Start & Surf Exchanges Overview
Start page and surf exchanges have been around for a little while but seem to be gaining increased popularity lately. I’ve been playing around with them recently to see if there is any reason for this popularity and to find out if they provide you with any real benefits.
For those who don’t know, a Start Page Exchange is where you sign up and get a special code which you set as the home page in your browser. Therefore, every time you open your browser, you see someone’s site and earn a credit towards someone else seeing your’s. It sounds like a much better idea than things like banner exchanges because people actually see your site (and they have to view it for a certain amount of time) and it doesn’t require you to stick anything on your site that you don’t want. Basically, the simple action of opening your browser is marketing your site.
A Surf Exchange is where you get a special page that you can go to and view other peoples sites within a frame. It’s very much like a Start Page Exchange except you are actively encouraged to browse through multiple sites. There are two types of these Surf Exchanges. The first is a “click” version where you click on a next button in a frame that takes you to the next site. Generally, you need to wait 15-20 seconds before you receive credit and can click next. The second is something that, quite frankly, I though was a ridiculous idea. It’s an automatic surf exchange – it works just like the click version except you don’t have to click. A new site will load every 15-20 seconds automatically. This means you don’t actually need to look at the sites at all. You can just minimise your browser and get on with some other stuff – I quite often run them while I’m watching TV! After playing around with this for a while I realised there is actually benefits, some of which are completely unethical and I strongly recommend that you don’t do but also one that is only verging on unethical and is completely ethical if everyone knows about it. This is why I’m going to tell you about it.
But first, lets look at Start Page Exchanges. I’ve signed up for a couple, StartBlaze (http://www.startblaze.com/cgi-bin/intro.cgi?176400) and HitPulse (http://www.hitpulse.com/cgi-bin/start/newuser.cgi?referer=seanb), but I have a few more listed in my resources directory (http://www.webmastersreference.com/resources/Marketing/Exchanges/Start_Page/). The first thing to keep in mind here is that this is free and let’s face it, it’s hard to criticise something that’s free. I also like the fact that you don’t need to put a banner or anything on your site. Therefore, if this doesn’t work for you, you’ve really not lost anything. Overall, don’t expect too much, you do have people actually viewing your site but in my experience, they tend not to do much more than look at the front page. However, that can be a good thing – they may come back later so make sure that the url for your site is clearly visible on the page that they see. I have actually had a few people who have stayed a while and visited some of my pages so, considering it’s simplicity, I’m happy.
The way that you can really make the most of this is by taking advantage of the fact that they are all multi-tiered. By this I mean that you generate more hits when you get other people to sign up. Most of them are basically structured in a multi level marketing (MLM) format. Like most people, I think that MLM is a waste of time but it actually works OK in something like this because there is no money involved – you aren’t trying to get people in your “downline” to sell something so that you never have to work again. You generate hits every time you open your browser and so do they – pretty harmless really. Now here’s the trick, you don’t actually have to own a website to join – you can set any old page as your homepage. Lot’s of people seem to be using affiliate links. Therefore, once again focussing on the loyalty of your visitors, they can help your site grow. Ask your visitors nicely if they could join via your link and then set your site as the one they want others to see. It doesn’t really hurt them at all – except for some of the rubbish sites that they have to view when they open their browser. So, you get credits when you open your browser, they get credits for you when they open their browsers and they also get credits for themselves – to show your site! You could even just ask your friends to help out. It’s a pretty simple idea and doesn’t put anyone out too much – as with the idea above, your visitors will be happy to help if your site offers a valuable free service.
Slightly less effective seem to be the click version of Surf Exchanges. No need to go into these too much except to say that I have a bunch of them listed at
http://www.webmastersreference.com/resources/Marketing/Exchanges/Surf/ and that most of what I said for Start Page Exchanges is true with these also. The only thing is, they tend to be slightly less effective because people are really just waiting to click next – it does make them look at your page but their goal here is to just click and move on. I have had a few people that have browsed around the site but less than I have had with the Start Page version.
Now, onto my favourite – the Automatic Surf Exchange. Why is it my favourite? I love it when people come up with such stupid ideas and then actually find people to use them. And yes, I’m one of those idiots but I have the excuse of saying “I’m just testing it!”. I actually have had a few people stay at my site via these sources but I’m pretty sure that it won’t happen much in the future. I’m going to explain to you the ideas that I have had in regards to deriving benefits form this type of thing. I must warn you that I believe that it’s far better to discuss unethical behaviour than to ignore it – it may give some people ideas but, more importantly, it allows the people that are going to be taken advantage of to be prepared. Unfortunately, there are always going to be people who do the wrong thing – I find it’s best to know about it in advance.
The first way that this can be used is to essentially create artificial hits to your site to get more banner ads shown. DO NOT DO THIS. It’s hard enough to sell ads online without coming up with yet another reason for advertisers to say no thanks. If you buy advertising on sites, you need to be aware of this. Also, if I come across a site that does this, I’ll report them to their ad network and I’d suggest that anyone else does the same. Just to let you know, the ads shown on WebmastersReference.com when it loads as part of these exchanges are all affiliate programs – pay per sale only so it doesn’t affect them.
Now onto the way to use them that could be ethical. Many sites are involved in top sites lists (or top 100 lists as they are often known). Most of them are ranked by clicks but some rank according to traffic – you stick a little button on your site which counts your traffic and then ranks you against other similar sites. Here is an example at AlphaSoccer
(http://www.alphasoccer.com/soccerli/top100). By using one of your pages as part of an Automatic Surf Exchange that has your top 100 button on it, you will improve your ranking on these lists. Now, as long as the list owner is aware of this sort of thing and decides not to ban it then everything is fine as far as I’m concerned. The list owner would probably need to tell the other sites on the list about this so that everyone would be on a level playing field. The main reason that I think that this is possibly OK is that the top sites lists are specifically designed to send traffic back and forward between the site that hosts the list and the sites that are listed. If a site is pushed up the list by doing this, they will get more traffic coming from the list – this will make it a more popular site and therefore, it will send more traffic back to the list. Not everyone will agree but it’s “out there” now – if you run a top sites list or know someone who does, forward this newsletter to them or tell them about this situation.
So there you have Surf and Start Exchanges – interesting concepts with both good and bad points. I hope you can take advantage of them to get the best results possible.
Sean Burns is the author of the WebmastersReference.com Newsletter – http://www.webmastersreference.com/newsletter. More than five years of experience in site design, marketing, income generation, search engine optimisation and more is passed on to subscribers – hype free. Sign up today to get real information of real value to webmasters.