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Using CSS Galleries

Using CSS Galleries to get visitors – a comparison of traffic over 1 month and 1 year

Creating a good looking site and listing it in a CSS gallery has become a reasonably well known strategy for getting traffic. Being a designer I have had the chance to try this technique quite a few times and I thought I would today write up the value it brings using two case studies.

The Two Case Studies

My old design agency Good Creative
Good Creative was a design agency that I have recently closed down. It was in operation for about 2 1/2 years and about a year ago we redesigned the site. The new design went on to win a couple of awards including mentions in both NetDiver and SmashingMagazine’s best CSS designs of 2006. I won’t be talking about either of those two sites as the mentions skewed the traffic from them, however the site appeared in quite a few other CSS galleries over time. The data is useful from the point of view that these results are over a long period of time, though the sites mentioned might have changed in the year since.

(Note that I’ve 301 redirected the homepage to another site for traffic and PR, but you can still surf around the rest of the pages)

FreelanceSwitch – a Blog we launched 1 month ago
FreelanceSwitch as any regular readers will know is a blog that we launched about a month ago to much success. While the majority of traffic has come from sites like Digg and LifeHacker, the amount of traffic coming from CSS galleries is not to be scoffed at. The data is useful from the point of view that these results are very recent.

A Brief rundown of CSS Galleries

CSS Galleries are sites that list impressive CSS designs. Some of them stray out and show Flash designs as well, and additionally there are Flash Galleries out there as well. Most galleries have a ’submit a site’ button or email address. In my experience of having gotten about 5 designs into various galleries, typically you will get about 5-15 successful submissions for a good design. Like all these things its best to target the bigger galleries first, but its also good to just try them all.

So you might be asking what/where are these galleries. Fortunately I have a list for you, courtesy of a site which usually has a submission tool to hit multiple galleries at once (but which seems to be undergoing revision at the moment.

So here’s a list of about 100 sites:

So how do they compare?

Unfortunately its impossible to say precisely how different sites compare precisely because of the nature of these things (when you submit, what order you submit, what design it is etc). However I am basically going to disclose the traffic that I have monitored on the Good Creative and FreelanceSwitch websites. They were listed in different sites but there is some overlap.

First three disclaimers: Not all listings appeared simultaneously so this skews the results. For example CSSMania listed FS before any other site did. The results from Good Creative may be skewed by changes in sites over the course of the last year. Some sites may have listed the sites differently (features vs mentions etc) and hence might potentially bring more traffic

FreelanceSwitch – Numbers of Unique Visitors over 1 month – 3,539 – 3,319 – 2,026 – 1,733 – 1,057 – 1,056 – 428 – 301 – 215 – 207 – 133 – 122 – 112 – 76 – 72 – 64 – 57 – 38

TOTAL = 14,555 visitors … so far

Good Creative – Numbers of Unique Visitors over 1 year – 10,028 – 6,745 – 6,452 – 5,324 – 2,337 – 518 – 357 – 253

TOTAL = 32,014 visitors

It’s not just the size of the spike, but how long it lasts

It’s always interesting to see how the traffic goes over time, so here are some examples over time:

Some Conclusions

So obviously its ideal if you can get into as many galleries as you can for both traffic and also backlinks and PR. However we can make a few extra conclusions from these stats:

  • Some sites are MUCH better than others. CSSMania, CSSRemix, WebCreme, Styleboost, CSSImport, BestWebGallery, CSSElite and TheBestDesigns all stand out in the pack for delivering a lot of visitors. If you can only get into a few or only have time to submit to a selection, choose these
  • Galleries can deliver a lot of traffic over time. The Good Creative website was listed in fewer galleries but the traffic is far larger thanks to the extra time. Traffic does spike and then drop off as you would expect but the long tail…is long.
  • How fast galleries process designs impacts what kind of traffic they send in the long run. So for a site like CSSMania, in the short term it delivers a lot of traffic (see FreelanceSwitch), but in the long run the traffic isn’t that high (see Good Creative). This is because CSSMania has a VERY large database of designs which is added to very quickly. This is in contrast to a site like CSSRemix which doesn’t update very often and so pays off very well over time as your design is near the top even after a couple of months. So for example I expect CSSRemix and BestWebGallery to overtake CSSMania and WebCreme as leaders for FreelanceSwitch as the latter two have quickly flatlined while the former still send numbers daily.

I have tracked stats on a few other sites and the evidence generally supports these conclusions. As I say there are plenty of variations and disclaimers to make. Additionally there are a few big name sites that I never managed to get into – notably StyleGala, CSSVault – so there may be even bigger traffic numbers to be gotten. If any readers have numbers for those or other galleries, please do share.

(Oh and a quick note, unfortunately I don’t take on web design jobs any longer, however if you are looking to get a website designed with a view to getting into a gallery, find sites in these galleries that have a design credit at the bottom and try contacting them. Most designers who can get in once can get in again )

Liam Cavanagh

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