What is Incentive Traffic?

Incentivized traffic, also known as incent or incentive traffic, is a relatively misunderstood and oft-maligned traffic category. If you’ve heard of it before, it was almost certainly in the context of “non-incent” or “no incentive traffic allowed” in affiliate offer descriptions.

Most advertisers just don’t want it. At all. When they hear “incent traffic,” they hear “low quality.” 

Let’s look at why that is and why this kind of traffic source exists if so few people actually want it.

Quick Definition – Incentrive traffic is traffic that consists of people driven to perform a certain action (visit a site, download an app, etc.) by some kind of prize, reward, or potential award upon the completion of the task.


  1. What is incentive traffic?
  2. What kind of incentive?
  3. What is it good for?
  4. What is it bad for?
  5. Why does it have a bad reputation?
  6. Conclusion

In a rush? Skip straight to the essentials here!

What is incentive traffic

Incentive traffic is, as the name implies, then one can call that traffic “incentivized.” 

This differs from organic traffic or even ad-driven traffic in important ways. For one thing, ‘real’ engagement is much lower. Users driven by incentive advertising are arriving on the site or reaching conversion goals for one reason: the incentive

This lack of engagement means that anyone or any business earnestly looking to acquire users or customers will go elsewhere. In fact, he’ll seek to avoid incentive traffic entirely, and will generally punish any affiliate/partner caught using it. The affiliate might lose the offer/get kicked from the network, etc.

Businesses almost always avoid incentive traffic like the plague unless they specifically need it

Most advertisers see incentive traffic as low-quality – or even very low-quality. They see it as highly unlikely to bring real, long-term customers or users.

Despite all the bad press, incentive traffic does have a role to play in the digital advertising industry. That’s why it’s still around after all this time despite the negative press. 

Let’s take a look at how it works and what its role is in the ecosystem – and why no one is happy when it tries to escape from that role.

First, let’s start with what makes the traffic “incentivized.” What are these incentives, really?

What kind of incentives

The incentive is generally some kind of virtual currency – be it for gambling, games, or other online amusements

However, it can also be real currency that the incentive traffic provider sends directly to the users (via online money transfer, etc.). Other kinds of incentive traffic rewards are gift cards, chances at winning something, and unlocking features and content in online games.

What is incentive traffic good for? 

Incentive traffic may have a bad reputation, but it’s extremely useful for certain things. 

Of these, perhaps the most important is the ability to drive high volumes of traffic on demand within a very short time frame

This is extremely useful for things like App Store ranking optimization. When it comes to App Store rankings, the number of downloads is crucial. An app needs a relatively high number of downloads if it is going to have a chance of highly ranked. 

This is especially important in highly contested categories (i.e. games, VPNs, etc.).

Further, mobile users often sort apps by the number of people who have downloaded the app. A high download count instantly reassures users that it is a good, trustworthy, and popular app. Surely tens of thousands of people can’t be wrong, right? 

This boost in rankings on mobile app stores is one of the primary uses of incentive traffic.

It’s all the more important because a rapid spike in downloads can often send an app shooting up the rankings. 

This is really the key use case for incentive traffic: App Store optimization. 

By spending a lot of money on inorganic, incentive traffic, a company might hope to drive its app soaring up the rankings and thereby acquire real, organic traffic. 

The downloads and registration of users driven by incentive traffic are low value because they’re just following the carrot on the stick. Sure, they’ll download an app or fill out a survey, but then they’re right onto the next thing. 

And if that’s what you want, incentive traffic is definitely something to avoid.

What is incentive traffic bad for?

When incentive traffic is good for an offer or advertising goal, it’s usually very good. When it’s bad, however, it’s really bad.

For any kind of advertising goal that includes a KPI for user retention rate, rate of return, or anything similar – then incentive traffic is not what you want.

In fact, it’s probably the last thing you want since all those people are almost certainly not coming back for your site. They arrive, do whatever tasks need to be done in order to achieve the incentive, then move onto the next incentivized tasks.

They follow the carrot and when the carrot goes elsewhere, the audience does as well.

This makes incentive traffic particularly bad for things like user acquisition. Sure, a whole lot of new users might sign up really quickly – but how many will stay and actually use your product? Much less pay for it.

So if you’re running a campaign designed to build a real userbase, avoid incent traffic like the plague. If you need downloads to boost your image or reach a higher rank in the app store, go for it.

If it’s just a matter of choosing good use cases and avoiding bad, why does it have such a negative reputation?

Why does it have a bad reputation?

Incentive traffic has something of a bad rep because certain people (generally affiliates acting in bad faith) have used and still use it in order to cash in on CPA offers. 

It makes sense, of course. If getting a user to submit a form is worth 40 dollars to the affiliate, naturally he would think about just sharing 20 or 30 with the actual individual filling in the form. Or even just using some incentive other than cash. 

Using incentive traffic can rapidly bump up conversion rate and increase profitability (for an affiliate), but the conversions are generally of lower qualityusually of much lower quality

Should the advertiser want quality users who have downloaded their app in earnest and are actually interested in their product, then they almost certainly won’t want incent traffic. 

It is for this reason that most advertisers will make sure that affiliates know that they do not want any incent traffic. It is verboten. 

Sending incent traffic on offers where the advertiser does not want it is a fast way to be kicked from an affiliate network or lose a client.

Nonetheless, many unscrupulous people do try to do this. They do it simply because incent traffic is so effective at driving a large number of people to do very specific things – i.e., fill in a form, download an app, etc. But once that threshold has been passed, the users tend to move onto the next thing. 

Some might have accidentally found something that they’re truly interested in, but most are only interested in the incentive


Incent traffic has an important role to play in the digital advertising industry. It can be extremely useful in very specific situations, but the minute it steps out of its wheelhouse is when the trouble starts.

If you’re looking to quickly improve rankings in the App Store, incentivized traffic might be for you. Otherwise, it might be something best avoided.


Incentive traffic is non-organic traffic that is driven by the promise of a reward or a chance to win something. This reward is often virtual currency for games or gambling, but it can be any manner of thing.

The award is given out after a certain goal is achieved; that goal could be an installation, a download, or a form submit.

This kind of traffic is very useful when one wants to drive a lot of traffic to one place within a very small timeframe. But incent traffic is very unpopular with most advertisers as these users aren’t arriving because they’re interested in a product. They’re arriving for the promised reward.

As a general rule, never use incent traffic when the advertiser doesn’t want it. As long as it stays in is wheelhouse, it’s very useful. But outside of it, it causes nothing but problems.

Mobinner is a High-Performance Demand-Side Platform and Ad Network. Since 2017, we’ve been helping customers drive conversions, acquire users, and build brands. See what Mobinner can do for you!

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