The wrong sort of traffic

“Traffic = $$$”
This mantra is commonly chanted on the Web, particularly by two sorts of unscrupulous people:

  1. “Get-rich-quick” scheme hucksters trying to tout their latest recipe for SEO success to unsuspecting new website owners.
  2. Flippers who wish to sell an otherwise undistinguished and worthless site or domain by artificially boosting its traffic figures for a short while to make it look attractive.

It’s only fair to point out that not every recipe giving advice on how to boost your website in the search engines contains a large bucket of snake oil as one of the ingredients. Likewise, there are plenty of people flipping websites who actually do add value to the domain or site they’ve acquired before disposing of it.

But if the person you’re dealing with gives you a spiel based essentially on “traffic equals money” and doesn’t give any hard evidence to show the value of what they’re selling, then they can expect to see Karl Pilkington come flying in at any moment. Let me tell you a little story to help illustrate the point.

A little while ago there was a sudden surge of traffic to one of my sites – 4,000 visitors on a single day, instead of the more usual 2,000. I was pleased, of course, but mildly curious – I wasn’t aware of anything I’d done to prompt this sudden flurry of interest.

A little digging showed me that a respected commentator on my site’s subject – he writes for a national newspaper’s website – had linked to my site from one of his blog posts. “Hooray! Recognition at last,” I thought. But when I looked at the stats, his link had sent only five visitors.

Then I found that 1,800 people in Bangladesh had visited – and my site is a very country-specific one that has nothing whatsoever to do with Bangladesh. They’d simply visited the home page and left, without doing anything that might do me any good (the site’s home page isn’t monetised) or even indicate any interest in the subject matter on their part. The most likely explanation is that the visit was simply a rather hamfisted attempt by a botnet manager to test my server’s security or to bring the server down altogether.

Even if the traffic’s not directly hostile like this, it may be spurious. For instance, the BBC recently reported about a company’s Facebook advertising campaign that had gone awry. What apparently had happened was that the company had commissioned an agent to organise the campaign, and then refused to pay the agent on the grounds that the campaign hadn’t reached “real people”.

Apparently there are large “communities” of these fake profiles – which can be run from a single computer – with the aim of tricking people into befriending them and thus unwittingly spread spam and dodgy links. The BBC’s experimental FB page – which contained nonsense content promoting non-existent company VirtualBagel Ltd, supposedly based in London – attracted over 1,600 likes within the first 24 hours, nearly all from Egypt, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Not forgetting, of course, that unscrupulous website sellers can and do hire teams of real-life or virtual web monkeys to artificially boost traffic to the sites they want to sell.

“Traffic equals money”? BDOOM! “Bullshit!”

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2 Responses to “The wrong sort of traffic”

  1. Clinton

    Good examples, Kay.

    It’s worth mentioning that sellers often use Google Analytics to “prove” their traffic but Google Analytics is easily faked.

    The trick of artificially inflating the figures in Google Analytics is also used by SEO companies to inflate the stats for clients’ sites to convince the clients that their SEO money is being well spent.

    Reply

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