Emerging Sources for low cost Web Site Traffic
Qualified traffic is the lifeblood of any web site today, especially for ecommerce sites that are selling goods or services online. But, many media buyers and or owners of web sites are paying too much for traffic by relying on top tier PPC ("pay per click") search engines like Overture or Google's Ad Words Select programs and others.
There is a new breed of traffic development firms emerging in the interactive marketing world that are brokering qualified traffic to the highest bidder on a CPC ("cost per click") basis. These companies are bypassing tried and true business processes by flipping the business proposition 180 degrees – they don't find clients and then optimize their web site for search engines, they do it the other way around. Traffic brokers develop their own domains by optimizing them for the top tier search engines. Then, they utilize redirect software that enables them to forward a user who sees one of their web sites in a search engine to a third party web site of their choosing.
So, is this process illegal or unethical? It's hard to say, I don’t believe these processes are no more disingenuous than what's occurring with hidden "sponsorship listings" via top tier search engines, including Yahoo, MSN, LookSmart, Overture, etc. The latter are now starting to take up the lion’s share of the first page on search results – these results are viewed tens of millions of times per day, with many people unaware that the results are "sponsored listings."
To muddy the digital waters even more, marketing services companies are starting to offer "trusted feed" traffic to companies who want to buy qualified traffic on a CPC ("cost per click") basis. This process is just starting to take hold in the marketplace and works by a marketing services firm contacting a prospective client and offering them "trusted feed" search engine listings on a top tier web site like MSN on a CPC "cost per click" basis. They (the marketing services firm) then build web site pages for their client that are based on their in-depth knowledge of what the search engines want and then submit these pages to the search engine/directory's editors who then review the sites, give the "client" a top tier listing site and then share in the CPC trusted feed revenue.
It's getting pretty murky when you start to look closely at what and how traffic originates. I don’t think brokering traffic is bad or unethical as long as the web site that is the final recipient of the traffic is offering goods and services that are identical to the referring web site. And, there is a self-policing component of these types of processes – the traffic brokers want repeat business, so it is in their self interest to make sure the redirected traffic is being sent to a similar web site.
Also, "conversion rates" (the number of people taking a specific action versus the amount of traffic) are rapidly becoming the final determinant of building a sustaining relationship between the marketing services firm and the recipient web site. If the traffic coverts then the recipient typically wants to buy more, if not, they will move on to another source. This reinforces the self-policing aspects of the relationship.
So what do you look for if you want to start buying traffic from a web site traffic broker? Price is certainly a large factor in determining what your interest should be; most of us in the traffic brokering business typically offer keyword traffic at about a third or half of what you would pay via a trusted feed setup, or Overture or an Ad Words Select program via Google. Expect to pay more for filtered ("automotive, insurance, telecommunications") versus unfiltered ("shopping mall type of traffic") as the former has to be carefully filtered for specific keywords or keywords sets so it can be distributed to a larger number of web sites.
Next, make sure you get a 24/7 reporting capability that enables you to analyze your traffic in real time and this report should show the originating keyword traffic (keywords are always embedded in the search string). And, look carefully at your report; proxy traffic (or cached pages) should be filtered out so that there is no more than 5-10% of the total traffic – you can't get away from having some proxy traffic in this day in age, even AOL is using proxy servers. Finally, look closely at your report, the timelines should have some randomness in the sequences, if you see a traffic report with keyword traffic that is spaced very closely in terms of the timeline warning bells should go off.
Lee Traupel has 20 plus years of marketing experience and is the founder of Intelective Communications, Inc. http://www.intelective.com, a marketing services company which provides strategic and tactical marketing services exclusively to small to medium sized companies.