The faltering worldwide economic situation is leading to an increase in Internet scams intent on snagging naive web site owners who are increasingly desperate for business. The “Guaranteed Traffic” scam appears to be making a comeback.
Guaranteed traffic scams have been around for a long time. The offer basically guarantees that they will send 1,000, 5,000 or perhaps 10,000 or more visitors to your site within a defined time period. Wow! While that sounds like a good way to increase your business, but you may not be getting what you think you will be getting.
First of all, we need to separate legitimate advertising methods that drive targeted traffic to a web site from illegitimate methods that merely drive random traffic or the appearance of traffic. Legitimate advertising sites will always be able to show you the sites where your ads or links will appear. In order to help drive targeted traffic, the sites should be related to the products, services or information that you offer, or at least should attract users who may be interested in your offerings.
Today, almost any amateur programmer can figure out how to set up a site that requests pages from a web site. These will appear as visitors in a site’s server logs and it will look like the visitor count is increasing, when no new users have visited the site. However, all of these visitors will show up as having the same IP address, so it is easy to see that this is a scam. A more sophisticated variation of this runs the requests through various proxy servers that change the IP address and make if look like multiple users are visiting the site.
Several years ago a client came to me after paying $500 per month for 5 months for guaranteed traffic. His server logs did show that he received an increase of approximately 10,000 new visitors during that time, but they were all from the same IP address. I traced that IP to server in Asia that did not have any domain names assigned to it. In other words, it was a bot server that periodically requested pages from the client’s site to artificially boost the visitor count. This one was pretty shallow and easy to detect. If the scammer had been using an array of proxy servers, it would have been harder to detect.
Another guaranteed traffic scam that I looked into was harder to detect. It involved an arrangement with multiple porn sites that randomly produced pop-under pages while visitors were using the porn site. Each pop-under requested and displayed a random page in the client’s site. Because each of the porn site users had a different IP address, it looked like the visitors were coming from all over the world. This type of scam is brilliant because the average client is unlikely to ever bump into the pop-under pages. The porn site users simply considered the pop-unders to be a nuisance and were unlikely to actually visit the site.
There is another likely variation of the guaranteed traffic scam that is likely to be occurring given the recent revelations of the Chinese click fraud ring that was scamming pay-per-click advertisers out of millions of dollars. Today it is possible for a scammer to hire hundreds of students in a foreign country whose job is to visit client’s sites each day, while possibly using proxy servers to cover their tracks. If they are not using proxy servers, the telltale sign would be a large increase in traffic from a single country, most likely from China. This can be detected through the use of Google Analytics or similar log file analysis software. If the scam partners are using proxy servers, this would be more difficult to detect, but it could be isolated by examining the IP addresses that repeatedly show up in server log files.
The bottom line is that simply buying increased traffic does not tell you anything about the nature of the traffic. If your traffic goes up by 20% or 30% there should be a corresponding increase in revenue. If there isn’t, then the increased traffic is useless.
If a guaranteed traffic offer is legitimate, the person making the offer should be able to show you the web sites that are driving the traffic and you should see the links or ads that lead to your site. If the person cites “proprietary methods” (a typical code word for scam) or secret methods that they cannot reveal, it is time to put away your credit card or close your checkbook. It is a scam.
The bottom line is that you should never invest in any service that is mysterious or proprietary. This includes any type of advertising or SEO service. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of how the traffic is being driven to your site and where it is coming from to assure that it is legitimate and consists of users who are likely to buy your product or services. When it comes to increased traffic or guaranteed traffic offerings, targeted traffic is all that matters.