A traffic exchange is a type of website which provides a service for webmasters in exchange for traffic or in other words a website that allows members to exchange traffic. Simply put I show you mine and you show me yours type of service. Members receive credits for viewing other members websites and then use the credits to have their website shown to other members. Once a member you click on the surf tab and will start viewing other members sites for 10 to 30 seconds and then click a matching icon to receive credit for the view.
There is no waiting period between having your site up in the rotation, the only requirement is that you have credits. Also, there are no emails to read or process, just surf and receive credits. It is similar to the autosurf concept with the exception that traffic exchanges usually use a manual rotation.
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 that 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.
One common complaint with traffic exchanges, in general, is that the traffic is never much 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.
How, though, might use 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 do not 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.
Instead of shoving your ad or website in front of people who really aren’t interested, why not learn how to attract people who are interested in your website. Have them find you, instead of you looking for them. Many marketers are looking for a way to get an ad in front of people, the successful marketers have visitors coming to them. I made this shift this year and it changed my entire business for the better.