An Introduction to Traffic Washing
In this installment of our Basic Traffic Management series, we'll take a closer look at the theory and practice of Traffic Washing, and I'll illustrate several popular methods of washing your traffic. This more "advanced" traffic management technique will help you to maximize the effectiveness and profitability of your traffic by improving its quality; recycling old prospects into new ones!
What Is Traffic "Washing"
The concept of "Traffic Washing" is not difficult to understand; the term primarily refers to the exchange of "stale" surfers for "fresh" ones. In this context, "stale" surfers are those who have already been exposed to your offer (and did not "bite"), whereas "fresh" traffic will have (most likely) not yet seen your offer.
Traffic Washing is simply the "cleaning" of your site's visitors, where although you did not make a sale to them, you are nonetheless utilizing them for your own advantage; in this case, as a tool for generating new traffic. Traffic Washing is the embodiment of the phrase "There is no such thing as 'bad' traffic." All traffic can serve a purpose, and this is one of the last useful ones:
Traffic Washing Strategies
It is important to remember that traffic to be washed is by definition "junk." You (should) have already made your sales pitch to these prospects - and they have declined. So now, rather than simply sending them along their merry way, you are trying to exchange these surfers for another Webmaster's (often "junk") traffic.
At this point, I need to clarify the "should" and "often junk" comments above. Any traffic to be washed should have already been exposed to your main offer(s), before you exchange them for fresh prospects. Traffic Washing is simply a way of swapping those who refused your offer for those who have not yet seen it. You are wasting traffic if you do not first present your offer.
Here's another of my stories / analogies that might make all of this easier for you to understand: A noticeable fixture of Island life is the ever-popular "timeshare condominium." Sales staff will "hawk" the benefits of their property on every downtown street corner, hoping to lure passing visitors in for a tour, and ultimately a sale. Let's say that our salesman convinces a passerby to take the tour, but the prospect declines to make a purchase.
Our intrepid salesman has two choices now: he can send the visitor to his property away, without direction, loose upon the vagaries of the surrounding terrain, or he can bring the visitor over to the timeshare company across the street, and say "This guy didn't like our property, perhaps he'll like yours:" — and walk away with a different prospect in exchange, courtesy of his competitor.
What our ace salesman did NOT do however is take his prospect directly from the street corner over to his competitor; he gave him his own sales spiel first. It really wouldn't make sense to throw away a fresh prospect, and likewise, other Webmaster's will (often) be sending you their most non-productive traffic. I keep adding the "often" bit because I see some folks washing their traffic before hitting them with their offer - a definite waste of resources.
So, how can you ensure that the prospect has been exposed to your main offer before you wash him away? Simple: use big, bold, text links at the very bottom of your Web page, after all of your sponsor advertisements, and use exit consoles rather than entrance or stealth consoles.
Traffic Washing Techniques
One of the most popular methods is to wash unproductive TGP traffic by placing a few blind text links at the bottom of your gallery page that lead to Top Lists. Since Top Lists often send out more traffic than you send in, you will be exchanging your stale traffic for the list's fresh traffic. Popping exit consoles off of your gallery pages (on TGPs that allow the practice), and using them to feed Top Lists, rather than trying to make a sponsor sale, is an excellent variation.
Web Rings are another popular Traffic Washing mechanism, allowing you to trade targeted surfer traffic among a group of "similar" Web sites. Surfers who click on Web Ring links are often highly motivated and are usually working a specific niche, hoping to find exactly what they're looking for. Surfers who click on Web Ring links are often highly motivated and are usually working a specific niche...
Finally, Banner Exchanges, especially targeted ones, are excellent vehicles for Traffic Washing. While you have a greater chance of losing potentially productive traffic to their often-deceptive pitches, the simple arithmetic involved shows that they can be a very attractive option for cleaning up bulk traffic.
Throw 10,000 surfers at a gallery page, and if you have a banner exchange slot on it, you will receive another 5,000+ impressions on other sites — each of them an opportunity to make a sale. Add a forced Top List link off an exit console (for lists that allow this), and you'll receive at least 10,000+ more visitors (a 1-to-1 list exchange being very conservative). Add a Web Ring box for some targeted traffic, and your Traffic Washing endeavors may have instantly tripled your traffic — and it will have happened for FREE (hosting bills to the contrary). Enjoy!