For decades, webmasters have been trying every trick in the book to try to boost their traffic. This includes every form of automatic traffic generator you can think up. Many of these generators still exist and are in operation today. The question is, do they work, how do they do what they do, and are they at all effective?
Do Traffic Generators Work?
Yes. Well, no. It’s a complex question, and it relies on the changing definition of traffic. So, what do you mean by traffic? Do you mean any hit that loads your website and increments your visitor counter by one? Or do you mean any user that loads your page to read a piece of content?
If you answered the first option, then yes, traffic generators work. Most of these programs are the equivalent of robots, refreshing your page over and over as many times per minute as possible.
If by traffic, you mean engaged users who may potentially convert into paying customers, then no. Traffic generators, again, are largely robotic traffic. The traffic they generate does nothing to help your website.
How Do They Work?
There are a number of ways that traffic generator programs work. Some of them are purely robotic, while others are more detailed SEO-task programs that, while they do what they do very effectively, they don’t play by the rules and can earn your site several search penalties. In every case, you should avoid using such programs.
Robotic refreshing. This is the first and most basic way a traffic generator creates traffic. Imagine sitting in front of your computer, on your website, hitting the F5 button over and over. This is all a robot does, except the robot does it several times per second. This can very quickly increment your hit counter, but that’s it. It doesn’t do anything else. Long ago, in the early days of pay-per-view affiliate links, robot refreshers would be able to make marketers hundreds of dollars per day. This was before affiliates caught on and blocked repeated traffic from the same IP address.
Traffic routed through proxy servers. This was the solution to the problem of IP blocks on robot refreshers. The robot would be slower, but it would have a list of proxy servers it would cycle through. With no easy repeated IP to block, the robots could again make affiliate webmasters a heck of a lot of money. Once again, however, this was purely a way to scam affiliate marketing; it does nothing to raise a legitimate site. Additionally, in the years since, this method has also been successfully blocked.
Spoofed user agents. To further get around proxy IP blogs, robots began spoofing user agents. The user agent is a unique identifier for the browser and computer configuration used by the person doing the browsing. When a robot can change up this information, it makes it look much more like a series of individual visits rather than one program doing all the work. There are legitimate reasons to change your user agent, particularly for testing purposes, but robots only do so for spam traffic purposes.
Clickfarm traffic. Clickfarms are the next evolution of the idea, only instead of using robots to do all the work, clickfarms put real people to work. They are essentially the traffic-producing sweatshops of the third world. Clickfarms are generally much more of a problem with Facebook likes than with pure traffic, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still swing by for no benefit. Once again, these users are as bad as robots; they don’t read your content, they don’t care about your products and they’ll never pay you for anything. Many affiliates have by this point stopped paying per impression, and those that have maintained the practice have largely blocked the clickfarm nations.
Hijacked traffic from hacked sites. This is actually legitimate traffic, shamefully stolen from a legitimate website. Essentially, a hacker hijacks a legitimate website and redirects their domain to a domain of choice. This occasionally happens when you purchase traffic through a third party; the hacker is paid for their work, the middleman takes your money, and you’re left with a lot of disgruntle users wondering why you’re now standing on the stage they expected would be occupied by their favorite website. You have a lot of explaining to do, and unlike robots and clickfarms, these users are engaged. Not only that; they’re angry.
Automatic article submission. Part of the general idea of black hat SEO for traffic creation, automatic traffic generators tend to take a single article you have written and spin it in a few dozen different ways. They insert your link into each of those pieces of spun content, and then they submit that article anywhere they can. This means article directories, spam sites, pre-created blogs and a whole manner of other sites. The traffic passing through these sites is seldom legitimate. It’s also less often engaged. It’s rare that these sites are even listed on Google any more, which means they’re virtually worthless.
A Look at Black Hat
There are a huge number of black hat techniques out there. Article spinning and directory submission are just scratching the surface. Software can create entire spam blogs full of spun or scraped content, all with the express purpose of eventually passing link juice to your site.
Black hat techniques all have one thing in common; they fight against the rules put forth by Google for how a webmaster should act and how a website should advertise itself.
- Using keywords unrelated to your content to try to get your site to rank for keywords you don’t target.
- Hiding text so that a search engine sees it and thinks your site has more valuable content on it than it does; usually used in conjunction with keyword stuffing or keyword spam.
- Links that look like they point to one site, when they really point to another; cloaked links that redirect a user from a valuable page to your page instead.
- Creating copies, spun or otherwise, of your existing content and using that duplicate site to point links to your real site. The idea here is that your duplicate is still valuable at first glance, and will pass link authority to your page, right up until Google notices both have identical content.
- Link pyramids, where spam blogs are created to link to slightly less spam blogs, which in turn link to more legitimate-looking blogs with some link juice to pass, which in turn link to your site, which pulls in a higher ranking until Google investigates and removes the sites passing you power.
Much of this, surprisingly enough, can be done with automated software. The problem is in the configuration, which takes a not insignificant amount of time. Some few black hat webmasters have the ability to profit from this; most do not. All told, any program that promises a shortcut to traffic and profit is a scam.