Imagine this scenario. You are a blogger. You’ve been running a website for a little over a year, working tirelessly to get it to where it is today. You have a reasonable number of viewers for a new site, but it’s still not much, particularly compared to the larger sites in the industry.
You’re gearing up to the release of your first ebook. It’s a good book, you like it a lot. It’s nearly 15,000 words of very relevant, detailed information with a handful of case studies and some actionable conclusions that will be helpful to your readers. It’s also going to be pretty cheap, so you need to sell a lot of copies to recoup your losses from paying writers, graphic artists, and data miners to collect and analyze the data for you.
You’ve looked at your traffic, and you’ve realized that to recoup your losses you’re going to need to sell almost as many copies as you have users. You now the typical conversion rates for your offers, and they’re nowhere near 100%, so you’re a little worried. You think you have a solution, though. You want to buy some traffic.
A Short Story
Even the thought makes you a little paranoid. Buying traffic? Isn’t that what black hats do? Those black hats, always ruining things for everyone else. A good technique you discovered last year was taken over by black hats and Google released an update to demote it. You were lucky to see it coming and abandon it before it hurt you, but it’s not an experience you want to repeat.
So, you’re skeptical about buying traffic. You open a new incognito window in your browser, and you go to Bing – because why alert Google to your antics – to search for a traffic source. To your surprise, you see millions of results, including some very reputable-looking sites.
More confident now, you choose the best looking site of the bunch and contract it for a test run. It’s just $5 for 5,000 views, so it’s hardly bank-breaking. You make sure to buy a prepaid Visa so no one can trace the source of the payment, just in case. It’s only later that you look back on the situation and laugh, because anyone who wanted to trace it would just, you know, look at the destination link for the traffic.
To your surprise, the traffic that arrives on your landing page actually seems interested. It looks like they’re actual, legitimate people, coming from a variety of sources. It doesn’t have a high conversion rate, but then, you didn’t set up a landing page specifically for converting this traffic. You just wanted to see how it looked when it arrived on your page. It seems as though most of it is real people, with only a small percentage coming from bots or untraceable, anonymous users.
Satisfied, you contract the site again for a longer term campaign, with more hits on average per day, and you get to work on a landing page to take advantage of their arrival.
A few weeks later, you hear a knock on your door. You save the document you were working on and go to answer the door. You see two men in red suits, with blue ties and yellow hats. One of them asks if you’re Mr. Blogger. You say yes, because in this scenario, that’s your name. It’s a little ironic, actually, that with such a last name you got into the industry and took to it so well.
Upon answering in the affirmative, one man hands you an envelope. Inside are documents that, upon reading, appear to be warrants for your arrest and the seizure of your computer, as well as any external media devices or storage. As you read them for the third time, the men push past you, bringing a veritable horde of police after them.
You recognize the men, now. They’re notorious, so much so that you thought they were fictional. They’re Google Agents, enforces of the World Internet Laws. The documents give them the full legal right to take everything computerized in your home, and they do; they even take your smartphone, your microwave, and your thermostat. Finally, one of the policemen notices you and pulls your hands behind your back. Handcuffs shaped like the Google logo are slapped on your wrists, and you’re led to the Streetview car for transportation.
At the hearing, later, you’re found guilty of buying traffic, first degree. Your sentence is lessened somewhat, however, by the fact that you seemed to be providing good content. Black hat spammers, sending traffic to thin affiliate sites, they tell you, end up getting at least 40 years behind bars. You only receive the minimum sentence, 15 years with additional community service.
Does that scenario sound realistic to you? I mean, ignore the part where I name you Mr. Blogger; that’s not your name, and maybe not even your gender. Besides that, though; the Google enforcers? The police confiscating your thermostat? 15 years behind bars? No, of course it doesn’t.
Buying traffic is not illegal. There’s nothing illegal about it. There are no laws, anywhere, that regulate whether or not you can buy traffic.
Buying traffic may be considered against the terms of service of certain ad networks, depending which network it is. Even Google, in their AdSense rules, tell you that it’s fine to buy traffic as long as the traffic is legitimate. It’s only when you’re sending bad traffic to their ad providers that you run afoul of their rules. Even then, breaking the rules only means you’ll be removed from the program and have your account locked. You won’t be arrested, because nothing illegal is happening.
Buying traffic could be considered unethical in certain circumstances. For example, if you’re deliberately buying bot traffic form a low quality seller with the express purpose of sending that traffic to pay per view advertising, that would be an unethical and black hat way of making money.
There’s only one situation where buying traffic would be illegal, and that’s if the traffic is obtained illegally. Believe it or not, this does happen, though it’s rare. The fact is, it’s a lot easier to run a traffic bot or a few normal ads than it is to compromise a computer and use it to visit websites on demand.
Don’t worry about it.
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