If you’ve owned a website for more than ten minutes, you’ve probably seen websites proclaiming “!!Free Twitter/Instagram/Facebook Followers!!” or “Free Site Traffic!” I know I definitely did, and it made me extremely curious. How do they work? How do they afford to keep running? And are they worth using to attract new traffic?
Short answer: Weirdly, I’m not sure they do, and no.
For the long answer, I signed up to a couple of these sites. One site offered free Twitter followers, so long as you allowed their website to hijack your feed to advertise for them occasionally. (Needless to say, I ran the other way.) Another was a “follow for follow” kind of deal, which works pretty much the same as putting “Follow for follow!” in your actual Twitter profile, only with more adware. Another site offered free site traffic if you clicked on other people’s sites. Seems simple enough, right?
The low down is actually a little more complicated. After all, these sites have to cover their operating costs and try to turn a profit. So, the way these free hits and followers really play out is this:
- You look at a long list of websites or Twitter accounts.
- You choose which to click on or follow.
- You earn some kind of site-based currency for each click or follow.
- Having your site or account appear on this list and receive attention costs X amount of this currency.
- You can bypass steps 1-3 by simply buying the currency for actual money.
Okay, fair enough. Free traffic is never really free, right? As long as the traffic’s good, who cares? This is where the system begins to fall apart.
One thing you’ll notice about the sites in these lists is that a lot of them are for web-based businesses that are pretty cookie cutter in nature. For example, in a half hour of site-clicking, I saw the same site about bitcoin mining products twelve times. Each of these twelve sites were owned by different people, but all of them had the same text (including typos and grammatical errors), layout, colors, everything. I’ll come back to this in a second.
Another thing you’ll notice is that these sites and accounts aren’t organized at all– they’re just a big list. Occasionally, you might luck out and find a site that has a tagline or description attached to it. Otherwise, you’re blindly clicking on things you probably don’t care about. And so is everyone else.
Seriously. Give this chicken a keyboard with one button, and she could probably do the same thing.
This means that, at the end of the day, your site is going to see a spike in traffic. That spike is going to last for all of a day, and then go back to exactly what your traffic levels were before. This is because people who’re just trying to drive customers to their bitcoin mining product pages probably don’t care about your content– they just want to click on something, get some currency, and turn it into more hits. Odds are, they’re not even looking at your content. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re just farming the clicking out to freelancing websites for $1-2 per thousand clicks. You aren’t going to see any repeat traffic from this.
Have you ever heard the saying that, “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product?” It’s true here. You’re going to end up blowing through your currency very quickly, but that’s by design– these free traffic websites want you to realize that their setup is only good for a very small, brief spike in traffic. If you want to get better results (or continue getting any results at all), your only options are to pay them actual money, or spend hours clicking on their random links like a jonesing lab monkey.
So, are free hits or followers worthwhile? Not really. I didn’t expect them to be, and was frankly surprised at the tiny spike in traffic I did see. If you’ve just started your site, store, or blog, it might be tempting to try hitting up one of these services to get yourself past the initial slump of providing content that nobody’s reading (yet). Don’t do it. Your time and money are too valuable for what they’re offering.