Traffic exchanges are an interesting concept, but they can lead you to disaster if you use them incorrectly. The focus of this article will be on helping you use an exchange appropriately, in a way that won’t destroy your search ranking or hinder your normal traffic.
If you’re already experienced with traffic exchanges and you’re just looking for a list of programs that work, go ahead and skip down to the list. If you only kind of know what one is, or you’re completely ignorant about the concept, read on.
A traffic exchange begins with a central hub site, running software of a specialized kind. Website owners sign up to be a part of this exchange, and their website is added to a list. Another publisher signs up and puts their site into the list as well. This repeats to grow a list of websites as long as the exchange wants it to be. Some of the biggest exchanges involve millions of sites; some of the smallest might only have a few thousand.
Where does traffic come from? If you want visitors to your site, you need to earn them. You earn them by browsing the list on the exchange. The list is made up of other publishers who want traffic, and who are doing the same browsing.
This way, your traffic is coming from other publishers, often the publishers of the sites you’re viewing. Your views on the sites you find through the list are views those publishers are earning.
The central hub is what regulates all of this. It keeps track of how many views a publisher has earned, and puts their site into the rotation until it has received that much traffic. If the publisher stops earning views, they stop receiving traffic.
One problem that comes up is the balance between earned views and paid out views. At a 1:1 ratio, ideally, everything would work out perfectly. However, some publishers will earn credits for traffic they don’t claim. Others will spend money for credits, rather than earning credits through viewing.
The usual way a traffic exchange regulates this is by “taxing” views. You’ll see this as the listed “ratio” on a traffic exchange site. A ratio of .5, for example, means that you need to browse two websites in order to earn one view of your own.
Of course, traffic exchanges have evolved from this relatively simple concept. They add additional features, like buying large amounts of traffic directly, or entering contests with credits for jackpots of more credits or payouts. Many traffic exchanges also incentivize more incoming traffic than is earned or bought, by offering payouts to regular users who want to earn some money but who don’t have sites or care about claiming traffic. They earn credits, and exchange those credits for cash rather than for traffic.
If you’re not new to the Internet, one good question is going to come to mind. What would happen if you created a bot, a piece of software, that browsed for you? You would earn credits while you did other things, in the background, and you could claim those credits for traffic. You are essentially getting something for nothing.
This is the concept of the autosurf, and some traffic exchanges have embraced it. Others prefer to restrict bot access, and there’s a good reason for that. That reason is traffic quality.
If you use a bot to browse, you’re putting nothing into the system. You’re giving “views” but those views are not real. It’s no different, and no more valuable to your site, than some Lycos search engine web crawler. You don’t want or like bot traffic coming to your site, because it doesn’t convert, it doesn’t subscribe, and it doesn’t click ads.
Now reverse the roles. If you’re putting your own time and energy into browsing, you want the views you earn to be good. How do you feel if you put effort into earning credits, and the traffic you get is coming from bots someone else is using to earn their own credits?
A manual traffic exchange bans the use of bots for surfing. This is meant to ensure that the traffic you get from the network is as high quality as possible. Autosurf exchanges, however, not only sanction the use of bots; they often provide the bots themselves, in the form of specialized browsers or browser extensions. It works almost like StumbleUpon in practice.
You will find in general that a manual exchange is typically better for earning and redeeming legitimate traffic. Autosurf networks are more for people who want to make a few dollars a day by running a piece of software in the background of their computers. You’re free to try both out and see which provides better traffic, however.
One common complaint with traffic exchanges in general is that the traffic is never very targeted. Even if the exchange segments sites into categories and keeps users going to categories they’re interested in, they’re still publishers, not users. They’re not looking for new resources or new products to buy. They’re looking to earn traffic with as little effort as possible. Sure, you might occasionally attract someone, but chances are your conversion rate on exchange traffic is going to be very, very low.
Autosurfs, of course, are virtually worthless for generating traffic. In rare cases, you can set up ads that pay per view, and that have low enough filtering to accept the bot traffic as legitimate views and pay you for them. You’ll have to use the autosurf yourself to earn traffic, though, rather than pay for it. The money you’d earn would be less than the money you pay for credits in almost every case.
That’s just about negative effects for the exchange. How, though, might using an exchange detriment your site as a whole?
For one thing, invalid traffic from an exchange can lead to having your ad accounts terminated. This is especially true for Google’s AdSense, which specifically calls out traffic exchanges as a risky technique. You might notices that they don’t explicitly ban their use. That’s because a high quality traffic exchange can actually be a good means of advertising. It’s only when you enter a poor exchange – and run it on the same pages that have AdSense ads – that it hurts you.
If your traffic exchange is one that encourages publishers to add links to other sites in the network, it can result in a lot of spam backlinks. This is obviously a bad thing. Google doesn’t like seeing sites with a lot of backlinks from poor quality sites. Heck, even of those sites aren’t poor quality, if they’re not relevant, that can be just as bad. Read all about the Penguin algorithm update to see what can happen and how hard it can be to recover from the penalty.
If you go overboard with traffic, and your hosting is sufficiently minimal, you might accidentally DDoS yourself. This is admittedly a rare event, and you’d have to have a combination of a lot of traffic and a pretty bad web host. Still, it’s vaguely possible, and can be damaging.
There are a few things you can do to minimize any potential damage from traffic exchanges. You should always have the groundwork in place before you sign up for an exchange and spend credits to bring in traffic.
Finally, it’s possible that your site and your niche just won’t mesh well with the people who use traffic exchanges.
Think about it. If you’re using a traffic exchange, it means you’re educated enough about marketing and the internet traffic generation methods out there to know what a traffic exchange even is. If you’re concerned about traffic generation enough to use an exchange, you’re only in it for one thing; getting as many hits, as much traffic, as possible in the shortest possible time.
What sort of information is going to appeal most to these people? What sort of product could you sell, what service could you offer, that would compel them to convert? Traffic generation software. Traffic generation guides and ebooks. Marketing information. The internet equivalent of a get rich quick scheme. Anything else is just stacking the deck against yourself.
There is one technique you might consider using, but I don’t usually recommend it. I call it the all-in technique. Essentially, you don’t limit yourself to one good exchange. You set up accounts on as many traffic exchanges as you can, and you set up landing pages for each of them. Now, however you set things up, you can run surfing through dozens of traffic exchanges. Cycle through them so the timers don’t matter, they’re always up on at least one tab. You might even set up auto-refreshing plugins. I’m picturing a bank of monitors with multiple browser windows on every one, refreshing according to timers for each individual site.
It’s a ridiculous plan and it works for a few people, but it takes a lot of dedication to squeeze water from a stone, in the sense that you’ll get an absolute ton of traffic, but you won’t get much useful traffic out of it. For the two of you who might be able to put the scheme to work, there you go; have at it.
Anyways. Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for – or just skipped down for, I suppose. Here’s the top list I promised. I’ve actually created two, one for autosurf traffic and one for manual exchanges.
There you have it. These are some of the best exchanges around. I’m sure your favorite may have slipped off the list, and that’s fine; tell me in the comments! I’m always happy to investigate a new traffic exchange to tell you what I think.
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