What are traffic exchanges? Do they work?
A traffic exchange is a site based on the concept of you view my ad, and I will view yours.
Imagine meeting someone in person involved in home based business. You both introduce a product or service the other person needs, and you end up ‘doing business’ with each other. In other words, you both generate an income, or affiliate commission.
Now imagine this concept online with hundreds or even thousands of people participating around the clock. Welcome to traffic exchanges.
The traffic exchange is a site with special software to facilitate the viewing of online advertising, primarily in the home based business niche. Most offer a free membership along with one or more paid (aka upgraded) memberships (more on this later).
The process of viewing ads on a traffic exchange is commonly referred to as surfing.
Joining an exchange is a simple process and only requires a few minutes. You register, agree to the terms of service, and then wait for a confirmation link to your email address. You click the link to validate your account and log in to the exchange.
The OTO, or one time offer. When you first log in to an exchange, you may be presented with the best pricing for an upgrade that may ever be offered. The exchange wants to earn income, and may assume they have the best chance with your excitement to join.
The downside is that most exchanges only provide pricing to members. Rarely can you see the cost and benefits before your register and go to the OTO page, which requires an immediate yes or no answer. Exchanges could better serve members by providing a (non OTO) price list before registering, as well as extending the OTO for at least 24 hours.
The site will use a credit system to control the viewing and placement of ads in the exchange. A credit typically equals one view, or impression of an ad on the site. You can buy views, get some with a paid membership, or earn them through ‘surfing’, the viewing of ads from other members of the site.
All advertising must be approved by the administrators of the site. Most exchanges prohibit adult content, malicious sofware, content that defames other people, and similar content that is not sutible for a general audience. Most exchanges require content in the English language.
With a paid membership (aka upgrade) or buying views, you set up your advertising and it will be shown as soon as an administrator approves the ad. When surfing, with a free account, you have to accumulate credit based on the surf ratio. This is based on the number of ads you view, and then how many times your ad is seen.
If the ratio is 2:1, you need to view 2 advertisements from other members in order to have your ad shown 1 time. Of course this scales. When you view 200 ads, your ad will be shown 100 times.
The surf ratio provides a surplus of credits for the exchange, which are used to give credits to upgraded members and credit purchasers. Credits are also awarded for referring others to the exchange.
Some sites enforce auto assign, usually in the form of a percentage. This means your must assign and maintain a certain percentage of credits in your account that are allocated to at least one of your splash pages. The goal is to keep viewing ‘inventory’ available to surfers, which is not possible with credit hoarding by the members on a large scale.
Did you know? Some traffic exchanges have a 10 plus year history of operation! An active exchange will have a balance of paid members, credit buyers and free members fueling those needed surpluses!
The viewing of ads on the exchange is controlled by a timer and the successful clicking of a verification code.
The timer controls how long an ad must be viewed before advancing to the next one. The duration will vary based on the exchange, and can even be different for free and paid members. Paid members are usually given shorter timers in case they need to surf for some credits.
The exchange will use a form of verification, similar to captcha, to ensure real human eyeballs are viewing the ads. Bots would reduce the effectiveness of the advertising. Each site will require you click a matching icon or answer a question before viewing the next ad. This is really a very simple process, and users of these sites will appreciate having a system to ensure real human visitors.
Traffic exchanges also show banner and text ads along with the splash pages and lead capture pages in rotation. They can be earned as surf rewards, provided in a paid membership, or converted into impressions from credits in your account.
Another way to get credit on the exchanges is to refer others. A few exchanges will provide an affiliate commission when a purchase is made. The most common form of compensation is the awarding of credits in your account. It may be a set amount per referral, or a percentage of the referrals surfing of the exchange. Some exchanges award credit based on several levels of membership (similar to a MLM payout).
Some exchanges may offer some specific functions, such as interest targeting, geo-targeting, and extended timers. These functions will generally require more than the standard 1 credit per view.
To enter your ads, go to the section of the site for this purpose. You will need to enter the URL of your advertising and assign some credits. Some sites will use some form of a frame breaker test before your ad is submitted for approval.
The best ads to use are splash pages and lead capture pages. Splash pages are quick loading pages with a few key points and a call to action. Loading time is important. This is why you do not want to show the home page of websites. Lead capture pages are designed to allow someone to subscribe to your list when they submit their email address.
Home based and affiliate marketing products and services are the most common ads on traffic exchanges. However, you can always try other promotions, such as health, fitness, saving money, or similar general interest topics. Just remember the primary users of these programs are interested in traffic, leads and sales for their home based businesses first and foremost.
The ad should be controlled by and contained within the exchange software. Ads that do not allow this are known as frame breakers and will not be accepted. Reputable splash page providers will be equipped to prevent this issue.
Banners and text ads will have their own section for ad placement. Banners will have a URL for where the banner is stored on the internet, as well as the URL destination to send someone if the banner is clicked. Text ads will only have a URL destination.
Server reset. Traffic exchanges run on a 24 hour cycle, then reset. This time may be midnight, but not where you live in the world. You want to understand this time if you are actively surfing exchanges with promotions, so you will actually know when the promotion will end.
Why upgrade? You can join most exchanges as a free member. However, since time is money to some, here are some advantages to upgrading in an exchange. These benefits will not apply to all exchanges but are common in the industry:
- A set number of credits, banners and text impressions every month
- A better surf ratio
- Shorter timers
- More ad slots
- Random referrals placed in your account
- Better conversion rates (exchanges of credits to banner and text impressions)
- Faster ad approval
Some exchanges may require a monthly log in before your upgrade credits and impressions are added to your account, even if your payment has posted.
Why use traffic exchanges? Because they allow you to reach the home based business person for free or in a very cost effective manner. The exchanges exist to cater to this interest. These sites are not built around other interests, such as food, parenting or fashion.
The main advantage of traffic exchanges over other methods is the ability to generate residual traffic. You can easily have a few hundred referrals after a few years of membership in any popular and growing site (see footnote). You can be an active affiliate for these programs or simply refer those who join your home based opportunities.
Disadvantages? There are some reasons you may want to avoid traffic exchanges. It is important to consider these before you join any of these sites.
Almost everyone in a traffic exchange is already promoting something! They are trying to get recruits into their opportunity. If someone is looking for an opportunity to promote, or how to start with internet marketing, they will be focusing on blog posts and searching YouTube for helpful advice.
Although ads are seen by real humans, their motivation is not to concentrate on your ad. Their goal is to surf multiple sites and load their accounts with credits to display their ads. Their desire to promote their offer will always take priority to paying attention to what you are promoting.
Most of the traffic is worldwide and cannot be segmented. Only a few exchanges are set up for geo-targeting, even fewer are set up for interest targeting. If your offers are region specific, or you know that top tier is easier to convert, you will need to use the few exchanges offering these services.
Consider a co-op. A traffic exchange co-op will buy credits in bulk from dozens of exchanges and resell the credits, or include a set amount with an upgrade membership. This is an excellent way to get exposure in multiple exchanges without having to join multiple programs.
Most co-ops have a co-op link you can promote. This will give you co-op credits instead of having to buy credits or an upgrade. You earn credits similar to the surf ratio in traffic exchanges.
Paid to click, or PTC websites. This model is a spin off from traffic exchanges. In these sites, you receive a small amount of money for clicking ads, paid for by advertisers. Your ads will be seen by people wanting to earn income from home in their spare time. However, a lot of the traffic to these sites comes from lower income areas of the world, where participants are willing to spend the time to earn the equivalent of a few US dollars.
Avoid the revenue share model. Some revenue share programs, which are Ponzi schemes, are promoted as traffic exchanges. They are easy to spot. The program will promote the purchase of ad packs with a guaranteed rate of return. You will be required to view a certain number of ads daily to get your original payment plus the promised return.
Be wary of cryptocurrency programs build on this model. Your bitcoin or other cryptocurrency payments are just a way to bypass payment processors, who will not support these business models.
A legitimate exchange will not have a daily surf requirement, but may have an inactivity policy. An exchange may pay commissions on purchases or share revenue with members. The problem occurs with a guaranteed rate of return for depositing funds on the platform, which triggers a response from government regulatory agencies, especially in first world, developed countries.
This abuse of traffic exchanges has caused Paypal and other payment processors to cut ties with almost everyone in this industry. You may be required to pay for upgrades with lesser known processors. You may also receive commissions in a similar manner.
What to promote? Since most exchange members already promote an opportunity, you need an angle to get their attention. While some will sign up with a new shiny object, most just want some income from what they have decided to promote.
An excellent way to attract these people to you, and what you are promoting, is to offer products and services that will help someone build their opportunity. If you study the history of the USA gold rush, you know that the merchants selling ‘picks and shovels’ had more success than some would be prospectors. Some items to promote include:
- Tools (autoresponder, capture page software, themes, link tracking)
- Traffic sources with affiliate programs
- Training programs (home based business, self improvement)
Best practices. The best use of traffic exchanges is list building. You offer a lead magnet based on some of the recommend items to promote. You send frequent emails showing your subscribers how to build and improve their business using products and services you represent. You can even offer home based opportunities when you have built a good reputation with your subscribers.
In home based business, people still join people. They want someone they perceive will be able to help them build their business. You use email marketing to provide valuable content, by doing so you build trust. This trust leads someone to reward you by buying through your link.
Another way to use the exchanges is to advertise websites that provide information on the recommended items to promote. These sites may be filled with your affiliate links. This will never be as effective as list building, because it is a one shot deal. There is no guarantee the visitor will ever return.
Another strategy is to send someone to helpful websites and offer your lead magnet on the site. This is controversial with some marketers, but it may prove to your potential subscriber that you are someone ready to provide value.
Some affiliate programs, CPA offers, and ad networks will not allow the use of traffic exchanges as a traffic source. Research you offers carefully if you are sending traffic to a website with affiliate links or paid ads.
The worst way to use traffic exchanges is to only promote affiliate links. However, this is the most common ad you will see. Sometimes this is done by newer marketers that are clueless. Others are just lazy and are hoping for easy money. Most of these ads are prepared templates that companies provide for their affiliates to promote.
If you have a surplus of credits, you may consider advertising some of these pages to get other people to join you in various traffic programs as your referral.
My best advice to you. Traffic exchanges will not bring you instant results. You will have a lot of exposure, but I am talking about conversions, someone filling out a lead capture page or visiting your site. You must be prepared to provide value instead of promoting the cookie cutter advertising everyone else is using.
You will need your ads seen many more times than you assume will be necessary, thousands and thousands of views at a minimum. Be mentally prepared for this reality.
Compare the popularity of traffic exchanges by doing a search for ‘traffic exchange ranking‘. Some of these site will have weekly updates, and most of these sites allow members to vote for their favorites. Therefore, not all ranking services present the data in an unbiased way.
My final point: If you have no patience and only promote affiliate links, I can almost guarantee your FAILURE.
Traffic exchanges with some form of geo-targeting.
Traffic Swirl (upgrade for geo-targeting)
Check out the recommended exchanges page.
Footnote: This site does not make any income claims, or guarantee any number of referrals in any program.