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Free For All Sites, Do they Work?

By Bob McElwain
Posted Friday, August 6, 2004

In the "old" days of the Web (2-3 years back g), FFAs were effective in generating traffic to many sites. FFAs are
in effect lists of brief classified-type ads with a link to the submitting site. Submit a first class ad (most are not), and at
least some hits would be generated. In general, a new submission goes to the top of the list or category, as the oldest listing is deleted.

This plan was effective, for finding things on the Web was not as easy then as it is now. So many surfers had one or two FFAs bookmarked.

While submitting was time consuming, resubmitting once a week pretty much assured your ad would be available.

A Site Where FFAs Worked

Jim Wilson ( has grown an amazing site in a very short time. Throughout, he has maintained that effective use of FFAs has been fundamental to his success. And he continues to believe this. In fact he offers a free service that will submit to about 1600 sites. (See (, then in the center column of this page under SubmitBot, click on Register. Caution: Do not use an email address you need; you'll will be spammed silly with replies.)

Above, it was suggested that FFAs did not work equally well for all sites. One reason for Jim's success was that a large percentage of visitors to FFA pages were web marketers, an audience to which Jim had a great deal to offer.

Things have changed so dramatically in the last couple of years, that it seems unlikely any demographics regards FFA
visitors are available. In fact, if you visit a site, you may find yourself asking, "Why would anyone come here?"

Submission Software Changed The Game

The big change has been due to the availability of software, such as mentioned above on Jim's site, that will automatically submit to FFA sites. While such tools are a great time saver, they are no longer effective because a lot of people use them. Now your submission to a site remains for only minutes.

For example, suppose a site maintains 200 listings. If it receives 20 new listings each minute, and drops the "oldest" 20 listing, your submission will be available for only ten minutes.

To complicate matters, most FFA sites really don't give a darn about your ad. They are automatically posted and deleted by software, and never seen by a human. What these people want is your email address. They will use it themselves to try to sell you things you don't need. And they sell them to others as well.

Using Submit Wolf

Years back I posted ads regularly to several FFA sites. And got some pretty decent results. But the gain in hits never
seemed worth the time required to post. So for several years I gave up on the idea.

When Submit Wolf became available, I bought a copy. In June of 1998, on behalf of a client, I used this program to submit an ad for a free recipe cataloging program. Of 1660 sites available, the program reported success in submitting to 1090 sites. The results were astonishing.

My client received over 3700 download requests. And since users are invited to share recipes, he was literally overwhelmed getting submissions collected and uploaded for visitors to use. When I asked if he wanted another run, he said, "Not just now, thanks."

An aside: Let me underline the caution above. I made the mistake of using my actual email address. I received six
megabytes of email from nearly a thousand people over the next couple of days. Even today, I continue to receive 30-40 spam messages each day from that initial mailing. So if you try automated mailing, use an email address you will never bother to check.

In November of 1998, we did go again. Results? Only a couple hundred hits. I again updated the program database
in January 1999, and ran again with virtually the same results.

I don't have any explanation for the massive success on the first run and the virtual failure of the last two. Since we were trying to interest visitors in software being sold, a couple hundred freebie seekers did not convert to many buyers.

Another Try Trough STAT

I wrote an HTML tutorial targeting beginners, even before putting up STAT. And sikekit.html was one of the first pages
I loaded. Remembering that first enormous success with the free recipe program, I was hoping to draw traffic to my brand new site. About two weeks apart, updating the Submit Wolf database before each run, I submitted the following ad.

Master HTML in 4.5 hours!

Get your copy of the Web Page Starter Kit. It shows you step-by-step how to write HTML code. A $39 value - FREE! Click here for details!

Now ads are tricky; that's true. And I'll lay no claim to the above being the greatest. But it is essentially the ad I use on the home page at STAT. It continues to draw well over a hundred downloads each week. And a steady flow of thank-yous from users.

Four submissions to the FFAs with Submit Wolf collectively drew less than 3 downloads per week over a period of nearly two months.

Checking Out (

As described above, I used Jim's service to submit a page to 1600 FFAs. Things have changed. I was asked only for a
title. So I used the above headline. I received 2 hits. If this held and I submitted daily, this would mean 14 hits per
week, which would translate to about 3-5 downloads.

Other Jim Tools

Jim also offers auto-submission to 75 search engines and 75 directories. I have not tried this, but it may be worth doing. Small search engines and directories are popping up left and right. Many of them vertical directories or vortals. Some of these will grow. And your hit counts will increase correspondingly.

Wrapping Up

To me it's clear that automatic submission to FFAs is pretty close to a total waste of time.

If you are just getting started and even a few hits seems a lot, try Jim Wilson's search engine and directory services. But personally I don't believe you'll recover time costs messing with FFAs.

Your best bet is to follow David Seitz's suggestions in "Taking Control of The Classifieds." ( His approach is to collect a list of classified sites that work, and submit to each weekly.

This sounds good to me. As a bonus, you'll be learning how to write great ads!

About the Author
Bob McElwain
Want to build a winning site? Improve one you already have? Fix one that's busted? Get ANSWERS. Subscribe
to "STAT News" now!

Web marketing and consulting since 1993 Site: ( Phone: 209-742-6783


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