A traffic exchange is one of those ideas that sounds good on paper, but in reality, with the greed of the Internet and the rules set by Google, it sounds like it might get you in trouble. So what is a traffic exchange, how should it work, does it work and can you get away with using it?
A traffic exchange is a website that creates a network of websites and funnels traffic around them. Essentially, it works like this:
In concept this is a great idea. Users gather together a network of sites they’re all interest in, and they funnel views around. They mutually promote each other, they view the sites in the network, and everyone wins. The exchange itself adds the view credits system in place to help regulate the whole thing. It’s much like the seed/leech percentage in torrent trackers; by requiring earned credits to gain views, it prevents people from coming in to promote their site and leech off the time and attention of the exchange users.
The problem with traffic exchanges is the regulation. By allowing users to rack up credits – and money in some cases – in exchange for views, the site opens the door to users who will use traffic creating robots and software to earn credits. These views, from robots, don’t do much for the visited sites. It increments a hit counter, but that’s about it.
If you want further proof, you can always look at the sort of sites that promote link exchanges and claim they work. You’ll never see an article promoting a traffic exchange on Moz or SEO Roundtable, and with good reason.
From one perspective, a traffic exchange seems perfectly legitimate. After all, the idea is about bringing users in to view your site, using a mutually beneficial network to help everyone get ahead. It’s just another means of advertising, and it’s generally a cheap method.
On the other hand, it seems like a traffic exchange is a black hat technique simply because it’s an artificial method for boosting traffic in an inorganic way. Google loves organic traffic, and it even loves paid traffic when that traffic is purchased through normal channels, like AdSense. It’s less thrilled about buying traffic from clickfarms or through a traffic exchange.
There’s nothing in Google’s rules that labels a traffic exchange as a black hat technique. On the other hand, there’s nothing in Google’s algorithm that allows a traffic exchange to work.
The reason traffic exchanges don’t work – or if they do work, they work at extremely low volumes – is because of the quality of the traffic. Consider breaking up traffic into quality groups.
See the problem? The types of people who browse traffic exchanges are not the types of people who are likely to be interested in your blog or your product. They’re in it to promote their own sites, or they’re in it to make money; the fact that they have to visit your site for 20 second at a time is incidental.
All of that said, there are a few narrow niches where traffic exchanges do actually work. Unfortunately, these tend to be low quality niches to begin with. When you’re running a site dedicated to making money online, writing about using a traffic exchange may convert a few people to using it, which earns you affiliate fees. In a sense, using the traffic exchange is then its own reward. You can also potentially earn more by using affiliate ads on your promoted site, though if too much of the traffic is robotic, you can be booted from the affiliate program.
In any case, if you insist on using a traffic exchange, you can take advantage of the short attention span of the typical user. They don’t want to be on the site for long, because time is credits. Make your landing page a splash page with a high pressure sales technique and you might actually earn a conversion before you give up.
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