Two interesting posts today on traffic exchange surf icons and the cheaters who find ways around them.
Why is the topic suddenly hot? Because the makers of the popular LFMTE script have introduced, and several exchanges have already adopted, a new surf icon scheme intended to make cheating harder. Instead of matching two identical images, surfers now pick an image that corresponds to a descriptive word (e.g. if you see the word “animal” you click on the image of the bear, cat or dog).
Tim Linden points out that the writers of cheat “bots” will just figure out a way around this new scheme, and suggests that the best approach is to use unique surf icons (and possibly custom scripting) rather than “out of the box” sets.
James Dias thinks … heck, let’s just let him tell you what he thinks:
What do I think? I think they’re both right.
There will always be cheaters. There will always be bots. There will always be schemes to defeat cheaters and their bots, and none of those schemes will ever be 100% successful.
To the extent that any new anti-cheating scheme is partially effective, or effective for a little while, that’s a good thing. It won’t end cheating, but it will reduce cheating. Some marginal, hobbyist cheaters will quit bothering once it gets to be more work than they like to do. Some dedicated, obsessed cheaters will at least have to work harder at it for a little while. And when they’ve defeated the latest anti-cheat measures, the cycle will begin again.
Fighting traffic exchange cheating is sort of like fighting terrorism: Like terrorism, cheating will never be eliminated … but making YOUR exchange a “hard target” — not just with icon schemes, etc., but with other counter-measures and by simply keeping an active eye on what your surfers are are doing — will reduce cheating, make cheaters want to go find softer, easier targets, and produce better results for your members.
I admin two traffic exchanges, and there are often days when I make more money from affiliate marketing — emailing the exchanges’ members about a new traffic exchange or mailer — than the exchanges themselves bring in.
Sometimes email marketing can go very, very wrong.
It’s like Aesop’s fable of “The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg.”
So long as its owners were patient, cared for the goose, fed the goose, etc., the goose would lay an egg made of gold once a day, day in and day out, for as long as it lived.
But the owners got greedy. They figured there must be a lot of gold inside the goose, so why not just kill it and get all the gold at once? But of course, that didn’t work. All they ended up with was a dead goose.
A lot of list-builders — TE owners, yes, but others as well — start building a list and then email that list willy-nilly, multiple times per day, with every “opportunity” that comes along. Before long they’re getting more unsubscriptions than subscriptions, and nobody’s buying what they’re selling.
A mailing list is a relationship. It has to be nurtured.
As I so often like to do, I’m going to hold up Cathy and Jolynn as good examples. If I get an email from them, it is almost always about their traffic exchange — promos, events, etc. If it’s about some other exchange or biz opp, that new factor is obviously carefully considered, and usually accompanied by a “bribe” of some sort. I am a member of their exchange. We have a relationship. They don’t abuse that relationship. They understand that every time they recommend something to their members/subscribers, they are putting their own reputations on the line, so they don’t do it lightly. Consequently, when they recommend something to me, there’s a good chance I’ll accept their recommendation and join as their referral.
I’ve belonged to some other traffic exchanges — I won’t name names — where the email pattern runs something like this:
- I get an email in the morning about their latest promo, offer, etc.
- An hour or so later I get an “oops” email because they “made a mistake in the last email.” This happens often enough that the TE owner is either not paying attention, or is faking “mistakes” for the purpose of getting an additional email under my nose.
- About noon, I get a panicked “Omigod Omigod Omigod this traffic exchange/mailer JUST LAUNCHED and I just know it is the BEST THING EVAH even though it’s only been in business for 10 minutes and all I’ve had time to do is sign up and grab my referral link and you should join RIGHT NOW!!!!” email.
- A few hours after THAT, I get an email telling me about the latest, greatest WordPress plugin, SEO software or ebook that I absolutely can’t live without.
And it’s like that day after day after day.
Or at least I assume it is like that day after day after day … but I can’t say for sure, because after two or three days of that I stop reading the emails.
There’s more to list-building than just getting some subscribers and flooding their inboxes. A list of 100 people with whom you have some kind of trust-based relationship, will produce far better returns than a list of 10,000 people who quickly get sick of your constant pitching of stuff you probably don’t use yourself.
I got an email yesterday from a traffic exchange I belong to. Here’s the substance of that email:
Free Members Will No Longer Be Able To Cash-out!!
You may however use your commissions to pay for an upgrade.
Upgrades are on sale this week!
Free members will still be able to earn commissions and earn credits, they just won’t be able to cash-out!
There’s a word for this kind of thing. That word is “theft.”
Yes, traffic exchanges are entitled to change their terms of service. But it’s fraudulent to do so in a way that deprives members of stuff they’ve already earned or paid for.
A change like this would only be legitimate if it 1) gave the members some kind of reasonable notice, and 2) waived the withdrawal minimum so that members could get their money out of there before the change took effect.
Otherwise, it’s just stealing the money the free members have already earned.
Date: July 4, 2013
Sites: 10 sites — see below
Surf Requirement: 237 at each site (surf all 10 to dectuple your chances of winning!)
Prizes: $10 cash prize at each site, plus additional prizes at site owners’ discretion
No, I’m not going to tell you how to cheat and get away with it. On that front, all I can really say is it’s probably more work to succeed by cheating than it is to succeed by following the rules … at the traffic exchanges I run, anyway.
But I am going to throw a hint on what not to do your way that will save both you and I some time and effort.
If you come to one of the TEs I run on the day before a cash prize referral contest ends, and sign up, but don’t surf or put any sites in rotation …
… then magically produce 10-20 new referrals overnight, all of which are obviously fake – they don’t surf, either; they don’t put any sites into rotation, either; their names don’t look real, and their email addresses are funky unintelligible letter/number combos at some webmail outfit — well …
… you are obviously a cheater, and I am going to delete your account and the accounts of your fake referrals.
Sending me an email that opens with “f–k you” is not going to bring about a reversal of that policy.
The point of a cash referral contest is to reward real members who refer real new members, not to reward cheaters who think they’ve found a way to grab a quick ten bucks or whatever.