time to read over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.


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