The heart of the matter lies with the question: Are Manual Traffic Exchanges (MTE) a legitimate means of promoting a site, gaining exposure and increasing PR; or are they a means to artificially raise ad rates and promote click fraud? In truth, they can be both, depending on how the site is run. Before this discussion begins we must first understand what a manual traffic exchange is.
A Manual Traffic Exchange is called “Manual” because it means a live person must be viewing a site in order to earn a credit which in turn gets their site(s) viewed by someone else involved in the exchange. The alternative is an auto-surf exchange in which a person turns on their computer and leaves it running without actually viewing the site. For the purposes of this article I will not be examining auto-surf traffic exchanges.
On a Manual Traffic Exchange the benefits can be innumerable. The increased traffic boosts a websites PR, Alexa Ranking and increases exposure. Some Manual Traffic Exchanges only allow sites with advertisements on them for the purpose of “click fraud. ” Click Fraud sounds illegal but is not actually Fraud, it is however against the TOS of most advertisers.
According to Adam Wiseman, the owner of www.gimmeclicks.com, this is not the purpose of all Manual Traffic Exchangess, or even most of them. “We allow all sorts of sites on our exchange at Gimme Clicks, ” he stated, “many of which do not even have ads. Most of the sites on Gimme Clicks promote web services of interest to other webmasters and often don't have any ads on them at all. At the end of the day, our traffic exchange provides great exposure to a huge group of webmasters. They are the perfect target market for many online services and our users also tend to be entrepreneurs interested in various online opportunities. ”
However, there is another side to the MTE world. Many sites actually state that clicking ads is mandatory. This causes far more of a moral dilemma, as in the end, it is the companies who pay to advertise that pay the price for false clicks. In response to this Adam stated, “Well, we certainly encourage our users that if they see an ad of interest, one for a product they may purchase, to purchase it from an ad on our site. After all, the goal is for everyone to make money; the webmasters, the ad publishing companies, and the businesses paying to show their ads. ” He went on to state, “Our users are encouraged to view other users sites and hopefully click through a few pages on them. If they do that, then they are participating in the true spirit of Manual Traffic Exchanges. ” He also stated, “People do make much more from their ads when they join an MTE, but as I said earlier, this is because they are a terrific target market for many online advertisers and so they do tend to visit more ads out of genuine interest and I believe this would be reflected in the conversion rates. "
It is important to note that MTEs existed long before Google Adwords and this style of advertising existed. It can be very costly for a webmaster to get their site ranked high in the search engines, and this is an easier way to get the word out.
Wiseman declined to comment on MTEs that appear to operate for the sole purpose of click fraud. No traffic owners that were contacted agreed to discuss this matter either. Only one, who asked to remain anonymous made the statement, “Google has enough money, it can afford to throw a few bucks around. ” This clearly however, did not address the issue that while Google may have seemingly endless funds, the business owners footing the advertising bill for their companies often do not.
So ying or yang? Are they good or not? Well, much like the actual Ying Yang, they appear to be two sided, and how they are used, is in the hands of the beholder.