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The curious case of Traffic Exchanges

TrafExchange

Traffic Exchanges are not a new phenomenon but have in fact been around for at least 10 years if not longer, but they do come and go each rarely surviving more than a few years. The concept is a simple one, you browse someone else's website and they'll view yours. At this point we break these down into two groups, auto and manual. With a Manual traffic exchange each user selects sites to view, usually for a selected time and earns point for this. Those points are then spent with other users viewing your site(s). In auto, a browser (either program, plug-in, extension or just javascript) cycles through websites automatically usually for less points per view. Some of the more advanced exchanges allow specific geo-targeting, refer, and even an attempt at search engine -> site simulation with varying degrees of reliability. In most cases you can of course pay for points which are then consumed by users. None of the research and testing done for this article involved paying for anything. 

The aim of all this is threefold. Firstly, website traffic from human visitors can be an opportunity to convert into sales providing what you're selling is something of interest but with auto surf there absolutely zero chance of this.

Secondly, some advertising networks pay per view rather than the more normal per click or conversion, these networks whilst generally immune to fraud can be fooled by traffic exchanges generating negligible income for site owners.

Thirdly, search engine positioning as well as ordering of ad banners on networks is driven by complex algorithms, some of which may (or may not) be influenced by the increased presence of visitors to a site. In reality I can find almost zero data to support this belief but the persistence of such traffic exchanges would tend to suggest there must be something to it. Many of the sites listed below use different terminology for the actual 'points' such as minutes, tokens or credits but for the purpose of this article I shall just call them points as the principle is much the same. 

During the research I've searched, located, signed-up and tested as many traffic exchanges as I could find and will list them here together with my observations which I hope will be helpful.

Traffic Exchange Websites

RankBoostup.com

A bright and clearly produced site from Australia that looks maintained. This site is purely a traffic exchange and it does it very well. Auto-Surf is done with a browser plug-in and there's one for both Firefox and Chrome. Whilst it doesn't show every visit it does show the number of visits per day and with that we can match that to visitors fairly accurately. This site offers a few more options for a recurring fee of $10 allowing limits to be set as well as geo-targeting, referrer spoofing and several others. For an extra $10 you can buy 12k points. If your just starting out then this one is a fairly easy one to get with and won't cost the earth. 

FollowLike.net

A fairly recent entry to the market, Followlike.net provider some features not often seen such as OK.ru, Vimeo, Reverbnation, ask.fm, VK, Mix, Dilgo, Pocket, Folkd, Reddit and 9Gag to name a few. I've tested a few of these and found it to work and it provides accurate tracking of your accumulated points. The auto-surf works although it views sites in a pop-up window which you then can't easily mute in most browsers. Firefox has a plug-in that auto-mutes all new windows so that was an easy fix. Interestingly this site is hosted in the UK on Webfusion. If your looking to have a shot then this one is definitely worth checking out and with recurring plans starting at approximately $5 for 5k points.

Hitleap.com

Very clean and modern layout and simple easy to understand operation from Hong Kong. Auto-surf is by an application and this works well in Windows (Linux version also available). You can have up to three websites listed. Geo-targeting and bounce reduction are available at a cost starting at $15 approximately per month which includes 10k points. Certainly worth a try if this is something you want to explore.  

otohits.net

Another good example of how to do it from France, clearly laid-out and with manual approval of sites it's a safe bet that it's regularly maintained. Even on the free account you can have referrer spoofing, user-agent overriding, Click simulation, scrolling simulation and geo-targeting and in our tests works exactly as advertised. Auto-surfing is again via an Application and this works well. There isn't a recurring fee, but points can be purchased for as little as 2 euro (about $3) for 1.5m points. OtoHits also offers an API for integrating your applications but I haven't explored this option. 

10khits.com

Nice clean design from the USA. In testing this site works as described and has fairly accurate tracking of visits and for a recurring fee of $29 you can have geo-targeting, referrer spoofing as well as 200k points, 45 websites and more. Auto-surfing is done via an Application (Windows) that you can set and forget. Certainly a serious competitor in this marketplace. 

AddMeFast.com

This exchange has been around for a good number of years and offers far more than just traffic exchange and in fact the traffic exchange is quite poor but its still worth listing especially if you want human Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest or Soundcloud likes and follows. The actual tracking of where your points are going is non-existent but tracking visits to a site that has zero normal visitors does indicate that it is working as advertised. There are paid plans starting at £199 per WEEK but these apparently give unlimited points although I'm not sure how that actually works. 

LinkCollider

Another long lived exchange which offers much of the same, but includes blogger posts and some others but this site has some non-functionality and almost constant service outages that would suggest its no longer actively maintained. The auto-surf is also broken and only surf's a few sites before stopping, mostly due to connectivity issues with the site, and in our tests we often found that the auto-surf thought we had multiple windows open when we didn't and whilst we viewed the sites no points were accumulated. if you set no-referrer it still uses linkcollider.com as the referrer in the web requests. Apart from these few issues its certainly worth a look with recurring monthly plans starting at £20 for 5k points. 

Manyhit.com

Manyhit.com, hosted in the USA is Unlike other players in that it suggests you could actually earn real $ by surfing sites but in testing this wasn't the case. No matter how many sites I surf'ed the 'account' still showed $0. Judging by the "This banner URL is incorrect" everywhere, this site may well no longer be maintained but is listed for completeness. 

Somiibo

Whilst this site from the USA promises much its complexity and reliability issues with its 'auto-surf' software move it down the list. Because of the issues I wasn't able to successfully test this site and I can't say if its maintained or not. They have a recurring monthly package $14.95 and I'm sure for that you'd find things would work as expected, but for this article I was only testing the free account. 

9hits.com

I've included this one because I really like the site design, its the best I've seen so far and it seems to have some sweet features such as Macro's. Unfortunately the only way to auto-surf is with their Application and the windows version requires FLASH which I'm simply not prepared to inflict on my PC. Recurring monthly premiums are only $6 for 100k points which is very reasonable but again couldn't test due to FLASH. I suspect this one is worth keeping an eye on. 

YouLikeHits.com

Another site that's been around for a while and only supports manual web surfing. Points can be purchased at a rate of $10 for 3k without any recurring charges. After adding a site, accumulating some points there were trackable visitors so this one works as advertised. This site also offers completing surveys as a way to accumulate points but I didn't try any of those. 

The Dangers

So, you've got a PC somewhere running an auto-surf, or even a browser on your PC running in the background viewing sites, but you don't know what those sites are going to be. They could be malware infested sites, bitcoin harvesting sites, Denial of Service sites, Sites that attempt to deposit files on your PC or even sites with illegal pornography and its all traceable back to YOU. (See our blog article on Tracking). Whichever way you throw it, your trusting these sites to monitor and vet all the links with them which they simply don't do. In the test we ran there were a few instances of porn and a few more of malware but nothing we couldn't handle because we were monitoring it. 

Socialmedia Purchasing

As you will no doubt find the majority of these sites also provide an option to 'purchase' using your points, socialmedia metrics such as followers, likes, etc. This is not a great idea because whilst search engines do use your total followers as a positive metric, they are more focused on the quality of your socialmedia proponents. If you consider the rep or footprint of a socialmedia profile is based on that entities posts, likes, dislikes and follows then your rep is based on the rep of those who post about you, follow you and like you. For a normal real person socialmedia account that's great and these accounts have reputation and normal activity, but the ones your buying on these sites will have thousands (or more) likes, follows and shares that are clearly fake, unrealistic and ignored by Google so don't waste your time and money. 

Backlink Purchasing

It is no secret that quality backlinks can greatly enhance your sites appearance in search engines, but likewise poor quality backlinks can greatly damage your appearance in search engines. Your site will rank far higher with just one good quality backline than 1000 poor quality ones, but how can you judge quality? Simple, anything you BUY on sites like the above are POOR no matter what they tell you and these will damage your ranking. The only way to obtain QUALITY backlinks is with effort and perseverance. As a point of interest it has been a long standing weapon in SEO that competitors can be knocked off their spots by spamming their sites with thousands of poor quality backlinks, so please don't spam yourself out of search engine existence. 

Summary

I am not sure of the actual benefit from traffic exchange and there's no guarantee that its not going to hurt your rankings rather than improve them, but website ranking especially in Google is something that takes months to affect and during this articles research the timeframe was about a week. I can see some benefit assuming the users browsing your sites have the Alexa Toolbar or similar plug-ins (that sends all the domains you visit back to a server somewhere, which personally I think is a ridiculous idea) and these would be influenced by the increased traffic. As for having any effect on search engine ranking I cannot see how unless the surfers first went to the search engine page, entered some keywords, paged through until it found your site and then clicked it, all of which is quite complex and unpredictable.

In order to track the effectiveness of these traffic exchanges, I used a different URL with each and then dumped the log files and compared to the reported figures. All the ones I could test came out with about the right number of hits give or take, but be aware that tracking social media likes/follows is far more complex. . Just considering Facebook then FB Likes would require these sites have linked your FB account and had access granted to an App on your FB account in order to accurately register likes and follows which none of them seem to do. Google, Twitter, Linkedin all have a similar method for tracking.  

I'm going to leave it running for a few more weeks with a couple of theses sites and see what, if anything happens to ranking or placement and I'll update the article with the results. 

I'd be very interested to hear if anyone has another take on this? please leave a comment. 

 

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Guest — Frankie Neesman
So what’s the point? Still don’t get it
Wednesday, 17 April 2019 11:12
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