Making a Popular Game Site
Back in late October 2009 I created a new Flash game arcade site called Rhyta. A month in, it was barely making any money and traffic was dismal. Now, a few months later, I’m getting steady search engine traffic and I’m consistently making about $2 per day (around $750 per year). That may not sound like much, but keep in mind I’m using a $10 arcade script and get all my games for free from Mochi. Hundreds of sites have the exact same games I do, but the search engines send me visitors. How did I do it? Sitemaps!
A sitemap is an XML file that contains a list of all the page on your site. Search engines love them because it lets them discover all the pages on your site (especially the new ones) without having to crawl the whole thing. Webmasters love them because it gets their content indexed faster and saves on bandwidth. Once I realized sitemaps were the key to my success, I decided to completely automate my game site.
This is what I did:
- I created a script that wraps around my el cheap-o arcade script’s Mochi feed download functionality. This wrapper can be called from a cron job to automatically download a list of the latest games from Mochi.
- I created another wrapper script around my arcade script’s Mochi game download functionality. This one is also called from a cron job. It downloads each of the new games from Mochi.
- I created a sitemap generation script. This uses my database of games and categories to automatically create a sitemap containing every URL on my site. Once it is done, it gzips it to save on bandwidth.
- The last step was to ping the search engines. I found the sitemap ping URL for Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Moreover, and Ask.com. Using cURL, I tell each of these search engines that I have a new sitemap so they can quickly get it and index my new games.
- I set all this up in crontab so it will run automatically once a day.
All together, it took about 2 hours of work to completely automate my arcade site and to automate the creation of a sitemap.