A search engine optimization (SEO) experiment

A few months ago I launched a small SEO experiment at http://thepokemonquiz.brainlex.com/ with the aim of inflating my real website's ranking at the most popular web search engines. Today this ridiculous quiz get about one thousand unique visitors per day and as turned itself into a small business.

Let's review some of its main characteristics:

  1. It is viral by nature.
    People who see the result page are encouraged to copy some XHTML code and to paste it into their blog or homepage. The XHTML fragment contains the result (e.g. "I am Pikachu", with some stats) and a link pointing back to the quiz page.
    That means that each time someone puts this small code fragment on his/her blog, showing his/her pride of ressembling Poliwhirl, the quiz gets its visibility increased. Like a virus, my quiz propagates on the blogsphere and give me an ever-growing audience. There are many blogs where people exhibit their nobody-cares-about stuff like that ("Look people! This is my tongue! Wowoow my blog's so great!"): in France, the SkyBlog platform is the 2nd most visited website! Using this viral approach I turn human betise into cash. Albert Einstein once said: "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former". Such approach hence has a huge potential :-)
  2. The quiz page points to my website.
    Each time people points to my quiz on their page, I get an extra secondary link to my real website.
  3. The quiz page has no followable external links at all except to my web site.
    Each extra link, such as the Amazon affiliate link, has a "nofollow" REL attribute preventing web search engines from taking it into account.
  4. Markup is well formed.
    The XHTML validates, as well as the CSS stylesheets.
  5. While the text at the bottom of the page is clearly made for search engines, it does not try to foul them in any way.
    The same text is displayed to both web crawlers and human users. No invisible DIV, no gray-on-gray trick whatsoever. Using such tricks would relegate this site to the abysses of people's web search results.

I added some AdSense ads from the beginning, as I thought it could not hurt. I have since seen my revenue growing, and while it is not yet very lucrative by itself I tried to optimize ads a bit. This is what I've found so far:

  1. More people will click on ads when they are about to leave the page, rather than clicking them when they enter the web site.
    When someone clicks the "Lookup" link, asking to get their quiz results, the results get displayed on the same page using Web 2.0 technologies, just after the quiz questions. This makes the whole page twice taller! My ads weren't visible anymore when you looked at your results, as they were displayed at the top of the page. Just by making the ads always visible (with the help of the 'position:fixed' CSS rule), I multiplied my revenues by three.
  2. The "AdSense For Referals" advertising program doesn't pay a penny.
    I earned $0.00 in three month with a referal ad pointing to the Google Desktop. I hence switched over to Amazon affiliate program and the topmost ad now links to a range of Pokemon video games at Amazon (at least on the French variant of the quiz, as I have not modified the English and Japanese variants yet). Note that I still use the "AdSense for Content" program which is still my main revenue source.
    Another Amazon-like website with a similar affiliate program is YesAsia.com. It sells mainly Japanese, Chinese and Korean products and is a good choice when you website's target is Asia. Also, it pays a little bit more than Amazon from what I've seen.

I will post a followup when I get relevant results about the different affiliate programs I am deploying right now.

Any comment is greatly appreciated.

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