educational

Developing Traffic Sources

Corey Kincaid
Without the benefit of quality traffic, webmasters would find monetizing their sites to be an impossible task. Finding sources of traffic can be an art, and like anything worthwhile, it takes time to learn and sometimes a career to master.

While almost any webmaster can arrange for a few sources of traffic, the ability to cull the wheat from the chaff is an important skill to have.

Networking remains one of the most effective methods of finding trades. In the adult industry there's often a wide gap between the "haves" and "have-nots." Because of this, many industry veterans are inundated with requests for traffic, favors and even seed capital. This trend hardens the hearts and ears of many successful individuals, making it that much harder for webmasters outside of their sphere of influence to begin a meaningful partnership with a veteran. Luckily, while this snapshot of the industry may hold truth, it is only a generalization.

A savvy newcomer, or even a seasoned professional reaching out to colleagues, who puts his best foot forward will always have a better chance of making a good first impression. How that message gets across, especially via email or message boards, often is as important as the message itself. Carefully checking posts and emails for spelling and grammar errors can go a long way toward showing a kind of professionalism that many neophytes overlook. Before launching into an online brainstorm or plea for help, webmasters must take time to organize their thoughts so that their ideas come across as brilliantly on paper as they sound in their heads.

After a brief introduction to the community, making a public statement about company intentions is a good first step for webmasters. When making this post, be sure to include as much pertinent information as possible to prevent it from sounding like a manifesto. Include the site's category, some basic personal information, recent traffic statistics and a short — one paragraph will suffice — plan for future growth. Resist the urge to add a wealth of exclamation points and capital letters. While enthusiasm is an attribute worth its weight in gold, remaining professional is likely to yield the best results. Remember the call to action: Ask people to contact the company for trades.

Follow up with every lead in a timely and professional manner. Include a brief "thank you" for the individual's time, and lay out a plan for how the potential partnership could work. It is important not to overstate current traffic or search engine positions, as many veterans will quickly see through it. Be honest, concise and timely in your replies, and most webmasters will give the benefit of the doubt.

Traffic trading comes in a variety of forms. The simplest of these is a link exchange, in which one site provides a link to another and the second site provides reciprocation. This type of trade generally benefits the site with less traffic and provides few ways to gauge the effectiveness of the exchange. Many webmasters seek this form of trade between sites with high Google page ranks. They believe this will enhance the search engine optimization (SEO) of both sites. The exact effect on SEO for an exchange of this type is unknown, however, as Google does not publicly disclose its algorithms.

Another type of trading involves using software to track inbound traffic, outgoing clicks to trading partners and, in some cases, overall productivity. While this solution may take more time to set up and administrate, having statistics on traffic patterns and productivity can be a powerful tool to maximize the benefits of incoming traffic streams. Many software tools exist to facilitate this type of exchange, and selecting a package often comes down to personal preference. The main features any traffic-trading package should have are the ability to track inbound and outbound clicks, a reporting utility that allows webmasters to slice and dice their data across specific timeframes, and easy integrating into an existing site.

Hiking Productivity
Webmasters who already are familiar with the basics of link trading can follow a number of steps to increase the productivity of existing trades and find new ones.

Because trades between two sites need not link only their homepages, each domain has the ability to trade with multiple groups of partners, assuming each traffic source is willing to allow non-homepage links. (Some do not.)

While it is beyond the scope of many sites to analyze the psychographic, technographic and demographic attributes of each surfer, customized landing pages can boost the overall productivity of traffic from a specific source. By creating a page tailored to the interests of each visitor, webmasters can increase their chances of offering the right mix of content that causes a surfer to convert to a member. Be sure, of course, to include outbound links to other trading partners when employing this strategy. Advanced webmasters may even tailor their outbound link lists based on the site a visitor was sent from.

Sometimes the source of a trade isn't another site at all but is instead a link directory or traffic-trading site whose sole purpose is to facilitate the exchange of visitors between a network of partners. These sites often employ software to help prevent cheating like click-fraud. Early in the days of traffic trading, unscrupulous webmasters would employ click-bots and proxy servers to direct "fake" traffic through link trades while receiving quality visitors in exchange. While this type of malfeasance probably will never be completely stopped, recent advances in fraud-detection software has helped to clean up the most egregious violations.

Another traffic strategy that is perhaps a grey area in terms of ethics is employed by webmasters seeking a shortcut to "priming the traffic pump." When trading with a link list or similar site, the list administrator often will enforce a ratio of traffic based on the volume of inbound clicks from a site. The list will usually send no more than 150 percent of the traffic it receives from any one trade, limiting the inbound traffic potential for new sites. Early on, webmasters figured out that by purchasing low-cost foreign traffic from brokers, they could flood link lists with inbound clicks, thus receiving a large boon of traffic in exchange.

Unfortunately the quality of these foreign visitors is usually dismal, often originating from countries that do not speak the same language as the site they arrive on or do not have the ability to purchase a membership.

Although the exchange of visitors may be equal in terms of numbers, it is clear that the overall quality of these foreign visitors is suspect. Some link lists do not count visitors from certain countries toward a webmaster's total, and others enforce a productivity filter, counting only those visitors who go on to click a link.

Careful analysis of the traffic received from trades can lead to useful insights into traffic flow, user preference and the overall usability of a site. By refining the approach a webmaster uses for a traffic trading strategy, a site's overall productivity, conversions, and traffic levels can be adjusted. The key is to keep trying new approaches while building on what has worked in the past. Above all, webmasters who keep an open and honest dialogue with trading partners will be ensured their sites are supplied with a steady stream of new — and hopefully eager — visitors well into the future.

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