What Are Website Traffic Exchange Sites? (And Why You Shouldn’t Use Them)

Traffic matters. The more traffic your website generates, the greater your chances of capturing visitor interest, encouraging user action and generating sales.

So it’s no surprise that traffic remains a top priority no matter what kind of site you run. As noted by a recent Forbes piece, everything from specific search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to contextually-relevant content can help boost traffic volumes and increase key metrics, while more technical traffic attractions such as reducing page load delays and improving user experience on mobile devices can also enhance your website impact.

The potential downside? These traffic-boosting tactics aren’t quick fixes. They require time and effort to deliver ongoing results — and they’re not guaranteed.

Website traffic exchange sites offer a supposedly speedy solution to deliver increased impressions and help your click-throughs climb the charts, but as noted by Google, they also come with significant risk “because they may lead to invalid clicks or impressions and result in your account being disabled.”

Here’s what you need to know about website traffic exchange sites, how they work — and the red flags that make them a non-starter for sustained traffic over time.

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What is a Website Traffic Exchange?

The idea behind a website traffic exchange is simple: Quid pro quo — you do something, and you get something in return.

In this case, what you’re doing is visiting other business owners’ websites, and they’re visiting yours in return. The theory holds that with enough visits your site will start to climb relevant search rankings and eventually drive more organic traffic your way.

At face value, this doesn’t seem like a bad idea: Since website owners all want the same thing — traffic — why not band together and use the power of the Web at large for collective gain?

But problems crop up as traffic trends away from the organic views and user engagements that search engines are now built to detect. Since you’re visiting sites as quickly as possible to generate their traffic and get the same in return, your website impressions are feather-light and fleeting; there’s no engagement with content and no context for the visit.

As search engines become more sophisticated, meanwhile they can detect this lack of legitimacy — and penalize your site for it.

Understanding Website Traffic Exchange Sites

The most common form factor for these traffic exchange options is as traffic exchange websites. Do a quick Google search and dozens will pop up, all offering high-volume, low-risk services.

These websites are simply groups of website owners who all agree to visit the other sites on the list and in return have their own sites visited. Some are free to join and have hundreds or thousands of sites listed; others come with a fee and may support millions of sites worldwide.

While smaller sites typically operate on a one-for-one model — you visit one website and get a visit in return — larger operations may impose a site-viewing ratio, especially if your site is just starting. For example, if your ratio is 0.5 you must visit two sites before getting one visit in return.

To help smaller companies boost their profile more quickly, many of these website traffic exchange sites now offer for-pay options that promise to deliver a certain quantity of digital visitors in a specific time frame. They may also run contests or promotions that group members can enter (for free or for pay) which will boost their traffic multiplier and supposedly get them closer to the top of relevant, front-page searches.

Red Flags: Why You Shouldn’t Use Traffic Exchange Services

So far, these traffic exchange sites don’t sound like a terrible idea: You get traffic for free or for pay and provide traffic for other sites.

But here’s the problem: As noted by Google, their AdSense program specifically prohibits any artificial means of generating impressions or clicks — if your website is found to be using these methods, your AdSense profile may be suspended and your search ranking will drop. Although website traffic exchange sites use a slightly different model to deliver click-throughs and visitor impressions, they may create similar red flags for popular search engines in turn causing your site’s search ranking to crash.

There’s also the larger problem of organic and contextual traffic. Your ultimate goal is to attract visitors with relevant website content that drives specific action — such as signing up for a newsletter, filling out a contact form or making a purchase. Achieving this goal requires two things: Organic searches that return your website as a top result and contextual, value-driven content that creates consumer engagement

Traffic exchange sites provide the first part of this equation, since group members may be given specific keywords to enter which return your site and boost search rankings. But they fall short on the second half, since these aren’t real visitors but other group members clicking through and then bouncing away while waiting for you to return the favor. This creates an issue for intelligent search engine algorithms that notice your traffic increase — and commensurate lack of engagement, in turn red-flagging your site and potentially damaging your search ranking.

Green-light Options for Increasing Your Website Traffic

If website traffic exchange services are a non-starter, what can site owners do to increase traffic, drive more leads and deliver ROI?

Some of the most effective options include:

  1. Creating relevant content
  2. Buying targeted ads
  3. Writing guest posts
  4. Capturing better backlinks
  5. Repurposing old assets

Curated, context-aware content matters to improve traffic metrics. This means creating website layouts and resources that are relevant to your target audience and provide actionable information about your products, unique market position or pricing.

Free press is great, but it’s not always easy to find. As a result, it’s worth doing your research and purchasing targeted ad space on the social platforms preferred by your buyer personas. For example, if you find significant group numbers of Facebook dedicated to discussions of products or services in your industry, it’s worth considering some targeted ad spend to attract specific user interest.

Many website owners are experts in their field, making them ideal authors for guest posts on more popular blogs or sites. Start by reaching out to site admins about writing a guest post with the caveat that they’ll include a link to your site. This lets you capitalize on larger traffic pools without paying for traffic exchange sites.

Speaking of backlinks, it’s worth trying to generate as many great backlinks as possible. Start with a quick search of your brand, product and service names — if you see them mentioned in search results but unlinked, reach out to the author and ask for a backlink. It’s also worth checking the most-searched terms in your market vertical; if you can capture these searches with on-site content, there’s potential to secure backlinks on popular “best of” articles and listicles.

You’ve got content you’re no longer using, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless. While simply reposting it won’t generate new traffic, you can repurpose popular resources into something else. For example, a well-performing blog post could be turned into a video or serve as the jumping-off point for a discussion, while a whitepaper could see new life as an infographic with updated statistics.

The bottom line? More traffic means better search rankings and improved user engagement on your website.

But not all traffic is created equal. While traffic exchange websites promise high volume and velocity, the value of this tactic comes with risk — and can’t compare to value-driven, user-focused traffic building that steadily boosts your search ranking and helps turn first-page curiosity into a functional sales conversion.

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