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FFA sites - a viable promotion strategy?

In the battle to be noticed on the web and share with the world our dreams, ideals, advice and products; the strategies are many.

When you have a limited budget, it also greatly limits the ways to gain exposure. Many search engines are now ranking according to link popularity or how many dollars you can pay them to be listed. It's getting harder for the "little guy" to get into the game without a second mortgage on grandma's gold teeth.

FFA - "Free For All" promotion sites

Have you ever come across those sites that offer to submit your URL to 8,567,291.1 sites for free or at a very low cost? Welcome to the somewhat questionable world of FFA, as this is undoubtedly where the majority of your submissions will go.

So what is a FFA links site?

FFA stands for Free For All site. They have been in existence since around 1995. These are pages with the sole purpose of listing links. Practically anyone can post their "ad" on these pages for free. Where the owner of the site doesn't monitor the submissions, this can mean links to some *very* undesirable content are displayed.

The ad usually takes the form of a descriptive link and a one to two line description. These listings are usually limited to around 50 and constantly rotating. A once off submission will last anywhere from a few minutes to around a week, depending on how many people are submitting to that particular page.

When I originally started out on the web and was investigating various options for low/no budget promotion, I was tempted on a number of occasions to try listing my site via FFA pages. I ignored the advice of others and curiosity finally got the better of me. 

I visited my friendly neighborhood FFA blaster (a site dedicated to submitting to thousands of FFA pages) and after navigating through a series of pop-ups, I was presented with a form to fill in requesting my details, my site's URL and description. With one click of my mouse button, I had supposedly submitted my URL to around 8000 other sites. The whole process, from the first click to the FFA site, navigating to the submission form, filling out the form and submitting it, to the exiting click from the site took around 10 minutes. 

The results..

Did I get traffic? - *very* little. As I mentioned earlier, the link lists are constantly turning over. On some of the FFA pages, my link lasted approximately 15 minutes before it was pushed down and then off the list by new submissions. On some pages that I later located, the link was visible for 6 days. 

.....A word of warning.......(well, quite a few words)

What I did get was a sudden influx of email - many, many emails! As part of the submission agreement, each FFA page successfully submitted to can generate 1 email to you from that particular site - a confirmation of submission. These "confirmation of submissions" of course contained numerous advertisements. My submission saw me receive approximately 420 emails over the next three days. Unfortunately, even years later, I'm still receiving some spam mail as a direct result of my FFA submission - so much for the "one email".

FFA link farm pages started gaining more popularity after my experiment and the pages began littering search engine results. Searchers became frustrated by the garbage they were seeing on these sites, so most major search engines then set about filtering or penalizing these pages. There's also been debate over the years as to whether sites that were listed on the penalized pages were consequently penalized themselves. While I don't believe this aspect to be true as it would be an easy way for competitors to destroy each other, the fact the FFA pages were penalized negated any backlink value anyway.

In summary, I'd advise anyone starting out in site promotion to keep well away from FFA pages - it's not worth it for the pitiful traffic and the ensuing volumes of email you'll receive. And after all, how many fellow surfers have you heard comment, "I spent the night cruising FFA sites"...my guess is not many :)

Further learning resources:

Link exchange tips
Search engine submission and optimization guide

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
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