Cheap “Trash” Traffic

Let’s face it: pay-per-click can be very expensive, especially if you’re wanting to drive thousands of visitors to your site.  There are few keywords that I’ve targeted with AdWords that cost less than 50 cents to a dollar per click that generate any real traffic.  If the return on investment is there it may not be a problem, but what if you don’t have thousands of dollars to float your costs while you wait for your paid ads to turn into closings?

 

Because of how expensive PPC can be, many people turn to lesser traffic sources that promise a flood of traffic for pennies per visitor (or less).  If you’ve ever been tempted to buy traffic from places that promise, for instance, "5,000 visitors for $67", perhaps my case study into these traffic sources will help you in your decision.

 

You see, there are a lot of brokers for this kind of "cheap traffic" at a popular forum I frequent.  I kept seeing dozens of people buying from those vendors, and yet I knew what they were selling had to be worthless.  Why?  Because why would anyone sell thousands of real, valuable visitors for a penny per visitor or less?  Anyone who could drive that kind of traffic (if it was quality traffic) would be raking in the profits from it and earning (on average) a dollar per visitor or more.

 

So I setup a test landing page and started buying traffic from these brokers and redirecting the traffic to the test page.  That page contained a list of 16 cheap traffic brokers.

 

The bottom line is that I ended up getting 41,499 unique visitors sent to my site (far fewer than promised by the vendors in most cases) and I earned a total of about $25 from the traffic.  Given that I spent around $200 for the traffic, clearly the return on investment (ROI) was not there.

 

In doing this, I tracked a lot of details about the visitors to find out what was going on.

 

I tracked the time of the visit, the IP address, the host name of the IP address, whether or not the visitor’s browser supported javascript and/or accepted cookies, the referrer, the length of time the visitor stayed on the page, and whether or not the visitor actually saw the page (meaning that the page loaded completely without interruption).

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This list of "visitors" is very typical of the cheap traffic vendors I bought from.  First, the referrer was the same for every single visitor.  Most cheap traffic vendors do this, modifying the referrer so that you don’t know where the visitors are really coming from.  They do this because they know you would be a very unhappy customer if you saw where the visitors were really coming from (and how they were delivering these "visitors").

 

One broker forgot to turn on the referrer replacement, and so I got to take a look at the methods they were using to send "traffic" to the site.  He promptly realized his mistake and replaced the referrer, but it was too late: I had seen the truth.

 

The truth is – what you’re being sent are not visitors, not really.  They’re views, and not really even that.  This particular cheap traffic source used what’s called a "pop over", where a box appears on a 100% completely unrelated web site and displays your site in the box.  It’s very annoying, and promptly causes the "visitor" (who never asked to see that site) to close the box immediately.

 

The viewer was so annoyed by the pop-over that they closed the box before it even completed loading my very small test page.  Closing the box before the page completely loaded prevented the javascript I put on the page from loading (since it was setup to execute after the page was completely loaded, in order to track precisely this behavior).

 

I also tracked the time a viewer spent on the page revealing that virtually nobody spent any time on it at all.  Why should they?  It was an annoying pop-over that had nothing to do with the site they were visiting.  There are a few really high TOP values that apparently are from the javascript failing to execute that ends the "visit."

 

Another thing I noticed was that many of the "visitors" were from the same hosts and IP addresses.  This means that the broker was claiming to be sending, say, "5,000 visitors", when in reality it was the same visitors being shown the same pop-over again and again.  No unique visitors here, folks.

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The bottom line with traffic is: you get what you pay for.  Yes, AdWords is expensive, but it is operated by a reputable source.  My opinion is that any source of "traffic" that hides the referrer is really a "trash traffic" source and should be avoided like the plague.  It’s most likely a rip-off.  If it wasn’t, why would they need to hide the referring page?

 

I am currently testing some new ways to advertise on Google that Google has not made much fanfare or announcement about that it’s even available…. and will report my findings to you about that current ad testing when I have enough data to tell you whether it’s worth your time or not.

 

I originally performed this "Cheap Ad Source"  test to see if there was some low cost ways for you to drive traffic to your site.  I thought the information would be useful to you as well, in case you were considering buying from these cheap, bulk "traffic" vendors.

 

Please post your thoughts and comments below.

 

 

2 comments on “Cheap “Trash” Traffic

  1. Ed, as usual, you are supplying us with very valuable information that we either do not have the time to do or do not even know what to do. I have been looking to increase my PPC adverts, but am afraid that I do not know enough how to generate significant leads (those who request more information or a meeting). I am not sure if it is the click or the website that draws them in (I know you need both). What is the new advice for web layout and content? As always – Have a wonderful holiday

  2. Ed: Sounds like your survey of Cheap Ad Sources versus ADWORDS has proven you correct that you get what you pay for. So, where do we go from here? I’m looking forward to just what you decide to recommend. Jim

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