But the online world has matured across the board over the last decade, and in adult, webmasters may have the advantage of dealing with more overall traffic, but it's become harder to distinguish the good from the bad. Meanwhile, free porn continues to dilute the quality of traffic that's already available.
And those aren't the only changes.
X2K Consulting and Media Services Owner Stephen Bugbee told XBIZ that a contraction of the adult industry, coupled with the loss of some of the traffic companies, happened simultaneously with a drop in the quality of available traffic. He also said it's very difficult for webmasters to determine the quality of traffic they plan to buy before they buy it.
"I think that's exactly why just buying adult traffic sucks as the traffic brokers are aggregating across the board," he said. "So depending on where or what type of traffic you're getting, coupled with how real or good your product is, there is your result."
TrafficShop's Mark Bulmer agreed.
"With traffic brokers, the buying process became more complicated; the buyer has a lot of options and settings to apply, like geo-filters, daily filters, etc., to get more targeted traffic flowing in the desired way. And also from the sellers' side: several years ago it used to be normal and quite popular to sell 404 traffic, iframe traffic [and] popup traffic, [but] now there is nearly no demand for this kind of traffic, as it is mostly rubbish."
It's a Catch-22 that challenges adult webmasters to find smarter ways to attract traffic to their sites. What's a sensible adult webmaster to do? Bulmer said one way around that paradox is to dip your toes in first, and very, very slowly.
"Spend some time to find the sources that fit best with your site," he said. "Make several small test orders, and remember: Better traffic always costs more."
Bugbee agreed that test buys are a good way to get started, but he added that once a webmaster gets the hang of it, quantity is key.
"I think it is important when buying traffic to look at multiple sources for your traffic," he said. "Test buys are always a good thing. But remember: You only get out what you put into it, so a small test buy is really not the best way to gauge results as larger buys can yield better results."
Bulmer, who handles sales and public relations for TrafficShop, added that different websites call for different kinds of traffic. He said mixed-niche traffic could help nourish a fledgling TGP or MGP, as well as add needed oomph to a new traffic trade.
But he said that it's a different story when it comes to paysites.
"If you're looking to generate sales on your paysite, spend more time on choosing sources, and always buy traffic from high-quality countries only," he said.
An informal survey of adult-industry members indicated that the best traffic comes from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and most European countries. Japan received mixed, though mostly good, reviews, while some decent traffic also apparently clicks in from Mexico and some parts of South America. As for the worst traffic, countries on the naughty list include most former Soviet Socialist Republics, China, India and Egypt.
Looking at location isn't the only way to determine the quality of traffic, though. Webmasters will have to do some good, old-fashioned legwork to figure out what's best for them.
"We can analyze on our side a lot of things about traffic — country distribution, productivity and lots of other stats, but nothing can be said about conversion ratio here," Ballmer said, adding that good traffic is "productive" traffic, or traffic from established, trusted brands and networks.
XXXWebTraffic.com Account Manager Bazken told XBIZ that finding a company that provides good tracking and evaluation in its back-end interface is a must for any serious webmaster. Naturally, he touted the tracking and analysis provided by his own company, but he also recommended third-party analysis firms like DoubleClick.com.
Bulmer said webmasters should research the origins of their traffic. For example, he recommended that webmasters seek out galleries that sell a small, reasonable amount of their traffic to other sites; this way, surfers will be more tolerant of a click that takes them to a new page.
But what about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? Industry members surveyed agreed that SEO is important for any website, but they mostly agreed that it won't do enough on its own.
"First, not a lot of webmasters know exactly what to do for good SEO," Ballmer said. "They usually do simple things, and that's not enough. And buying traffic is much easier to get visitors, and also for TGPs and MGPs; it's essential, and it can't be achieved with SEO."
That said, most industry members agreed that SEO remains important, especially given the power of a click that comes from a text-sensitive Google search.
Bazken said spending money on a sound-targeted ad campaign should go hand-in-hand with any traffic purchases.
"Contextual ads are very powerful," he said. "We're going to pair your ad with the right content." Bazken added that anyone who decides to hire an ad network should take the time to build a strong campaign based on well-chosen keywords and attractive graphic design.