Has Paypal Killed TEs?

Paypal, Traffic Exchanges, List Mailers & Change

Paypal cuts the cord

Paypal has turned a huge chunk of the online advertising industry on its head.  It has  arbitrarily determining that many reputable business owners with sound business practices and business models no longer meet their somewhat confusing terms and conditions.

To be perfectly honest I’m not that surprised, nor am I particularly concerned, but I suspect that I’m one of the few people who are familiar with these advertising channels who feels this way.

When I first got into online marketing I began to use both Traffic Exchanges and Safelists as they were called back then and I found them to be very effective.

So much so that I was making regular $30 – $40 sales commissions advertising quality digital products across a range of Traffic Exchanges (Thank you Graham Hamer).  I wasn’t building a list. Nor was I creating my own splash pages.  I was just advertising the affiliate product in the advertising space.

It was very easy money.  I’d buy a bit of traffic, earn a bit of traffic and make a tidy profit.  Every week.

Things were much different back then.

The products I was selling were top notch.

The exchanges seemed more active AND most importantly, the viewing time was out at around thirty seconds for many sites.

Traffic Exchanges worked and I was a strong advocate for them.

I tweaked my advertising campaigns, grew a subscriber list and started to make very good money.  As an aside I was also earning nice pocket change with commissions on sales of upgrades and traffic through these sites.


The decline of Traffic Exchanges

Around 2010 I started to notice a drop off.  The market changed.  A lot of “penny clickers” entered the market place and subscriber rates and sales slowed.  I didn’t like the change and to be perfectly honest, I never have really adapted to it.

It became harder to run profitable advertising campaigns, unless you adapted and really went hard at selling other advertising programs to new visitors.  TE Profits was the leader here and was a great program, but it quickly spawned a series of competitors all working on a variation of the same theme.

Pretty soon the TE and Safelist market was awash with people either clicking for pennies or selling a TE marketing plan.  As a result the industry became more insular and attracted fewer new faces.  Viewed from the outside the TE/List Mailer/Safelist market started to resemble a cross between a massive pyramid scheme and a paid to click ponzi scheme.  It had in many ways lost its innocent premise of cheap advertising.

This slow slide into the dangerous waters of irrelevance was not premeditated and may well have been market driven as incentive based advertisers fought against the encroachment of social media channels that made advertising easier and more targeted.

But the effect was the same.

The Industry Was Stale

Traffic Exchanges and List Mailers became largely irrelevant unless you were already in the industry.  Anyone who had any profile at all seemed to think the best way to make money in the niche was to buy and run their own traffic exchange or list mailer.

Most were ill equipped to do so and the market became flooded with third rate exchanges.   The industry had started to cannabilise itself.

By 2012 I was pretty much over the industry, but I kept my hand in due to the friendships and connections I’d made with some great people.  People like Scot Douglas, Carl Bailey, Paul Kinder and Jon Olson had taught me massive amounts about marketing and selling and I would forever be in their debt  but ….the market wasn’t doing it for me anymore.

It was staler than month old bread.

I moved on and did other things.  I’m glad I did…but the ties remain.

What has happened in recent days was inevitable.

It is the end result of the madness that allowed sites like Traffic Monsoon (among others) to be advertised. The concept of traffic monsoon was not new, it was simply a variation of the ponzi schemes like 12 Daily pro that were popular about 10 years ago.  When 12DP got out of hand the Traffic Exchange Industry was quick to act and block sites like it and other “High Yield Investment Programs.”   The danger was averted.  This time nobody moved.  They allowed the program to obtain a level of legitimacy that it didn’t deserve.  When the house of cards came crashing down, there was always going to be fallout.

Paypal have acted unilaterally and decisively to protect their interests.  The Traffic Exchange Industry is reeling.  It isn’t pretty but it was inevitable.

Paypal has given Traffic Exchanges A Chance to Reform

Industry leader, Jon Olson has faced up to the Paypal  issues in the same forthright manner that he always has.  In many ways, Jon is the face of the industry and his passion mixed with creative intelligence makes him a formidable force.  He has acknowledged that Traffic Exchanges need to die in their current format at least.   Jon recognises the opportunity and the challenge.  I salute him for that and respectfully make the following suggestions to him and other industry leaders.

Suggested Improvements

  1. Broaden your horizons.  The Make Money On Line niche is full of crap, snake oil salesman and useless schemes.  Encourage other niches to advertise. Allow participants to select the niches that they want to view.  Personally, I could spend all day browsing sites that were guitar related and I would be engaged in viewing them.  Seeing the same junk mindless splash and squeeze pages is about as enjoyable as root canal surgery.  Some exchanges (Traffic G?)  already have this option but I doubt if they’ve ever really marketed it effectively outside the  industry.
  2. Reward the quality of view rather than the quantity.  Right now the industry is locked in a death spiral of rapid viewing of low information pages. Currently there is little value to the viewer and bloody little to the advertiser.  It should be possible to reward viewers for the length of time they view rather than the number of pages they view. Anti cheat mechanisms could be set to display at set intervals when a page is viewed for a certain length time i.e 30 seconds.  The Traffic Exchange would then reward the quality of content and encourage diversity within the industry.
  3. Make yourself relevant to SEO.  I know you’re black listed at Google.  Re invent yourselves, make yourself relevant. Rewarding quality of page views would be a good start.  Google penalize bounce rates.  Make bounce rates a thing of the past.  Give your advertisers meaningful data about their page views.  Hell -even work at teaching them how to use and understand Google Analytics.  Encourage quality reciprocal linking without incentivizing it.  Educate your advertisers about SEO and the importance of Social Media…which brings me to my next point.
  4. Get smart about Social Media.  I will never tweet some of the inanities that you people want me to tweet about your sites.  Sorry. I’m not a parrot.  Social Media is great when used properly , tweeting I found the yellow sub at XYZ TE does nothing for me outside the echo chamber that TES are …and very little in it.  Encourage quality engagement, don’t be lazy about it and don’t insult me by asking me to tweet an advertisement for you.
  5. Become central advertising hubs.  You used to be.  Then you gave up.  Do you remember when you used to have article directories and forums.  You’ve either abolished them entirely like Tim Tech did at ThumbVu or down play their significance.  I know you have the programmers to build social walls like Facebook with a bit of  thought.  Make it happen.
  6. Be bold – advertise yours services to the wider public. Grow yourselves organically.  Use Stumbleupon as your guide.
  7. Classify your traffic and price it accordingly.  In the Solo Advertising industry Tier 1 traffic is regarded as US, British, Australia, Canadian and New Zealand traffic.  Tier 2 Western Europe Tier 3 developing nations.  I want Tier 1 traffic and I’ll pay for it.  I’m sure there are many like me.
  8. Get rid of surfing for cash in any form .  It’s like a red rag to a bull to me as an advertiser as well as Paypal.


I’m sure the TE industry will evolve.  It has to.  I hope that I’m still using your services for years to come with or without Paypal.

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  1. Thanks for this Mark, this is a great inside view from a user of traffic exchanges. We let you down, to be brutally honest.

    You are the kind of customer all of us should have been catering to, but instead we became complacent and let the penny clickers dictate how we run things.

    This was our greatest failure.

    We’ll re-invent it though. We’ll get it right. After 20 years, this industry owes it to our legit customers and users. Time to put advertising and results back as the focus!

    1. Thanks Jon – I know you will get it right. I’m looking forward to a renaissance

  2. Excellent view point, Its great to see more and more people voicing their opinion on this, well done

    1. Thanks Russell. Hang in there

  3. Some good points here, i think there will always be a place for the creative advertising industry, quality over quantity is good. I am a big believer in quality. But a quality product is of no use without quality management and customer service. Big and small Companies sometimes struggle with providing good quality customer service. I have support tickets un answered in a few quality sites, the reason they have never been answered is they have poor quality management. Wishing you all the best in what you are doing, due dilligence is a must and experience can show us things we never even knew before, sometimes the big companies get it wrong too. The good thing about the internet and technology is…. There is always someone introducing something different.

    1. Agree absolutely. Quality and commitment to service are paramount for sure

  4. Good Information Mark. You have some very valid points. Thank you for your frankness.

    1. G’day Catherine – good to hear from you. I hope your business is running as well as it can in these times. Cheers

  5. Great article Mark and thanks for your insight on what traffic exchanges used to be. I got into them in 2009 and Yes I did spend Money allot of money on get rich quick schemes. and yes like so many others have found it was a complete waste of my money and time. So I started getting more involved in more viable programs. And about a year ago I started List Building. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Te’s in the future. Maybe what happened with PayPal will turn out to be a wake up call. Change is needed because if things continue has they are this will happen again. With what ever processors are used. We need to get away from penny surfing, Get Rich Quick Schemes, etc, and get back to list building, More people Blogging, Learning how to Advertise better and maybe even promoting physical products.

    1. Hi Scott. Thanks for contributing. We all have chased the money for old rope programs at one time or another – it seems to be a right of passage and the TE Industry isn’t alone in promoting them. Spend a little time browsing the Warrior Forum and you’ll find the same snake oil tricks packaged slightly differently. Targeted list building is certainly the way to go and the whole list building concept probably deserves another blog post.
      I managed to build a massive list at one time and then set about destroying my relationship with it. Engaged subscribers are gold. There’s no doubt about that.

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