Websites that deploy various forms of the ‘Pay to Click’ (PTC) model used to be rare here in Pakistan, but in recent months they have gone through something of a boom phase. You may have encountered these sites in strange parts of the local netscape where bad grammar abounds, webpage design seems to be stuck in the 90s, and every eager sentence makes tall claims of making you rich while you sit comfortably at home on your computer. Basically, if you have ever come across a website or blog that is urging you to register with it with vaguely mentioned details of how you will be earning money just by surfing the internet, it may have been one of these PTC sites.
How they Work
Most of these sites offer PTC services as part of a collection of some other services like ‘ad website development’ and ‘social media promotion’. The PTC model works by charging website owners a certain amount for visits to their website or clicks on the ads they publish on their site. For example, a website owner pays PKR 10,000 for 1,000 visits to his website. This number of visits is guaranteed by the PTC site, which then advertises the site’s link on itself and affiliate sites and encourages registered members to make the clicks. Usually, clickers are shown a timer on their screens when they reach the destination that shows them for how long they need to stay on that site. This time period is usually 30 seconds, which ensures that the clicks are not counted as ‘bounced visits’ on the site owner’s analytics reports. The PTC site pays the members for each completed visit, usually PKR 1 per click, and thus earns a profit equal to the difference between what the website owner paid them and what they passed on to the members (PKR 9 per click in this example).
That is not all though, as most PTC websites actually charge an initial amount from members for making an account on the site, usually in thousands of rupees. The members can then cash out the earnings from their clicks after the amount reaches a certain minimum, say PKR 1,000. Members also have the option of referring other people to the site and earning a percentage of the money from clicks originating from these referred members. All in all, it seems like a pretty tall order to earn back your membership fee and start earning some serious cash with these sites.
Is it Safe and Worth it for Potential Earners?
For students and others who are looking for easy ways to earn a ‘little bit on the side’, PTC sites might sound tempting. Most though might want to know more about their legitimacy. Technically, these sites may not be violating any laws; although in the past advertisers have complained that these websites bring in irrelevant clickers on their ads who then needlessly inflate the amount they pay for per-click advertising. However, even if they somehow skirt around best practices and stay clear of any legal action, PTC sites are definitely not the goldmine of easy cash the frenetic copy on them would lead you to believe. A lot of members get to make only 10 clicks at a maximum per day, which is really not a lot to earn a decent sum. Also, the time spent on these sites may be better spent learning new skills, writing your own blog, etc. I met a person who used to spend whole days clicking on paid links, and gathering referred members who would click for him on these sites. Despite all this, he was only managing to earn PKR 7000-8000 per month. Moreover, there are reports floating around the internet of PTC sites that were used as fronts for fraudulent schemes. These include charging the members extra for ‘upgraded’ packages that did not offer anything new, and offering members a chance to gain referred members for a paid amount, who then did not turn out to be real. In short, the risk of fraud combined with meager returns makes PTC sites not worth the while.
What to do if I am a Website Owner?
In almost all cases, website/blog owners who are looking to increase traffic so that they can improve engagement and ad revenues will not be better off with the kind of traffic that comes from PTC sites. These will not be users who are genuinely interested in your website or your ads, they are only clicking for money. Hence, they will not benefit you or the advertisers who publish ads on your site in the long run.
Curiously, some high-traffic websites in Pakistan have reported that PTC sites have been featuring their links on their website and sending traffic to them for free. Though the reasons behind this strategy haven’t been confirmed as yet, it might be part of a long term strategy where they will pull the links after a while and then ask the site owners to pay up if they want to keep receiving those visits. If you are encountering this with your own site, it is important to account for these extra visits in your site analytics so that you do not take them as indicators of good performance.
While most PTC sites are not outright frauds, enlisting as a link-clicker on these or to promote your website on these platforms does not provide a reasonable value in return for the investment involved.