Using Quizzes and Games to Get Traffic.
When it comes to getting young people to visit your website, textual content just doesn't cut it – there are few things that they want to read articles about, and they certainly don't want to read articles every day. They like to talk to each other, but they'll often cause trouble if you let them, not to mention scaring off any older visitors you might have with their questionable grammar. Really, if you want young people to pay you a visit, you need things that work consistently: quizzes and other kinds of games.
All About Quizzes.
Kids just can't get enough quizzes: the reasons why are a mystery, but it's true. They think it's great fun to answer questions about yourself only to be told something like "you're 60% goth – that's more goth than 83% of the people who've taken this quiz so far!" What's more, not only do they love taking quizzes, but they love making them for each other as well. It's got to the point where any site offering them the facility to create their own quizzes becomes an overnight hit.
So why the popularity? A big factor in the whole thing is that it's self-perpetuating: every quiz they complete will give them some HTML for linking to it from their blog, as well as a button to email their results to their friends. Add to this the fact that kids who've created a quiz of their own will obviously want to send it to everyone to know, and you're generating a lot of traffic.
Imagine one kid making a quiz, and sending it to their friends. Out of these friends, maybe five would send their results to their friends, and maybe two would make a quiz of their own. Four of the five invited friends take the quiz, and maybe one goes on to make one. The two who made one of their own send it to all their friends. On and on it goes, like a chain letter (or its modern cousin, the chain email) – it's unstoppable.
Taking it to the next level, you can offer games to your visitors. Games have the advantage that they appeal to young visitors, but they also appeal to some older ones as well – you don't limit yourself to being a kids' website quite as much as you do with quizzes. The downside of games, of course, is that you have to produce them, or pay someone to produce them – it's not that expensive, but you need to have good ideas if you want your games to get popular.
What's the best format to offer games in? The answer, without a doubt, is Flash. It's installed on the overwhelming majority of computers, and lets you create appealing cartoonish graphics without your game running too slowly. Java, for comparison, is intended for more technical users – not only do Java games tend to look dull, but they also make the user's computer slow to a crawl, not to mention being more likely to just plain not work. If a user doesn't have Flash, then they can install it as easily as clicking 'Yes'. Installing Java and other systems tends to be significantly more involved.
The next thing you'll be wondering, of course, is what kind of games are popular. The answer is just about anything, as long as it's original. If you're trying to build a big game, you should make it extensible in the style of Runescape (www.runescape.com) or Habbo Hotel (www.habbohotel.com) – it should be something you could literally play all day without getting bored.
For short games, good versions of classics are always popular if you want a steady trickle of traffic long-term, but if you want a short-term burst of traffic then you might want to look at something topical: humorous games about current events are surprisingly appealing across age ranges, but have a limited shelf life. If you want more significant long-term traffic, then an excellent area to look at is innovative puzzle games: if you can come up with something simple but addictive in the style of PopCap Games (www.popcap.com), you'll have people coming back for a long time to come.