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Avoiding mistakes in your audience development activity

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Many of the avoidable mistakes listed in this article could be classified as ‘smoke and mirrors’ and aimed at tricking either auditing businesses, in the case of large scale property portals (for example) into thinking that the audience is greater than it is; or fraudulently overstating the traffic numbers to potential advertisers on blogs and content-based properties.

Audience Development

The following sections of this website highlight mistakes that audience development professionals should be avoid like the plague:


Purchasing 404 redirects and/or domain-based traffic used to be common within marketing plans, especially for large-scale e-commerce vendors, who would buy domains based on their historic performance and number of pages indexed within Search Engines.

Upon purchasing the marketer loads the indexed pages with keywords relevant to the domain name and historical link profile in order to ensure SERP’s on Google.

However, since the Google Panda update a few years ago, this is not worth the effort. Now those businesses utilising this merely place Google AdWords, or similar on the page, which is (needless to say) against Google AdWords policy.

Likewise, purchasing 404 error pages from established domains is not effective. Some aging but high traffic directories still utilise the strategy of selling redirects off error pages. However, why would a business want to buy an error page?

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Poor marketers will sometimes state that pop-up and pop-under adverts are a low cost way of ‘legitimately’ boosting traffic to a website. However, it very much depends upon how you define ‘legitimate’.

For example, if a publisher, or classifieds website selling advertising was discovered to be boosting its audience numbers by utilising pop-ups and/or pop-under units then it would be disastrous within the marketplace. Depending upon the business model, advertisers would potentially want refunds. Indeed, these ad units are a reputational risk and the units themselves are rarely read.

Also worth noting that a relationship between the pop-up and pop-under units and browser-based toolbars.


The cheapest form of traffic isn’t really traffic at all. It is merely smoke and mirrors. This kind of traffic is produced by large networks who set webpages up with 10-50 frames within them. These 1×1 pixel frames then load in the browser of the visitor, who has no knowledge of the additional websites they are visiting.

This ‘trick’ is especially prevalent within browser plugins and toolbars and pop-ups with JavaScript disabling the close button for a few seconds as it is easy to magnify the volume of traffic by 10-50 per cent what it actually is.

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Today, many toolbars are identified as viruses and Trojans by Anti-virus software.

Again, this highly immoral and can land you in legal difficulties if selling advertising.


Many organisations and celebrities buy followers on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets. This is bad practice and warps your ability to measure the success of the audience development activity.

It is also a false economy as you will get more often than not get ZERO usage out of the purchase.


Low quality links around the web include FFA link sites, most directories, link farms and link networks. Whilst being perfectly legal these links will likely impact your Search Engine rankings in a negative way.

Indeed, it has long been rumoured that unscrupulous Black Hat marketers use FFA links websites to diminish the SERP’s of competitors, especially if the competition is extreme.

Steer clear and concentrate on high quality links from relevant sources.


Be careful not to overuse your existing Email lists. Instead limit the usage of each list to the minimum plausible.

Each website and audience has unique qualities (and therefore tolerances) so you in order to limit your Email broadcasts understand the audience and ensure that the message is always as relevant and personalised as possible.

Overusing your list will massively reduce the response rate and annoy potential customers.

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‘Never spam’ is an obvious statement to make, however in Australia (especially) it is vital that you have the correct permissions before mailing Email addresses you have acquired from your website, et cetera.

Be especially careful with list swaps and/or list purchases. A business can be crippled by bad PR and legal action from the owners of the Email addresses.

Org’s such as MAPS in the US are quite strict and you can not only lose your Email broadcasting service, but also lose your domain name and server over spam issues.


False clicks is a strategy utilised by many low-end publishers and forums around the world. The way this is done is by setting browsers up on rotating IP addresses (or fake IP’s) and then getting a member of staff, or temp to ‘test’ the website. It rarely works by utilising macros as the user behaviour needs to be different and without obvious pattern, hence a human is required.

This testing requires that the ‘tester’ opens the browser visits the website from a designated source on a new IP and then browses around the website, including clicking 2-3 banner adverts. The tester then closes his/her browser and deletes cookies, history and more in order to reset the browser for the next visit.

This is the equivalent of fraud; but it is likely a few desperate businesses do it. Expect this strategy to hit the headlines within the next couple of years.