A while back, I posted something about why it’s never a good idea to trash talk your competition. While it was intended to be humorous, the moral behind the story remains serious – don’t make yourself appear desperate and rather than wasting energy bashing on the competition, use it to improve your own products or services instead.
So today I wanted to discuss a few of the more “greyhat” or “shady” internet marketing practices I’ve encountered in the past couple of years. I’m sure there are endless others, so please be sure to share them in the comments if you’d like to make the list longer.
Forwarding New Subscribers to CPA Offers
This isn’t something I’ve seen many marketers use, presumably due to how ineffective I imagine it probably is. Well, at least in the “internet marketing” world. It may work better for offline marketing, I’m not entirely sure.
Basically, you subscribe to someone’s email list and when you receive the email confirmation message and click on the link inside, you are then forwarded to a CPA offer. For those of you who aren’t familiar, CPA stands for Cost-Per-Action and usually involves a short form asking for your name and ZIP code or email address in exchange for the promise of something for free.
It could be anything from a “FREE” gift card (which requires you to complete several PAID “offers” in order to receive it) to a free software download that comes with some form of advertising. See the screenshot below for an example of your typical CPA offer landing page.
Not that it’s particularly difficult even for the less than web savvy crowd to figure out on their own, CPA networks pay their affiliates each time someone successfully enters their information in a form like the one shown above.
Forwarding your new subscribers to a form like this is kind of a lame way to try and drive traffic UNLESS the offer directly relates to the list they are subscribing to, which isn’t likely and so far I haven’t found one case in which that is actually true.
Leaving Comments on Torrent Sites
Obviously torrent files are a highly controversial subject, with lots of heated opinions on both sides of the fence.
Some people swear that torrents are nothing but cheap schmucks and blackhat losers who want to pirate software instead of paying for it, while others stand their ground and believe that sharing files is everyone’s right and that big corporations charge ridiculously high prices to begin with.
Regardless of which side you find yourself on, I recently found a thread on the Warrior forum where someone shared a tip on using sites like The Pirate Bay to drive traffic to their site. I would link to the thread here, but it has unfortunately since been deleted.
Basically, this person said that you simply navigate to a popular torrent category on PB (I think the example he gave was “iphone apps” or something like that) and find torrents with lots of seeders (I think), then leave a relevant comment with a link to your site included as well. He or she claimed it was bringing in a small amount of traffic.
Of course, an argument ensued about the legitimacy of this method and I had to comment after a while. Pisses me off that it was deleted, there was a lot of good discussion on that thread. Oh well.
Submitting Referral Codes to BugMeNot
This one is certainly the most creative of the shady internet marketing practices listed here. Although it’s a little more difficult to pull off, for a couple of reasons.
First of all, BugMeNot.com is an interesting site which allows you to share your username and password for websites which force you to signup before you can view their content. Among the most popular examples listed on their homepage are sites like nytimes.com and even youtube.
The idea here is to share an unused, throw-away account that you made simply to access a website so that others don’t have to register if all they want to do is see something on the site.
It’s not meant for e-commerce sites, paid subscription sites or anything too commercial, for obvious reasons. Anything that requires a credit card is out and most of those types of websites are already blocked from the site. I imagine they are adding new ones to their blocked sites all the time, as new cases of abuse are brought to their attention.
However, I have noticed that there are some sites which people have added referral codes to instead of login details. By referral codes, I mean affiliates are posting codes which will earn them a commission when someone uses them to sign up for something.
For example, if you lookup Netspend.com on BugMeNot’s website, you will get more than one instance of something like what is pictured below this. As you can see, they simply entered “N/A” for both the username and password fields, and simply entered their referral code in the “other” field.
I’m surprised that BugMeNot hasn’t completely done away with this extra field, as I can’t think of any legitimate purpose for it to be perfectly honest.