Toplists, A to Z

Whats a Toplist?
A toplist is a link site that ranks member sites by traffic they send in. Its a very simplistic site that has 3 common areas:

  • Index - the actual list of sites ordered by hits in.
  • Webmaster area - the sign-up page, and login page where webmasters add their sites, modify settings and view stats.
  • Enter page - optionally some toplists have gateway pages in order to protect themselves from cheating.

Why You Need a Toplist?
Why do you need a TGP? Why do you need a CJ? Why do you need a links page? And why do you need a toplist? The answer is the same for all of these questions. All of these sites rely on other webmasters to increase the traffic of the site. The idea is simple. If you want to succeed in the industry you cant do it alone, you need to create a network of sites that utilizes other webmasters needs to exchange links. I dont have to tell you that exchanging links with other sites is the most basic promotion strategy.

Toplists allow you to automate the link exchange and distribute traffic between participating sites according to traffic they send in. Besides, like any other link site, toplists dont cost you a leg and an arm in bandwidth.

Like a CJ (Circle-Jerk site), a toplist is a fully autonomous, self-promoting site. Webmasters (including yourself) send traffic to your toplist, some of that traffic contains other webmaster hits, which generate new participating site sign-ups. Those, in turn, generate new traffic, hence more webmaster sign-ups., etc...

But unlike a CJ site, a toplist, in general, generates better quality traffic. Any more or less experienced webmaster will tell you that CJ traffic and TGP traffic is the worst out there, whereas some toplists visitors are known to convert better than search engine hits.

Where to start.
Before you start a tolplist you need 4 things.

1. Hosting.
2. Set of CGI scripts.
3. Minimal level of traffic to feed to the toplist.
4. A few sites to add to the toplist.

If you are planning to run a toplist on your own, youll need a web host that allows you to run your own scripts. There are numerous free and paid-for hosting companies that will fit. Choosing a script is more tricky. Free scripts are available, but the majority of them give you limited features, and the most important feature, cheater protection, is rarely implemented in free scripts.

My advice is either purchase a quality CGI script, or go with so-called remotely hosted scripts. A remotely-hosted script is a web hosting service that gives you hosting + a toplist script in one easy-to-use bundle, instant headache-free setup and in most cases better features. For instance AltList (a.k.a. freetop100, top100) gives you all the features of most CGI scripts, web hosting with 10Mb of space, FTP access, instant setup, advanced cheater protection, web-based administration interface, fully customizable HTML design, and more... All you have to do is fill-in a simple form, and you are set within minutes.

Once you have an operational site, you need to start with adding your sites to the toplists that can send traffic, plus some other sites relevant to your niche (e.g. some sponsors).

Now you have a ready-to-go toplist. However before you start promoting it there are a few things to consider.

Building a successful toplist.
Design of your toplist is your choice, but a few HTML tricks will improve your in-out ratio, making your toplist more attractive to participating webmasters.

Hide the actual links to your participating sites with an easy mouseover javascript. When visitors move a mouse over your links, in the status bar, they see something like To hide this you may include this javascript in every <a href> tag:

*This example uses template tags that work with AltList templates, but you can modify it to work with other toplists.

Another thing you must always do is always open the links in a new window (target="_blank"). This trick will increase quality of hits to your member-sites. (Id have to write another article about why this is so, youd just have to take my word for it for now).

Optionally you can install an exit console on your toplists index page and enter pages. The console may open your sponsor link, or a link to another toplist that will send traffic back to your site. Some toplists open exits to participating sites, but in my opinion its not a good way to send traffic to your webmasters, as it decreases quality of outgoing traffic, and misleads the real numbers of hits "out". Here is how to place an exit console on your toplist:

Above <body> tag (preferably inside <head></head> tags) place this code:

Replace with the URL of your exit page. Then inside <body> tag place the call to exit_popup() function, like this:

Now be careful with the links you place on pages that contain this code. Every link should either open in a new window (recommended) or contain this syntax: <a href="http://some.url/" onClick="exit=false;">. This will tell the exit_popup() function not to open an exit console if the visitor clicks a link on the page instead of hitting back or closing the window.

I also recommend including a bookmarking script on all of your toplists.

Replace the parameters of AddFav. function with your toplist info.

OK, these are most of the design tricks other toplists use to increase their ratios.

One more thing you may want to think about is how to make your toplist stand out. You want visitors to your toplist to bookmark the list and come back. Although this is not a primary concern for a toplist site, it sure is a worthy goal to achieve.

1. Choose a rare niche for your toplist. These days you will have to be very creative to come up with a new niche, but it will pay off in the long run.
2. Keep your list clean. Remove member-sites that contain multiple popup consoles and sites that are irrelevant to the toplists niche.
3. Constantly edit misleading titles and replace broken banners with an alternative banner (e.g. transparent 1x1 GIF).

Promoting your toplist.
I know, you want to say that a toplist must be promoting itself, but it is a useful thing to give it a push from the start. Some traffic you have to start with is very good, but you need to also target webmasters directly.

You can post messages introducing your toplist to different webmaster message boards, also you should add your toplist to webmaster resources directories.

If you have many toplists, cross-link the webmaster areas. (E.g. place links like "Also add your sites to these toplists: bla bla"). note: AltList allows your member-sites to be added to all the toplists you own instantly.

It is also a good idea to occasionally write newsletters to your webmasters.


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