The WordPress traffic builder plugin has one purpose: to bring more people to your blog, the goal of any aspiring social media maven. But there is some controversy about the methods used to do that.
Jeff Johnson's Empire
The Wordpress Traffic Builder Plugin was created by Jeff Johnson of UndergroundTrainingLab.com. He claims to have invented some strategies that are now commonly used by bloggers all over - such as the practice of having your blog automatically "ping" certain sites when you update a blog post. He also serves as a personal coach to aspiring bloggers looking to get new traffic, and practices what he preaches with many sites designed to draw in more and more traffic.
The Traffic-Generator Honey Trap
This particular WordPress plugin is somewhat vague in what it does, though it is advertised all over the web. Johnson uses variations on blog posts and comment to portray a blogger who just happened to find the Traffic Builder, installed it, and suddenly saw web traffic jump exponentially. Each post is littered with links that lead to Johnson's "honey trap" site (one clue that this is an ad, since most authentic commenters only include one link to a particular site).
The honey trap is a strategy that many online marketers use which uses permission marketing techniques. It's simply a way for Johnson to email you the information on getting the plugin...but it also gives him permission to send you other emails as well. There is no reason he couldn't let you simply download the plugin - but by making your email the price of the "free" download, he gets access to your attention - thereby proving his adeptness at permission-based marketing.
What Does the WordPress Traffic Builder Plugin Do?
While he does get your email, Johnson also delivers what he promises. You get the download, along with very clear and specific instructions and warnings about installing the plugin. Designed to work best on new blogs using the Wordpress.org installation, it "analyzes your blog" and installs the same plugins that Jeffrey Johnson uses on his high-traffic sites. None of those plugins were designed by him. In fact, they are freely available on the web. They include:
- All-In-One-SEO Pack
- Google Sitemap Generator
- Ping Optimizer
- Database Backup
- Simple CAPTCHA
- Permalink Migrator
- Google Analyticator
Some of these, such as Akismet (a spam filter), are standard recommendations for any WordPress installation, almost as common as the Theme Editor. Johnson claims that the benefit of using his plugin to install them is that they would be pre-configured to the specifications that he uses to draw all of his traffic - which can be a time-saver. However, the chances are that the needs of your particular site may be different than the ones that he uses.
The Danger of Encryption
There is, however, one particular red flag that causes a lot of people to simply install the plug-ins (which are free anyway) on their site by themselves. Johnson encrypts the source code for his plug-in, so that there is no way to see what other things may be happening "under the hood" of his WordPress Traffic Builder Plugin. There are no reports of particular malware or spamware, and the plug-ins that he promises do actually get installed and function perfectly well. However, the fact that they can't see what else may be included make many users skeptical of Johnson's motives.
This reputation is not helped by the result of actually using your email to download the plug-in. It puts you on a list that then receives one or more emails from Johnson every day, encouraging you to purchase other traffic-building tools and frequent his other sites. While this is certainly legal opt-in marketing, it is not clear when downloading the original plug-in that you will be joining a marketing mailing list. While it's a minor enough annoyance and very easy to unsubscribe, the mere fact of this sales technique draws into question the product involved.