You might remember last month when I wrote about paying for site views. That post was in response to a prompt from our Head of Design, John Maeda, to write about how a blogger could gain 1000 views with a budget of $20.
The point of the exercise was to empathize with our blogging customers. Afterwards, we invited Kitty Lusby to read and evaluate our posts in a guest post of her own. It’s a fantastic recap — please give it a view (😉).
My colleagues presented ideas that were thoughtful, well-researched, and focused on bloggers truly trying to gain an audience. I went down a darker path. I wanted to explore what would drive someone to artificially inflate their stats.
Buying some views
Actually buying views was ridiculously easy. I picked one of the top results on Fiverr (“I Will Send Keyword Targeted Website Traffic With Low Bounce Rate”) and submitted an order. I had a couple options to customize my order:
- What industry does this order relate to? (Art & Design)
- What keywords do I want to target? (Small Business)
- Which search engines do I want the views to originate from? (Google)
- Which geographic location do I want the views to originate from? (USA, Australia, Canada)
- Which platform do I want the views to originate from? (Mobile)
It cost me a total of $6 — $5 for the order, $1 in processing fees. The order included:
1000 visitors/day for 5 days +1%
promote one URL, target one keyword, one search engine, PC or MOBILE
The seller responded promptly to my order with an overview of my order, and how she would proceed. She told me to keep an eye on my stats, and also created a Google Analytics stat tracker for my convenience. She was professional, communicative, and helped me feel confident in my purchase. In the five days I received traffic from her business, I gained 5,265 views according to Google Analytics, and 5,814 according to WordPress.com stats. (I’m not sure why there’s such a large discrepancy.)
All of that traffic was temporary. I had a large spike during the five-day period my order was running, which dropped back down to nothing afterwards. Quite literally, nothing — the post hasn’t received a single view since. Why, then, do people buy traffic?
Down the rabbit hole
Turns out there’s a whole lot of information out there about where to buy traffic, and why you shouldn’t buy traffic, but not a lot of information about why someone would want to buy traffic in the first place.
After reading articles, Quora answers, and forum threads, I narrowed the reasons someone would want to buy page views down to two reasons.
Everyone’s looking for a shortcut
Starting a new blog, business, or product is difficult. Not only do you need to focus on writing solid content and actually building your website, but unless you’re rolling in sweet VC money, you need to think about somehow financing your endeavor. For an amateur blogger, a free blog on WordPress.com might be totally fine — but the second you want to start making money, you need to start spending money. Once you’re spending money, you want to maximize the return on your investments.
There’s a lot of uncertainty around starting a new venture. Even if you do everything technically “right,” you might still fail. By paying for a ton of traffic upfront, some folks think they can gain enough traffic to push their website ranking up in search engines, making them easier to discover and more likely to gain organic traffic. They see it as a way to kickstart their site:
A new website may take ages to generate enough traffic. When you buy a thousand hits per day or perhaps ten thousand every week, you are giving your website the foundation it needs to launch. Once your website becomes popular and people know what you do, you would get organic traffic. Till then, you need to employ various strategies to get traffic to your website.
However, purchasing traffic to inflate your website ranking is risky. Search engines are getting better and better at identifying illegitimate sources of traffic. By paying for traffic, you run the risk of harming your site as much as you are helping.
There are no shortcuts to success.
It’s all about the money, honey
The other major reason people seem to buy traffic for their sites is to turn those views into ad revenue:
…All that mattered was profit, and for every $0.002 visit we were buying, we were making between $0.0025 and $0.004 selling display ads through networks and exchanges.
Jack Marshall, Confessions of a Fake Web Traffic Buyer
Good ‘ole capitalism.
This also seems risky — surely, Google must penalize people for this? — but I learned:
Google doesn’t directly prohibit buying traffic to a site that has AdSense as a monetization method.
They specifically say that you’re welcome to promote your site however you want, so long as those methods don’t violate the program policies. The only policy violation you could encounter is buying bad bot traffic or fake traffic that trips Google’s exploit filters, and will get you removed from the program.
James Parsons, Should You Pay to Send Traffic to an AdSense Site?
So: Real people are okay. Bots are not. Makes sense. But how do you know whether the traffic you’re receiving is from real people, or from a bot network?
James goes on to say:
… while you can buy traffic, you should avoid sellers on sites like Fiverr …
If you’re getting “unique” visitors for next to free, you can bet that you aren’t getting real users. Real users tend to be more expensive.
To make more money, spend more money.
All this said, Google Adsense, specifically, only pays you for clicks — not views. So buying views doesn’t do anything if you’re making your revenue from Adsense. This strategy likely only works when you’re using lower quality ad networks. Or, it could be totally outdated. The first article I mentioned is from 2013. Maybe we (see: Google) are winning the war against Black Hats.
(On the subject of monetization, when I jokingly posed this question — why buy traffic? — to some friends, the first reply I got was “to impress VCs.” The more VCs you impress, the more of that sweet, sweet VC money you get.)
So, uh… should I buy traffic?
No. I may have gotten a couple thousand page views, but I certainly I did not pay my way to success.
Buying traffic is not sustainable — once you stop paying, that traffic disappears. There are tons of opportunities for ad networks and search engines to penalize you. In most cases, you’re just feeding bots.
There are no shortcuts to success. Want to succeed? Do your research. Read through my colleague’s articles from January, and read Kitty’s guest post. Work hard, and work smart. Make a plan, and pivot if you fail. Don’t give up.
You got this.