Wikipedia defines traffic exchange (herein referred to as TE) as “a type of website which provides a service for webmasters in exchange for traffic. It is similar to the autosurf concept with the exception that traffic exchanges usually use a manual rotation.” For the smaller online entrepreneurs, TE’s are a great way to get low budget and even free advertising, and it’s a very economical way to get your name or what you’re promoting in front of lots of viewers in a hurry.
The concept by which TE’s operate is fairly basic. Webmasters join what is called traffic exchange networks for the purpose of making money and recruiting members to their TE’s. In most cases, free memberships are offered on the sites, but most have upgrades that you pay for as well; the higher the price of the membership, the greater the benefit to the member. The higher the level of membership, the greater the number of sites you can advertise is the biggest benefit to you as an entrepreneur.
Once you’ve joined one (or several) of these TE’s, you begin browsing, or “surfing”, other member’s sites in order to accumulate credits. This enables you to have your site(s) viewed by other members of the TE. In turn, the number of visitors to all sites listed increases. Be aware of the fact that TE’s use a timer when you are surfing through all the different pages, and they can be anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds in length. Most of the timers that I have encountered are between 10 and 30 seconds. It is important that you wait for the timer to stop running before you click to advance to the next site view. Otherwise you receive no credit for visiting that site.
There is usually a ratio of websites visited to credits earned based on your level of membership. Most TE’s give you a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio, (meaning you have to view 2 or 3 member’s sites in order to receive one credit) at the free membership level. When you become a paying member, depending on the level you’re at, that ratio decreases until you are receiving one credit for each member site you visit. Most of these sites offer additional credits for purchase anyway. This is valuable for the person who can’t find the time to surf other sites and earn credits that way.
You can also purchase what is called banner impressions as well. Banner impressions apply to the ad banner(s) you employ to promote your site on other TE’s. Also, credits can be converted into banner impressions at up to a 25:1 ratio, depending on the site(s) you’re a member of. So keep that in mind, also. Basically the more you surf, the more credits you’ll earn.
Another way you can increase traffic to your site is to build a “downline”. These are other visitors that sign up under you on the site(s) you’re promoting. The benefit to you is that you receive credits when that happens, and in some cases commission on them. That enables you to receive more hits to your site(s), buy more banner impressions or credits, or even pay your monthly membership. Most of the TE’s out there have what they call a “downline builder”, which is a tool that helps you get more sign ups in your network.
I would imagine that your next question would involve how to pick a good traffic exchange. I can’t make the decision for you, but I can give you some criteria based on my own experience. I belong to an online marketing group called MPAM which specializes in the training of aspiring online businesspeople so that they become successful at what they are doing. It’s as sophisticated as an online university actually. There are many things that you can learn from being a member here, including the value of TE’s with your own business.
One of the things we do annually is to evaluate every TE involved with our organization, or that we recommend to our newest members. This evaluation process is based on 14 different criteria/questions which are as follows:
1. Does the site discourage/prevent cheating?
2. How stable is the site where speed and downtime are concerned?
3. Are your problems handled in a friendly, responsive, and helpful manner?
4. Do you get quality traffic to your site?
5. Are you allowed to use rotators for your different sites so that maximum exposure is achieved?
6. Is the site relatively free of pop-ups and pop-unders?
7. When people sign up in your downline, do you receive bonus or referral credits?
8. Is the site easy to navigate and understand?
9. Does that site have unique page views when you are surfing or do you constantly have problems with page views on the site?
10. Is the site in an acceptable viewing state for the entire family (this obviously relates to the porn and racist factors)?
11. Are there frequent updates e-mailed to you so as to keep you abreast of any changes or improvements to the site?
12. Quantity of members — look for sites that have a minimum of 1,000 members
13. Length of time in business — look for sites that have been in business for a minimum of one year
14. Would you want to be affiliated with this site? Does it appear to be ethical in nature?
Most TE’s out there allow you to list your target site(s) up to three different ways. The most common is what is called a URL link. A URL is a “Uniform Resource Locator” which is basically an internet address in the simplest of terms. When you join TE’s you should already have a URL if you have your own website. If you are a member of other TE’s that you are trying to build downlines on, they will have a URL for you to use that has your referrer id in the code of that URL. That way, when a visitor to the TE site clicks on the link, it either takes them to your website, or it directs them to the TE sign-up page that’s linked to your so you get them in your downline.
The second way to do this is via the use of banner ads. These are illustrated and sometimes animated advertisements that when clicked on will either takes the person to your website or the TE that you want them to join. There are two codes involved in this form of advertising; one for the banner and one for your website or TE that you want them to join.
Finally, there is what is called text links which are just simple lines of text with your own URL imbedded in them. Clicking on the text ad will do the same thing as the URL link or banner. In some instances, the TE dresses it up with a nice background and format so that it looks more sophisticated than just a simple text ad.
When it comes to banner ads, TE’s provide you with a choice of banners to help promote building your downline. And sometimes, you will have to create your own. As scary as that may sound, I know a few sites where you can design your own ad banners free of charge, but when you do that you have to host them yourself. By hosting I mean creating the URL code for that banner. Until you really know what you are doing and can do this without help, I recommend you use banner ad and hosting sites that are free of charge. I will include my e-mail at the end of this article if you have any questions about anything in this article, so don’t worry about getting your queries answered.
The better TE’s have more navigation tools and tons of useful help and information to help promote what you are doing. Some have products that you’re allowed to resell based on your level of membership. So familiarize yourself thoroughly with everything you can on every TE you get involved in. I promise you won’t be sorry. Just remember the old adage, “knowledge is power.”
Another promotional tool that you can use to help you with your advertising is called a splash page or splash screen. Again, to quote Wikipedia, “on the Internet, a splash screen or splash page is a page of a web site that is a sort of pre-home page front page, usually providing no real information besides perhaps a note about browser requirements and sometimes a web counter. Often, this page is graphics-intensive and used only for reasons of branding…..” There are also URL codes for this that TE’s have for you to use with your referrer id in them. In some cases, you can even put your photo on them should you choose to do so.
Affiliate programs are another form of revenue stream for the beginning internet entrepreneur. However, they are not always effective and you wind up throwing money away. On the upside, a lot of these affiliate programs provide you with a pre designed webpage, advertising tools to market the site with, and an inventory or a service to sell. Some of them are even affiliated with TE’s that they recommend for you to join so as to promote your business more effectively. Usually, there are different membership levels and different monthly fees for each level. In some instances the larger the monthly price of the membership, the fatter the commissions that you earn,
Now here’s the downside. Affiliate marketing is MLM (Multi Level Marketing) in the finest sense of the word. Free memberships rarely result in any revenues coming your way. And in some instances with the paid memberships you won’t fare that well either. The key to MLM is to remember that you never really make any money on the products being sold. You make money by selling the program to other people and building your downline. So really shop around before getting involved in an affiliate program.
I have never been a fan of MLM and have always contented that MLM means Morons Losing Money. If that sounds harsh, or if I have offended anyone, I apologize. But there are some harsh realities about MLM that most people aren’t aware of. The first thing I can tell you is that, according to Paul Burks, owner of Free Store Club, about 5% of all MLM’ers are successful. In other words, 19 out of every 20 fail. The failure rate is due primarily to the fact that even thought the aspiring MLM’er is good at sales, the people they recruit is not.
The other thing that leaves a bad taste in my mouth is that MLM is a concept based on inconvenience. I can’t begin to tell you how many people that I have angered trying to sell them into a program. So make sure you know what you’re getting into before you start investing in something that has a likelihood of no monetary gain or return on that investment.
I may have gotten off the subject a bit, however I’m sure how you can see the place that a TE would have in affiliate marketing. I’ll bet you’re thinking why I am supporting the concept of TE’s when I’m not a fan of MLM. Since most of them promote building a downline, doesn’t this equate to being MLM? The answer is yes, but with a very positive exception. When you invest your time and money in a TE, you get something in return.
First and foremost you are “branding” yourself, and that is a huge factor when it comes to success as an internet entrepreneur. Remember how I mentioned above that some TE’s enable you to upload your photo on their splash pages? That is a form of branding; there is a face that goes with the product. It is important that you never lose focus on this. Just remember the four step rule in sales as I refer to it.
1. If they see you enough, they will begin to recognize you and your product
2. Once they recognize you and your product, they will investigate until they know you and your product more intimately
3. Once they know you and your product, they will begin to trust you
4. Once they trust you, they will buy from you.
This should help you get started. Should you have any comments or questions, please feel free to send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org I will respond to your queries as quickly as I can.