‘Trust’ — Key to Grabbing a Slice of the Traffic Pie

Stephen Yagielowicz

As adult website operators come to grips with the myriad realities of today’s traffic scene, there are a number of disturbing facts emerging and trends surfacing; including a realization that search engines (especially market leader Google) are no longer the reliable and steady source of traffic they once were — at least on the non-paid, organic listing front.

This crimp in the flow of visitors is compounded by the action (or perhaps more appropriately, the inaction) occurring on the affiliate front, where traffic sources are drying up as fast as the programs that once promised payments for them. Companies that for years profited from the interest or outright lack of payout on thousands of accounts that did not make the minimum payout amount, justify withholding these payments — using money that rightfully belongs to affiliates, as their own personal piggy bank — and now find themselves program non grata, lacking the traffic they once relied upon. Even the best of the remaining, legitimate programs, are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain productive affiliates that can provide a profitable traffic stream, free of chargebacks and other troubles.

Trying times have led to desperation and the scammer’s desire to “get one over on the other guy.”

Enter fraud into the equation, where rogue affiliates use stolen credit cards to boost sales at high-dollar pay-per-signup programs (PPS), while criminal gangs start, close and then reopen programs that never intend to pay as promised, all the time inflicting multiple bogus charges on consumers (“carding”).

When looking for an economic enemy to blame for porn’s slumping sales, one need not blame the global recession — when culprit enough can be found on the credit card statements of customers that want to know why the free trial membership they signed up for actually cost them $480 the first month.

Forget about the fact that nobody actually needs to pay for porn these days (which is more of a self-inflicted gunshot caused by giving away the store than an outward act of piracy, in this author’s opinion) and you are left with a chaotic scene where bringing in new blood is a challenging endeavor.

This situation has caused a shift in the way operators buy and sell traffic, moving away from paid content to free ad-supported content; often managed by ad or traffic networks. The problem here is all a matter of trust (or the lack of it) — with unscrupulous publishers stuffing ads into nested iframes, so that they will never be seen, let alone clicked on; while shady advertisers redirect traffic garnered from misleading ads, swapping visitors between networks — “washing” trades and poor quality sources into the mix.

It all boils down to little traffic or revenue for a growing number of adult websites, but can these problems be solved?

The answer is “yes,” but it requires webmasters to build sites that Google and others trust will suit the needs of customers — delivering the content promised on the tour and in the marketing materials. Other requirements include running a trustworthy program that will not abuse customers or take unfair advantage of affiliates through fine-print terms — actually charging, and paying, what it promised.

It also takes due diligence, to ensure that the ad spots you are selling actually contain the client’s ad, alone and clickable by people, not just by bots scanning to verify their inclusion.

Trying times have led to desperation and the scammer’s desire to “get one over on the other guy.” Until the trust situation reverses itself, even the most established and successful companies could find it difficult to grab their own slice of the traffic pie. But can the lack of trust genie be put back in the bottle? Only time, and the adult industry’s future, will tell for sure.