Lets suppose you are someone with no friends. You are a recluse who never goes outside. If you were to die inside your home, your corpse would rot until collection agencies came to get your electric bill. Literally, no one knows you are alive.
Now all of a sudden, you win the lottery. You want to get some friends. You buy some nice clothes, a nice car, and start going to clubs buying drinks for everyone. Suddenly, everyone wants to hang out with you. It is costs you $10,000 a night, but you finally have friends. Lets also say that every night you go out and buy drinks, 200 people are willing to hang out with you.
Now, lets assume the money runs out. 190 of those 200 people never even bothered to remember your name. They want nothing to do with you now. There are however 10 people who sill want to hang out with you even though you aren’t spending money on them.
How many friends did you really have at the peak of your popularity? The obvious answer is 10. The other 190 weren’t really friends, even though they may have provided the illusion of friendship.
This is pretty much how you can look at most of the traffic from Entrecard.
During my stay in Melbourne, I was dropping between 150 to 300 cards a day. The price for my travel site (Everything-Everywhere.com) got as high as 300, which means I had 150 people from Entrecard visiting my site to drop cards. I’d say on average it was around 260. In the week since I’ve left Melbourne, I’ve dropped zero a day because I don’t have regular Internet access. My price has dropped to around 120, which it was before I started dropping again.
I went from 130 people visiting my site on a daily basis to 60. That means that 70 of those people were only visiting because I was dropping cards on them. They weren’t coming for content or because of what I was doing. They weren’t real traffic, they were the illusion of traffic. The illusion of traffic shows up the same on your log file, but they will only show up if you jump through hoops for them.
If you are a brand new site and have zero traffic, jumping through hoops to build up some traffic might be worth it. Even if you get a bunch of illusionary traffic, you will probably pick up some readers in the process. The question however is how long is it worth the time and effort to keep people coming to your site who otherwise would not visit?
Many Entrecard users have developed a Paris Hilton syndrome where having hangers-on and the size of your entourage are considered a sign of status….even if they will leave you at the drop of a hat the moment the money stops flowing.
Entrecard is not free. Time is the most valuable resource and the time you spend day after day after day dropping on the same sites just to inflate your numbers is time you are not spending on creating new content or trying to promote your site to new readers. Moreover, the more real readers your site had, the more meaningless the 300 (maximum) fake visitors every day will become. A site with 3,000 readers would be crazy to spend a hour every day to increase traffic by 10%, especially when the 10% doesn’t care what you are doing. A site with 30,000 readers would be certifiably insane.
I still keep Entrecard’s widget on my site, but I don’t organize my life around it. There is nothing wrong with the system, you just have to keep in mind who your real friends are.