If you want to market smart, you have to know how to avoid the scams, and how to spot the people who are ignorantly telling you to do things that will waste your time. Point by point, you can look up all the negative strategies here, and find out just why they will hurt, or what it is that makes them risky.

Bad marketing advice is everywhere.

Sometimes it is given out of ignorance and lack of experience, sometimes it is given because someone fails to interpret the statistics correctly, and it often happens because someone else has something to gain if you listen to them!

Bad marketing is any strategy that either outright hurts you, or which does not benefit your business in a positive way in the long term.

You are in business to make money. Marketing that does not justify itself by making it more efficient for you to make money is, in our opinion, Bad Marketing.

Some strategies are just dumb if you use them wrong.

Some of them merely waste your time while giving a good impression that they are working, while they do not, in fact, help you at all. Others will cost you resources with no return (or inefficient return), or at worst, harm your business. Some tactics can, in fact, derail your business and turn your dreams to dust.

Bad Marketing Ideas: Offline

Ignoring Offline Marketing

Many business owners and marketers become so focused on internet marketing that they completely ignore tried and true and very cost effective offline marketing ideas.

In our day of electronic everything, it is very simple to overlook the power of a business card, or of a personal appearance at an event. While offline marketing ideas vary widely, and not all ideas are appropriate for every business, nearly any type of business can benefit from some form of offline marketing, if only just from handing out business cards.

Good offline marketing tactics that you might consider are:

  • Of course have a business card. Carry them with you everywhere, and look for good opportunities to hand them out.
  • Look for events you can attend to make your presence known. This is especially important for people who sell products and services which involve a certain level of trust, or which will sell better when someone can see an example in person.
  • Get into the Yellow Pages – All you need for this is a business phone number! Paying for an extra ad will help for some businesses, not for others.
  • Look for local calendar, magazine, or other publication sponsorships to promote your business.
  • Sponsor local charitable events or sports teams, etc.
  • Place business cards or brochures in places where they can be distributed for you.
  • Network with other local business owners.
  • Join a trade association or Chamber of Commerce ONLY if you feel that you can get better business exposure and benefit from participation. This is not a help to many businesses.
  • Label your car with advertising – You can print your own magnetic car label if you want, or print your own bumper sticker.
  • Hand out bumper stickers, refridgerator magnets, give printed T’s as gifts, etc.
  • Think creatively. The point is to make sure that your community knows what you do, so they’ll think of you when they need what you have.

More Offline Marketing Ideas

If your friends and family still do not know that you have a business, and take that business seriously, then you need to take it more seriously yourself. Your business should be part of who you are, and it should come up in conversation naturally. People around you should be aware of what you do, and how you might be able to help them, or people they know. Your friends and family probably won’t buy from you. But they will often refer people to you if they know you are serious.

Offline marketing has great power because many forms are much more personal and leave a greater impression than a banner ad or text link that they only saw in passing. When someone meets you, sees examples of your products or services, and gets to ask you a question or two, they will remember you better. When they go away with something in their hands that you gave them (if only a business card), they are more likely to call you when they need you, or refer you to someone else.


Dishonesty is not merely a short sighted marketing practice, it is a bad business decision in every way.

People choose to be dishonest in business for a number of reasons. Some feel it is faster, some feel that it is too hard to do it right, and others deceive themselves about what honesty and integrity really are. But anything less than complete honesty is a poor choice, and will come back to bite you.

It is, again, an issue of permanency. In business, your reputation is everything. Build a good one, and your business will gain momentum and marketing will get easier over time. Neglect to keep your reputation untarnished, and you’ll spend all your time trying to attract new suckers, and your business will always be more work than it has to be.

Some people feel that it takes less work to get a customer to purchase if you use dishonest tactics. While this may be true of some customers, it is NOT necessarily true of the customers you really want. GOOD customers always take time to get, and they are the ones that will come back year after year.

When you make choices that lower your integrity, it eventually shows in all your business dealings. Honesty is something you either cultivate in its highest form, or your character will decline. It won’t be obvious to you, but it will be clearly visible to others, and many people will simply NOT do business with you. Character shows, and people of good character won’t do business with someone of poor character.

Dishonesty is always a shortcut that ends up being the longer road. It is never justifiable, and it always hurts you in the end.

Poor Guarantees

People need to know that you stand behind what you sell. If you fail to provide a good guarantee, or worse, refuse to honor it, people will be reluctant to trust you, and you’ll lose sales.

A guarantee with some teeth in it can make a huge difference in both customer acquisition, and customer retention. It signals right up front that you are willing to stand behind what you sell.

Lack of a guarantee is just the opposite. It indicates that you expect the customer to assume all the risk. In this world of rampant scams, identity theft, and faceless transactions, lack of a guarantee, or a poor guarantee just leaves your customers wondering whether you’ll be there if something isn’t right.

A poor guarantee is any guarantee that lacks at least an equal division of risk. If your guarantee has limits to it, that the customer can logically understand, then it will still give them confidence. But if it fails to make sense to them, or leaves them feeling that they are taking on the larger portion of risk in the transaction, they’ll bolt.

I often guarantee things in a way that limits my risk, but that also limits the customer’s risk. I offer a satisfaction guarantee on web design services, by breaking the design process into phases. Payment is due at the end of the phase, and if the customer is not satisfied, then they do not owe the money – but they cannot legally use anything they have not paid for either. By breaking it into phases, I limit the amount of time I’ll risk before payment comes in, while still allowing the client to feel that they have the ultimate say-so on the design process. This guarantee is not only stated, but the entire design process is structured to support it, giving it the power it needs to persuade my clients that their satisfaction really is important to me.

I offered money back guarantees on other items as well, but sometimes they were a “no doa” warranty (it won’t be dead on arrival – common for used items), or that problems had to be reported within a certain time limit due to perishability of product. Those guarantees were limited due to special circumstances, which the customer could understand the reasoning for.

Guarantees which are honored only by exchange, or by store credit may be considered less valuable by many customers. They are acceptable for some industries, but not for others. And if personal preference is a big issue with your industry, they won’t work well, because people won’t want a guarantee that might stick them with choices that they don’t have any interest in. For media though, exchange guarantees are perfectly reasonable, and expected within that product arena.

Give them a guarantee that helps them to know that if they are not satisfied, that you will truly make it right. And then honor it even if you aren’t fully in the wrong. Because one dissatisfied customer can cost you much more than just one lost sale.

Fast, Free Marketing Solutions

If you believe that there are any fast, free marketing solutions, then you are running around with the words. “Scam Me” stamped on your forehead.

There is no such thing as fast and free marketing or promotion. People who want you to believe that there are, just want you to believe it, because they have something to gain if you do.

Nothing in life is truly free. We have to either give time, work, or money to get things. Marketing is no different. It usually takes all three, and if you are missing one component, you have to make it up with the other two. You cannot do it with just one.

There are many highly effective free and low cost marketing tactics. But every single one takes time to build momentum. You can take that as law, there is no exception to the rule.

Fast marketing tactics ALWAYS take money. Usually LOTS of it.

If you are building a business on very little, and you hear someone promise you fast, free marketing, then RUN. They are trying to scam you. Oh, sometimes the person offering it is perfectly sincere, but they are being deceived by the operator of the scam. Either way, you get scammed.

Some forms of this kind of supposed marketing will just waste your time. Time that could be better spent doing something that works. More people get discouraged and give up because they worked so hard and got nowhere, because they were doing the wrong things.

Some forms of this kind of supposed marketing aim to get some money from you in the end. In fact, most do, one way or another. They promise you that you can join for free, and when it does not work, they promise that all you need to do is “upgrade” to the paid membership to get the full benefits.

If it is free, and will work, you’ll see results in 3-6 months at the latest. And they’ll be a trickle first, and then build slowly but powerfully.

If it does not work in the free version, then it is not worth paying for. And I’d never pay money to someone who was promising a fast and free marketing method anyway, because they are inherently dishonest, and I’d rather do business with people of integrity. Trust me on this, there are more effective ways to advertise, even on small amounts of money, than to buy into a program that is built on hype instead of on value.

Try the old standby free and low cost marketing methods: signature lines, article marketing, directory (NOT free classified) listings, forum participation, paid inclusion in reputable directories with good traffic, targeted content ads on reputable sites (can be very low cost), and quality link trades. Each takes work, and each takes time to build momentum, but when they grow, they really gain power, and every bit of it is solid, and real.

A Sense of Urgency

This is what you get after you drink a few too many cans of soda. It is not part of an honorable marketing campaign! But I think I have heard this bad advice in nearly every single internet marketing guide that I have ever seen.

They tell you that you have to give your customer a “sense of urgency” to compel them to purchase. The problem is that they do not mean that you should hold a sale with a limited time offer – they mean you should only give the APPEARANCE of having done so! BAD IDEA!

I have seen marketers that send out an email saying that only XX number of copies of this or that will be sold, or that this particular deal will absolutely positively end on a certain date. Then a few days later they will come back and say, Oh, we miscounted! There are XX number left. Or “so many people wanted this who didn’t get it that we extended the sale for a few more days”. And their credibility just plummeted. All those people who rushed to buy because it was only available for a limited time now feel cheated. They were lied to, and they know it!

How about the little piece of software that creates a “deadline” date for you on your page. Know what it is? It is a script that inserts todays date, so you can write your sales copy to say, “Hurry! This sale ends at midnight on (insert script here so it will give them todays date no matter what day they see it on)” Now, anyone who cannot see that THAT tactic is dishonest is deceiving themselves! When you practice dishonest marketing, your customers DO figure it out!

You know, the first time, you almost believe them. The third and fourth time you don’t even listen anymore. Unless you want to be lumped together with dishonest marketers, forget about giving your customers a sense of urgency, and give them an honest deal instead. They will appreciate you more for it, and they’ll trust you next time.

Sales and limited offers are perfectly legit. Dishonesty to fake them is not. If you are going to hold a sale, with a deadline, then keep your word. If there are a limited number of items available, then don’t make exceptions. And don’t resort to low tactics to fake time sensitivity.

You can go through life trying to scam more people all the time, or you can do it the better way, and earn your customer’s trust, and keep it so they’ll come back over and over. It is far less expensive to get repeat sales from existing customers than to keep getting new ones. Keep it honest and smart, and they’ll come back again and again. And THAT’s Smart Marketing.

Don’t believe me? McDonalds, Wal-Mart, and Dell never resort to such tactics, and neither does any other major reputable company with a long history of financial success.


Narcissism is to be expected from your customers, but in a business owner or promoter, it is unforgivable!

You have to be able to put yourself in their shoes, and describe things from their point of view. This in no way implies either dishonesty or manipulation, merely that you must be able to identify with your customer, and speak their language to appear to them to be the kind of person whom they will trust to solve their problem.

Nobody is desperate enough to want to have their problems solved by someone they do not trust. You may in fact have the very thing they truly need, but if you appear to be a self centered jerk, they won’t listen to you long enough to find out.

Narcissism comes out in writing, in the images you choose to use for your promotions, and in the words you use in talking to someone. And the very most self-centered people are, sadly, the ones who cannot see it in themselves.

If you don’t genuinely care about the people whom you have targeted as your customers, you’ll have a very hard time marketing to them. You have to care more about solving their problem than you do about making the sale.

Sure, you’re in business to make money, we all know that. But if your sole focus is on making the sale, you’ll miss the signals that your customer is giving you that would help you to understand just how to meet their need. Focus on THEM, and you’ll know when the time is right to make a gentle pitch.

Sales and marketing isn’t about YOU. It is about THEM. Because THEY are the ones who are making the choice to purchase, or not to purchase, not you.

Lack of Differentiation

There are hundreds or thousands of people out there claiming to do the same thing you do, so just why should someone who doesn’t know you choose to buy from you, instead of from one of those other people?

That, in a nutshell, is market differentiation. Also referred to as your “unique selling proposition”, or the thing that makes you different from all the rest.

You cannot market effectively without making yourself unique. It used to be that you could create a new product or niche fairly easily, but in this worldwide market, there is a near certainty that someone else out there is doing just what you say you are doing. And chances are, a great MANY somebody’s are doing so! If you don’t set yourself apart from them in some way, you might as well roll the dice on the potential success of your business. Gaining loyal clientele, and building momentum in your business will be nearly impossible.

I don’t know how many people have decided to work from home. They buy a business package, just like thousands of other business packages, or worse, they decide to build a “work at home directory” for other people who are working at home to advertise in (NOT a good idea in this over saturated market!). They do nothing different than the thousands of others who are doing the same thing. They don’t understand why it is so hard to get people interested! And it is a nearly impossible task when you are just one of the numbers!

Find a way to differentiate yourself. You cannot build a work at home site that is just like the thousands of other shabby work at home sites out there and expect people to flock to your door to pay you to advertise their stuff, when your site gives them no compelling reason to do so. You cannot sell Melaleuca, or GDI, or Global Vacations, or anything else unless you can do it differently. It all comes down to how YOU choose to sell it, that is different than how others try to sell it. It is not enough to have the best product out there, you have to give them a reason to buy it from YOU instead of from ME.

Lack of Differentiation can mean you are stuck forever in the business blahs. It is a marketing issue that permeates your entire business, because it is an extension of the way you do business. Unless you can do business differently, and convey that in an effective manner, you’ll not get off the ground.

Poor Support

If you hate getting onto a website where there is no way to contact someone when you have a problem, or if you hate being on hold waiting for help, or if you feel frustrated when the company support personnel completely fail to answer your needs, do you really think that your own customers are going to be satisfied with a halfway effort from you?

Not all businesses require support services. Most do though. If you sell anything, you need to provide a means for your customers to contact you with problems. If you write instructional materials, you need to provide a way for people to give you feedback. If you offer services, you need to have a clear and effective manner of addressing issues of satisfaction.

And your support should be generous. So you built a computer and the person is calling you with a software issue which really ISN’T your fault, nor is it covered in your warranty. You can at least be polite, help if it is quick to do so, or point them in the right direction to get the help they need. Yes, time is money, and politeness and helpfulness can cost you a bit of time, but it can also give you a loyal customer for life, or your refusal to give it can cost you a customer, which will be worth a whole lot more than the few cents that courtesy would have cost you.

The worst thing with support is none at all. I have had problems with items I purchased, and have not even been able to get a reply to my problems. One fairly prominent company that I purchased a service from refused to help me over the phone, and required that I email them. I did so, three times, and they did not even answer my emails. I not only no longer have an account with them, but I stopped promoting them through my affiliate link as well. Prior to that, I had brought them many new accounts, but no longer recommend them – in fact, I warn my clients to avoid them.

Support information needs to be clearly displayed on your website, and assistance needs to be given promptly and courteously. When someone is having a problem with something you sold them, they won’t be happy with you again until the problem is solved. The longer they feel badly about you, the less likely they are to purchase again or to refer others to you. Delays and rudeness are not good business!


Impatience leads to poor judgment, bad choices, and discouragement when unrealistic expectations are not met.

Impatience is not just a bad marketing influence, it is a bad characteristic for business all the way around. Some marketing takes time. A lot of marketing takes hard work, and diligence in keeping at it until it shows results. Being impatient sets you up for failure, and makes you a sitting duck for scammers promising a quick fix.

Marketing is almost never fast – well, unless you have a fortune to pour into advertising! Lacking that though, the only thing you have to trade for the money, is time. Time to use slower methods, time to work hard at building momentum and building up permanent traffic streams, and time to analyze, track, and spot what really is working and what you should drop and replace with something else.

I hate to think of people being taken in by scams because they are looking for a quick and easy way to market a business. There is none for a shoestring startup. No exceptions. It does grow, but it is very slow. Anyone who tells you otherwise wants your money.

It also makes me sad that there are many business owners who, because they do not understand what is truly realistic, give up when a little more consistent effort would have assured them of success. I spend a lot of time telling people what is normal and what is not. I work hard to help them understand that a business is like a baby – it starts out small, and takes a lot of tending before it ever can do anything for itself other than cry for more attention. Because we are all familiar with the fact that kids take time to grow, and because every doctor’s office has a growth chart by which we can reassure ourselves, we let a child grow naturally, and give them the help and tending they need to do it. But nobody has growth charts for businesses, and no doctor is waiting to calm our fears and minimize our unrealistic expectations. Too many people give up without realizing that they were not a failure, it just took more time than they were lead to believe it would!

Cultivate patience, and celebrate your small triumphs – its OK to measure things by the each! Expect to work hard for each small achievement when you are building your business, and you’ll be less likely to get scammed or become discouraged.

Lack of Marketing Focus

If you get too many irons in the fire, you simply cannot tend to them all.

Marketing is a careful combination of diversification, and focus. And business efforts in general have to be narrowed down to a manageable number of revenue streams, or you’ll get fragmented and find that it is impossible to market all the things you are trying to do all at once.

You need to establish a single successful business line before you begin another. It takes time and dedication to sufficiently establish a revenue stream enough to let it coast while you build another one. If you give up as soon as you start to market, but before it has a chance to really show results, then you’ll never get anything established fully. You’ll flit from one failure to another, and never really make a go of anything.

Your marketing efforts also have to be focused. If you are like me, and own or want to own a large number of websites, then you have to find ways to streamline the marketing process. You simply cannot fragment yourself and try to market 20 different things at once. I developed a system to keep it manageable, but I still have to restructure now and again to keep the tasks under control.

Each marketing effort must also be set up, attended to, tracked, assessed, and adjusted as necessary. You have to keep that focus while you wait for it to prove itself, and sometimes you have to keep doing it for quite some time before it can really show meaningful results in the way you want it to. You can’t allow yourself to get discouraged and fade out on it just because it takes patience.

Keep your focus, and keep your tasks efficient. Because otherwise you’ll splinter off into a series of dabbles that never add up to anything that works.

Misleading Information

The intent to deceive, whether by careful rewording to give a false impression, or the deliberate omission of critical facts which would influence the outcome, is a poor business practice, and will negatively effect your marketing efforts.

You can’t get away with dishonesty in any form for very long. Consider this:

If you are an eBayer, and you list items for sale, and fail to mention damage to them, or say there is no guarantee offered, but fail to mention that the item has a problem, or if you list things as “untested” which you know do not work, eventually it will catch up with you in your feedback ratings. Buyers do not put up with deliberate deception, no matter how carefully worded it is. People will not buy from you again – and even on eBay, the power of repeat purchases is significant.

Regular marketing is no different. Sure you don’t have feedback ratings on all your sales, but satisfied customers come back, dissatisfied ones don’t. And do you want YOUR name to be the one that is bandied about on the forums that someone is warning all and sundry about? How would you like to have your PayPal reputation questioned and threatened? Those are not remote possibilities, they are very real consequences of deception in marketing.

People also use misleading page titles, or keywords to entice people in. DUMB! If they are not looking for what you have, they will immediately click the back button. And they won’t leave with any kind of good attitude about you! You will, at best, arouse a sense of irritation in them. It is not a good idea to annoy your customers! Search engines also consider this to be a disreputable tactic, and it can get your site banned. Not exactly an effective marketing tactic!

Keep it honest. Even when it kills your chance of getting a good price, or when it seems like it will take forever to succeed. Maybe it WILL take longer. But it will be solid and unshakable when it does grow, and it will pay you back for your patience and integrity many times over, and in ways that you’ll record in your journal because they will be so amazing.


This is, admittedly, one of my biggest pet peeves about internet marketing.

Hype online has given internet marketing the same sort of reputation as used car salesmen. It is the butt of jokes, and the stigma is a huge barrier to anyone who is not of the same stamp as those who have left their heavy impression on people’s memories.

When you use hype, you compromise your credibility. Hype consists of exaggeration, assuming you know how the reader feels (or worse, TELLING them HOW they should feel!), failure to give details in your focus on emotive superlatives, and using colors and punctuation in a manner that draws undue attention or gives unrealistic emphasis to the text. Hype also includes images that display an unrealistic and overinflated idea of the possible outcomes from the presented options. Any of those actions will make you suspect from word one.

Yes, some people DO buy from you when you use these tactics. But the very means of attracting those customers is the means of driving away your most valuable customers – those that think! When you persuade people to do things against their better judgment, and when you encourage impulse buys without giving them enough information to know whether they really will get what you think they will, you end up with dissatisfied customers. Dissatisfied customers won’t come back.

On the other hand, if you give honest and forthright information, your customers will know what they are getting, and are more likely to be satisfied with the purchase long term. Further, satisfied customers who know that you can be trusted to be absolutely truthful will come back to you again and again, because they would rather purchase where they can trust than to take the risk on someone new.

Hype is a short sighted business choice. It assumes that the customer would not purchase if they knew the truth – in which case you should not be selling the product in the first place! It also assumes that customers are people to be taken advantage of, instead of people to form partnerships with for mutual benefit. It is disrespectful by implication, and assumes a lower intelligence in your customers than in yourself, when in fact the reverse may be true! You will lose all those customers who are more intelligent than you, and you may never be smart enough to find out just how many that is, because the smart ones won’t even click through to your pages.

People who market using hype ride the fine line between dishonesty and litigation. Too cowardly to commit to either open honesty, or outright criminal behavior, they, like Henry the VIII, wrap themselves in a cloak of comforting self-deception, and never manage to see the truth of what it is they actually do, or what it is that they have become.

It is not dishonest, nor is hype required to present things from the customer’s point of view. When you tell them that you use PayPal to contain costs so you can give them the best value, that is not dishonest, nor is it hype. It is merely a way of stating things so that the customer can see the benefit to themselves. But to say that you use PayPal because it is the safest and most reliable payment solution online for them to use, is neither accurate, nor honest. It is not a BAD solution, but it cannot be accurately classed as the safest nor the most reliable. This is the difference between hype and good marketing. One reaches a customer in an honest and appealing way, the other presents the information in the way that the seller wishes were truth, no matter how far it is from the actual fact.

Build your business on a firm foundation of total integrity. Hype has no place in such a structure.

Bad Marketing Ideas: Online

Free For All Links Sites and Free Classified Sites

There is no good that comes to you from these sites. No matter how many people tell you there is a benefit in submitting an ad to one, don’t believe it – point by point, these types of sites are a pure loser for startups.

Free for All Link Sites and Free Classified Sites are defined specifically as sites which contain nothing but ads or links, and which do not screen the ads, nor monitor them in any way.

They have some standard operating norms:

  • You can post your ad, but you have to surrender your email address as hostage to do so.
  • Your ad is posted in the order it is received, with new ads being added at the top, and old ones scrolling off the bottom.
  • Some may be categorized, but posters may or may not pay attention to the categories.

So what is the big deal? Free ads, free exposure, what could be bad about that? You may be told that this is a way to get your ad in front of people, that it is a way to increase your pagerank through accumulating inbound links, or that you can build your business this way. The truth is though, that these sites do not accomplish any of those goals, and in fact give no benefit, and the potential of significant harm to the people who use them. Here is why:

  • Nobody is looking. People come to them to advertise, not to look for items to purchase or use. Do YOU read ads on those sites?
  • Most ads are very spammy and low quality. If you are reading them with a look of disgust or skepticism on your face, then other people are reading your ad with the same attitude!
  • The sites quickly fill with auto-posts from spammers of the lowest order. Porn listings, fraud listings, and links to banned sites are so prevalent that you rarely see a legit ad on them.
  • Because of the rapidity of auto-posting, your ad will scroll off the bottom within an hour or so on some sites. Within a day on others.
  • Because of the auto-posts and scummy URLs all over the site, it will get banned from the search engines. This means it gives you NO benefit for pagerank.
  • The site does not exist to help you. It exists to take advantage of you. Your email address will be sold to spammers, and your inbox will fill with the worst sorts of trash.
  • Some of them require a link back to that site. If you place a link on your site to what the search engines consider to be a “bad neighborhood” (and these sites ARE), then your site is in danger of getting banned.
  • There are always some of these in the search engines, because it takes time to weed them out after the posts on them accumulate trash. But they don’t stay there long, they quickly get banned.

So why would you want to even go there, just to waste your time and invite spam into your inbox?

Of course there are some big name sites with free classified listings – nearly all the major search engines have them. They work a bit differently, your ad won’t scroll off, but they have their own limitations. Ads there may have a small chance of being effective, but usually they have a limit on the listing of 30 days or so. Frankly, for the amount of traffic they return (VERY little), having to relist every 30 days is an annoyance that I can live without. There are still more sellers than buyers in such an arena, so the value of a listing is pretty small.

There are other things you can do that are actually effective, and which do not cost to do. Remember, legitimate free marketing tactics will generally be permanent, and will help you gain a good reputation over time, and will build power and momentum over time. Here are some alternatives:

  • Directory Listings – Directories are NOT the same thing! Many allow you to list free, but there is almost always a REAL person behind the scenes reviewing the listings for quality. That feature makes all the difference. This type of listing can often give you all the benefits you sought in the first place.
  • Link Trades – Make sure they are on sites that are similar to yours in topic, and that the sites are high quality. Never trade with someone whose site is banned, or whose site is poor quality. Their link on your site will hurt your reputation.
  • Signature Lines – Leave a short signature line at the end of every email, and every post you make online. Obey the rules of forums and don’t spam them. Just participate sincerely, and leave a signature line when you do.
  • Article Marketing – This is one of the most powerful forms of marketing. Done well, it helps you establish credibility, helps you target the traffic that comes to your website, it is viral and expands beyond what you can imagine, and it helps your pagerank by getting your link out there. There is no down side to this tactic if you do it right.
  • There are MANY more legit free and low cost marketing methods, both online and offline. Look for tactics that help you build a relationship with people, and which place your information before people who want it, in a way that gives the viewer the choice about whether to use it or not.

Steer clear of FFA and Free Classified sites. Learn to recognize them, and get out fast. They have nothing of value to you, and your business will not benefit from them in any way.

Bad Marketing Idea: Link Exchange Programs

If only they lived up to their promise… The drawbacks to these depend largely on how you use them, and what you expect to get out of them.

The term Link Exchange Program can be used in several ways. We’ll discuss two types of link exchange programs:

The first is nothing more than a listing on a site of sites that are willing to exchange links. This type of program really gives you very little advantage. It has the following drawbacks:

  • You do all the work. Ok, you have to work for anything worthwhile, so no biggie, but with Link Exchanges, you do a LOT of work, for the potential of a tiny return. You’ll send out a ton of requests just to get one that agrees.
  • You have to review every site that you want to exchange links with. You’ll have to check to insure that they have not been banned from Google, and you’ll have to insure that the content is relevant and good quality. You also need to review it to insure that they are not using tactics that will get them banned.
  • Some Exchanges are categorized, some are not. For those that are not, you’ll have to sort through the sites just to find something that is relevant to your site.
  • Most people leave their site on those sites because they want others to do the work. They don’t stick around to search for sites to trade with. It is similar to the Safelist issue – everyone is selling, no one is buying.
  • If you have low pagerank, or a brand new site with no pagerank, you may find that others do not want to trade with you. Many people who do link exchanges think that they should only get links with sites that have a higher rank than they do – utterly silly, because using their reasoning, why would the other site want to trade with THEM?

This kind of exchange is preferable to the automated type, but it is still not an easy way to get links.

The second type is automated. Usually you have to pay. Sometimes they are free, but if they are, then you won’t get much leverage out of it.

Free versions often track impressions. This means that your site will get only as much exposure as you give someone else’s site. If your site does not get good traffic yet, it will barely affect your traffic.

Even paid versions do not provide code that can be read as a link by search engines. That means that paying for this type of links won’t help you as much as a hard won, personally negotiated exchange.

Overall, Link Exchange programs are not a productive use of your time or money. There are more efficient ways to get links, even to get trades.

I find that through the course of working with other people, and during the course of my own participation on forums online, I encounter people all the time who have sites with similar topics to mine. I have the chance to get to know them a bit, and to see their site content, and then I can propose ad swaps or link exchanges, and it is a very natural process instead of forced and distrusting. The best way to get them is to invite them with an invitation on your site, and then to just wait for opportunities and act on them as they come.

See Google’s page on link schemes to learn more about why link exchange programs are a bad marketing idea.

List Building Programs

Another twist on a scheme that tries to get you to market someone else’s program instead of focusing on marketing your own.

List building programs function on the principle that you can join a program, and then build your list from the lists of other people. Only usually, you cannot get more out of it than you put in. And what they want is referrals – fresh meat!

You join this program. And if you make referrals, you get the chance to mail out ads to other members. You can mail an ad for your eZine if you like, or you can just use the program as your direct emailing vehicle. There are a number of problems with them that make them ineffective:

The other members are much like the members in safelists. They are there to SELL, not to buy. They were recruited just like you, and they are there to build their email power, not to buy your product.

In order to make referrals, you must promote the list program. Now, think about this carefully. They want you to promote their list program. If you do that, then you have to take away from time and resources that you could spend promoting your product. If you were promoting your product, you’d be targeting people who are interested in your product. Now, you have to promote their list, and to do that effectively, you must target people who are interested in listbuilding, REGARDLESS of whether they are interested in YOUR product or not! So the people you recruit to help build your list, to help you to mail to people who are not interested in your product are not helping you to target your sales in an effective manner AT ALL!

In some programs, you are able to collaborate to leverage the lists of other marketers in the program – but if you are all leveraging one another’s lists, then you have 10,000 people, all of whom are receiving the same emails from all of the marketers. It does not mean you have more PEOPLE, it just means that all of the list owners are sharing the same group of people, and each person is on the list of multiple marketers. This means that all of the people who are hearing the message are overloaded with mailings already, and that they are hearing the messages of your direct competitors.

Ah, you say, but maybe they are not my direct competitors! If they were not, then their lists would be useless. If their lists are targeted to YOUR products or services, then they are your competitors. If they are NOT your competitors, then their lists are worthless to you!

The variations on these programs always require that you focus your efforts on THEIR agenda, not yours. They are not an effective means of building a targeted email list, nor are they an effective use of your marketing time or money. Save yourself the hassle, and build your list in more direct ways – promote your list directly through articles, sig lines, and through ad swaps in successful eZines, or even paid ads if you have to. Promote the newsletter signup page directly through paid inclusion or other solid marketing methods, but don’t bother with List Builders, even if they are free.

Pay To Read Programs

Advertising through Pay to Read Email blasts is an ineffective method for promoting legitimate products and services.

In fact, I don’t even think it would be worth the money to advertise a SCAM through them! Here’s why:

  • People who join these are paid a couple of pennies for each email they read. They are not interested in your product, they just want to earn those pennies as fast as they can.
  • The emails are not targeted to interests. OK, if you have a money making scheme, you might make some headway, but even then it would be hard because the goal of these people is NOT to receive information. It is to get in and out as fast as possible to get the payment.
  • People who join these are usually people who don’t know how to make money any better way. This means they are not highly qualified, they are not effective planners, they may have little experience with online norms, and they may have no clear sense of direction, etc. So if you present something logical and sound, they won’t be able to tell the difference between it and something fake.
  • Cost is usually prohibitively high. They cost something like $20 to advertise to just 250 people or so. NOT cost effective! For untargeted email, that is WAY too high, but they have to cover their costs, so they cannot keep it low.

Most companies who offer this service have a hard time staying in business. They go under pretty fast because it is very difficult to get advertisers to support it. Most who try it do not purchase repeat orders because the response rates are so dismal.

If you want to reach targeted email readers, then advertise in a targeted eZine. You’ll get far better exposure for the money, and you’ll be more likely to get a good response rate.

Stay away from these programs. They are neither an effective way to earn, nor an effective way to market.

Email List Purchasing

Talk about your high risk ventures! Make a mistake on this one and you can land in jail.

They make it sound so easy – Purchase a list of email addresses to marketing to. Only most lists of this type are frankly illegal, and others are totally ineffective.

The problem is, you have no idea where they got those email addresses from. The only time it is legal to send email is if someone requested it. They cannot have requested it from YOU, because they don’t have a clue who you are. Some companies send the email for you, to their opt-in lists, but even then, you cannot be sure of the value.

If they email the list for you, then you still run the risk of paying a lot for no returns. Because you cannot be sure that the people whom the email is going to are actually interested in what you have to sell. So you are taking a very high risk that you’ll not make anything from the campaign.

There are companies that claim to be reputable, but the fact is that nearly every reputable business knows the risks associated with email campaigns, and nobody is really making money selling such items except the scammers. As a legitimate market, it practically does not exist, because there is no way to tell a liar from an honest person, so the risk is not worth it to any reputable business person.

It is a much better option to simply pay to advertise in an established eZine or Newsletter. The risks are lower, and the potential returns are higher. You also have the ability to precisely target the interests of the readers.

So at best, purchased email lists are a tremendous gamble with a near certainty of wasting your time and your money. At worst, they are illegal and can potentially land you in serious trouble with the law. Neither one is a smart way to build a business!

Massive Link Trades

Once again the law of moderation comes into play.

Trading with anybody and everybody, with no regard to the content of the other site, or the relevancy, is not a good idea. There are several ways this can bite you – some painful, some deadly.

Search engines reputedly count relevancy. Now, we must understand that they cannot do so with any great degree of accuracy, so they are going to miss some of the time. If you link with sites that obviously have similar keywords, then they will count it. If you link with sites that are relevant, but not obviously so, then they might not, but it is still a link that will help you more than harm you.

What does hurt is two things:

  1. Massive numbers of irrelevant links that appear overnight. Search engines might consider that to be a spam tactic.
  2. Link trades with disreputable sites. Those sites, if linked in to yours (their link on your site) can get you outright banned. It can also stop you from using many other types of advertising, because other site owners will judge your site in part by the links coming off it.

So, get your links a few at a time.

Get them on sites that you really like, or that are a good resource for your site visitors.

Check the out the other site. Look for hidden text or other elements that might get it banned, look to insure that it is good quality, and make sure it does not have links off IT that go to bad sites. And run it through a Google Ban Checker online, to make sure it has not already been banned.

Do not worry about the pagerank of the other site. I mean, if it has a 4 or higher, well done! But if it is lower, link anyway. A good variety of pagerank backlinks is more “natural”, plus today’s pagerank 1 may be tomorrow’s pagerank 5.

Keep your links as natural as possible, and build them honestly, and without trying to get them all at once. It will benefit you more in the long term, and will help you to establish a permanent reputation and traffic stream online.

The Money is In the List

The money is NOT in the list! The BUSINESS is in the RELATIONSHIPS.

This is another major pet peeve of mine! To state that the money is in the list depersonalizes your customers, makes them an object to get gain from, and gives you a completely false impression of what an email list is to be used for.

The statement refers to the mistaken belief that some internet marketers like to perpetuate, that you cannot run a successful business without a large opt-in email list. This is a false premise to begin with.

Yes, an email list CAN enhance some businesses. It is a waste of time for others. And it is always a waste of time if you have such an inconsiderate attitude about it, because you will never see your way clear to using it in a way that your customer actually appreciates if you think of them as a piggy bank, instead of as an individual with needs and desires which you can help to meet in an honest and genuine manner.

I cannot tell you how many email subscriptions I have canceled due to a selfish attitude on the part of the publisher. I could care less about what you want to sell me. I don’t care about your latest thing that you want me to buy when you just sent me an email three days earlier about some other latest thing that you wanted me to buy then. And I REALLY don’t care (in fact, it ticks me off) when you tell me about something, then remind me a day later, then warn me two days later that it is almost gone, then send me more warnings that I’ll miss it if I don’t get it now! I didn’t want it the first time, and I am even less interested the fifth time!

To use a list properly, you need to use it to build relationships. Let them know who you are, and that you have hopes and dreams that they can identify with. Drop a note at the bottom that a specific item is on sale, or available, or tell them where they can find something related to what you want them to know, but do NOT make that the focus of the email! Give them something they WANT to hear – knowledge, instruction, humor, entertainment, etc. Give them a little piece of yourself that enhances their life in some way. You then are beginning to build a reciprocal relationship with them. If you want something from them, you must demonstrate a willingness to give first. And you must give them a reason to trust you – your information must be reliable and useful, or you must show constancy in being there on a regular basis even if it appears that you are not getting anything in return.

Your email list consists of people. You should feel that they are people that you care about, and want to help. That you want to make them smile. That if it were their child’s birthday, you’d want to tell them to have a great day. If you don’t feel that way, then you’ll not ever realize the potential of a list, because you’ll offend without having a clue how you even did it.

A list has to be reciprocal. It is not just for your benefit. It is primarily for THEIR benefit, or it won’t be read. They’ll buy from you when they care about you, trust you, and feel that you understand them.

Submit All Pages to Search Engines

Experts disagree about whether this tactic will harm you, or whether it is just a waste of time. But either way, that strikes it from our list of Good Choices.

Some people are still saying you have to do this, but please believe me when I say you don’t! In fact, doing so may cause you to be accused of spamming the search engines. Here is why you DON’T have to do this:

The search engines will find your site even if you do not submit it, as long as you have a link to a site that is already indexed. Once a site is indexed, it gets regularly spidered (to look for changes), and the search engine will pick up any changes to the site. It will also follow any links it finds, and index THOSE pages.

So whether your site gets found naturally from a link, or whether you submit it to the search engines, all you need to submit is the index page. Many search engine submission guidelines tell you flat out, do not submit more than the index page. They will go and spider your page, and then start checking the links, bit by bit. It can take up to three months to index all the pages, depending on how complex your site is, and how many layers of links you have. But they WILL get indexed!

Submission services that promise to submit every page are a waste of your time and money. Don’t fiddle around doing this. Spend your time building more quality content – it will get you further, and actually help your site get spidered regularly! Sites with regular changes get indexed more frequently than sites with no changes, plus you are giving your visitors EXACTLY what they want! Everyone wins!

So build your site. Register it ONCE, the index page ONLY, and then start adding more pages, or more information to the pages you have. That truly is the most efficient way to get your pages individually indexed, and to keep the search engines, and people, coming back for more.

Massive Link Purchasing

Oh the lure of easy traffic! Just buy your way to the top using a fast and simple service that only costs you half an arm and a small bit of your leg.

And then you don’t even find out until later that it didn’t work, and still later the whole horror of the thing comes home to roost when your site gets banned from the search engines, and you must now scrounge traffic or pay for it.

The purpose of buying links is to gain more natural search engine traffic, by increasing your pagerank. Pagerank goes up when you have more inbound links (links coming into your site). Higher pagerank means you come out higher in the listings, and get more traffic from searches. These are visitors you don’t have to go looking for, because they are looking for you.

Search engine traffic is worth getting, because it costs you nothing. So people figure if they spend a bit to get some permanent links, and those links boost their rankings, they’ll benefit from it permanently.

In theory, its sound reasoning. In practice, there are some caveats.

If you purchase a whole bunch at a time, the search engines view that as being unnatural, and will either ignore the links (meaning you just wasted your money), or ban you (meaning your grand plan backfired). Experts disagree on what, exactly, the search engines do when you have a whole bunch of links that show up overnight. But either consequence is not a good one if you paid good money for the links.

Purchasing just a few each month – say, less than 100 – is considered Gray Hat. In other words, nobody really knows whether it will get you into trouble or not, because nobody knows where the red flag goes up to alert the search engine that you have too many at once. Many experts feel that purchasing low amounts of them, IF you purchase them from sites that are selective about whom they allow to advertise AND you purchase them on relevant sites (the most effective advertising anyway), is not going to raise red flags.

Purchasing links is risky above a certain amount, and pretty much a waste if you do too much, too fast. Again, there are no quick and cheap solutions, and even some of the expensive ones are not a good idea.

Article Marketing is free, and can give you viral marketing benefits as well. Combine it with Paid Inclusion on a directory network and you can avoid the risks of text link purchasing if you need to build your site faster than would be wise with purchasing links. It looks more natural, and won’t raise red flags.

The best way to gain links to your site is to create great content that people want to link to. See Google’s Guidelines for more.


Excessive Freebies

Freebies have two down sides. While they can be a useful tool in marketing, they are not an instant solution, and may in fact be counterproductive.

Freebies are suggested as a means of doing two things: getting traffic to your site, and building an opt-in list.

Here’s the problems:

  1. In order for the freebie to attract people, you have to have a base to market it to. That means, instead of marketing your website, you’ll have to market the freebie instead! Some people feel it is easier to market a freebie than an item for sale, and while that may be true, doing so may not get you sales.
  2. When you promote a freebie, you are targeting a certain customer profile. We call them “freebie seekers”. It’s perfectly fine to promote freebies when you have an ad supported site that you just want to get traffic to so you get more ad income. But when you want to SELL things, then advertising free items can be very counterproductive. Your traffic may go up, but your sales may not. Freebie seekers are notoriously fickle. They rarely pay for something, they just scrounge free stuff. Will having a bunch of freebie seekers on your site be worth the promotional cost?

Free samples and bonuses have a long history of success in marketing. But you have to use them in ways that actually encourages an increase in your income.

Freebies are less risky when you are providing an electronic download, but they also have lower perceived value. Freebies that involve a physical item are far more costly for a business to produce, but have higher perceived value with potential customers.

Handing out free samples at a fair may be highly successful for one kind of business, and a failure for others. So do a bit of research, talk to people who have tried it, and make sure it actually attracts the right customer. If it doesn’t, then find other ways to market, and give yourself permission to ignore the people telling you to give something away.

Overvaluing Viral Marketing

Internet marketing gurus tell you that if you produce a free item that has your contact information in it, that business will just flood in – Not Quite True!

The truth is that viral marketing is still hard to get going. Just because you have a freebie or a pass on item does not mean that people will flock in to grab it. After all, freebies and giveaways are so common online that it is pretty difficult to come up with one that is truly unique, and then you have to market IT in order for it to even be found!

Viral marketing SHOULD be part of a well designed marketing plan. But it is not the instant answer to having a business with no customers, or a site with no traffic. The real power only comes out when viral marketing is used intelligently, and when the viral item is plugged into existing distribution channels where people can access it easily and quickly.

Article marketing, for this reason, is perhaps one of the most potentially powerful viral marketing strategies, because distribution channels already exist which you just plug in and use. Creating an eBook, or other forms of viral marketing is much more difficult, because promoting it presents the same challenges as promoting your website directly.

People who overvalue viral marketing either already have distribution channels in place, or they don’t understand what the real challenges will be. For a startup especially, you must look for forms of viral marketing where you can use someone else’s already established user base. Collaborations with other authors can help you leverage the collective marketing power to promote the viral product.

Fishing With the Wrong Bait

You have to understand your customers. Failure to do so means you’ll be making offers that they do not consider to be of value, in ways that do not appeal to them in the least.

This aspect of marketing is called “targeting” your customer. In order to reach them, you first have to know what motivates them.

You cannot market to someone you do not understand. You must market to their specific needs, and provide solutions to problems that they experience. If you cannot identify with that, you’ll be baiting the hook for an entirely different species than the one you intend to catch!

I personally feel that one of the biggest problems with small businesses is that the business owner does not understand his customer. As a one person business, you have to be all things and do all things, and this aspect of marketing may get overlooked. You may feel a certain product has great potential to appeal to people, but if you don’t understand the concerns and interests of the people to whom you wish to sell it, they won’t buy, because you won’t be able to effectively present it to them.

Sadly, some marketing professionals even do this. They are so busy trying to SELL things that they fail to ask whether what they are selling is what the target market is actually looking for. Marketing efforts should start with defining who the ideal customer is, and then noting what the problems are that they have, that your product can solve.

Some customers respond to facts, some to emotions, some to benefits, others to relationships. Some are casual, some are formal, others are academic, and some are bawdy. Your target market will consist of individuals, but within those individuals there will be patterns that you can pinpoint to present a message that is most likely to appeal to those whom you are trying to reach.

One of the reasons that people who love their business are so much more successful than those who don’t, is because they have found in themselves something that appeals to them on a deep level. This gives them an empathy for their potential customers. When you have been there, and experienced the frustrations that lead you to appreciating the right solution, you can better identify with the feelings of your potential customers. People who “buy a business” just because of the dollar signs flashing in their head won’t ever be able to make progress like someone who is passionate about their product because they experienced something positive because of it.

If you want to catch a trout, a nice juicy fly will work better than a hotdog. If you want to catch a crawdad though, hotdogs are the perfect tempting morsel. Know your customer if you want to get the right bait.

Auto-Responding to SPAM

“This is the Song that Never Ends, ‘Cause it goes On and On My Friends…” (Shari Lewis and Lambchop).

“Auto respond to SPAM!” he said, “Then all those spammers will be getting YOUR marketing message!” My jaw dropped, and my eyes bugged out in disbelief! This isn’t just an ineffective idea, this is a potentially very harmful one.

First of all, if you autorespond to spam, you get accused of spamming, because the return email addresses in spam emails are never legit. They are frequently forged – this means that people you don’t know, who never did you any harm, are now being flooded with YOUR spam! And YOU are legally liable for it!

Second, many spam return email addresses are simply fakes. So you get bounce messages – which come into your auto-responder, and stimulate ANOTHER autorespond message. Those continual messages will eventually tick somebody off in one or another ISP, and you’ll be in the hot seat for sending unsolicited email.

Third, if they DID get to the intended recipient, do you really think it is worth your time to market to someone who is uninterested? Further, spammers are frequently dishonest, and this means that your business will now be the focus of people who would just love to find a weakness in your shopping cart to rip you off. Just the sort of person you want to attract as a customer, eh?

Can you say, REALLY BAD IDEA?

You are far better off concentrating your email campaigns on building an honest list, or marketing through someone else’s established list, even if you have to pay for it.

Excessive Signature Lines

A Signature Line is perhaps one of the most valuable marketing tools that you have. You use it like an online business card.

Your signature line becomes the message you present to the world – the “first impression” and initial introduction that many people have to who you are and what you do. It is not only a valid marketing tactic, it is at the top of the list of things you DO want to always use.

BUT… When you are posting to forums and other online areas where you can leave feedback, and your signature line is bigger than your message, there is a problem! Never post just to post, and always make sure you really have something to say, and not that you are just using any old excuse to put out a huge and annoying signature line.

If you submit a comment that you expect to have published, then make sure the comment is of higher weight than your signature line. A signature line is supposed to be an afterthought – “by the way, in case you wonder who I am and what I do, here is how you can find out”. It should be short, high impact, and considerate.

If you have multiple URLs, then create a doorway site where you can list them all in detail. Then promote just a single URL. If you feel you must list multiple URLs, just remember that the more sites you advertise, the less space you have to describe each one. If you have three or more, then you get a 5-6 word phrase for each, at most!

I use more than one signature line to address the problem of multiple items to market. I promote the URL that is most appropriate for the recipient of the email, or that fits the subject of the discussion on the forums I post to. In this instance, being a chameleon is ok!

Excessive signature lines make one appear selfish, unfocused, and inconsiderate. Don’t be someone whose signature line is overlooked because it is assumed to be suffering from bloat before it is even read.

Advertising on Forums

Forum posting for marketing purposes is a GOOD idea if you do it right. When you are inconsiderate and rude though, it is a BAD idea.

Forums, email groups, Blogs, and other online venues can be a very powerful marketing tactic. And because it can be so powerful, some people misuse it. Sometimes they misuse it out of a lack of understanding, and sometimes it is pure rudeness.

Here are the rules:

  • Always make sure you understand the rules for that forum. All groups and forums have rules about posting, whether you can post ads, whether you can even use a signature line. As a general rule, a sig line is acceptable almost anywhere, as long as it is not huge and pushy. There are a few exceptions to this though, so read the rules!
  • Don’t post just to advertise. Participate in a meaningful way. Just give good advice, enjoy the conversation, and let people know who you really are. They are more likely to click your sig link if they feel they know you, and if they have a reason to trust you.
  • Build relationships. This is always secondary to marketing. The best business relationships form from associations that develop naturally, not where one person feels like business is all the other person cares about.
  • Offer help regardless of financial motives. This is the best way to build solid relationships of trust, and even if it does not get you a paying interaction with that person, it will help you build a good reputation, and it will help you get referrals that are worth their weight in gold.
  • Make sure your advice is accurate. That will help you build credibility and establish you as having a firm grasp of your subject. if you are not sure, then shut up.
  • Don’t bother with forums which exist strictly for the purpose of advertising. Everybody is sending, nobody is reading, and they’ll waste your time (see Safelists for more info).

Forum marketing IS powerful. But the reason it is powerful is because it develops relationships. There is no substitute for time and caring. If you are there just to advertise, the whole purpose is subverted. You end up preventing the very thing you are there to do!

Participate in forums where people are likely to need what you know. If you are a web designer, and you participate in a forum for web designers, then you’ll not make any headway with marketing. You’ll maybe be able to better yourself as a professional, but you’ll not get any clients there. On the other hand, if you participate in a forum for people who are building their own websites, or learning how to do that, and you give solid counsel, then those that get overwhelmed are more likely to ask you about needed services, but only if you are helpful and they feel they can trust you. Plus, if you produce info sites on how to do it, then people from the forum are likely to be directly interested in seeking out the information you produce.

So number one on forums – Be a real person. Be kind and helpful in your interactions with others. The marketing power develops as a result of that.

Duplicate Content

So what does this have to do with marketing? The content of your pages greatly affects your ability to get indexed, and to draw on free marketing sources.

Search engines DO penalize for duplicate content. But it isn’t as simple as using the words “duplicate content

MiniSites in Free Webspace

I almost could not believe it when I read this bad idea for the first time.

Maybe it would have worked 5 years ago, but even as recent as 3-4 years ago this one would have been considered Black Hat.

The idea is that you should create 10-20 accounts with free web hosts. Then put up a mini-site into each one, and then link your main website into those. Then register each one with the search engines and because they are all with different hosts, your pagerank will increase.

How utterly dumb! It fails on all points! Somebody wasn’t thinking straight when they came up with this idea!

  1. It is no time saver! You can go out and find 10-20 directories to submit your link to in less time than you can open all those accounts, let alone actually build minisites and put content on them that the search engines would index! And those links will have higher value than your brand new quickie sites could give.
  2. Many search engines are now giving less credibility to free hosted sites.
  3. Some search engines do a Whois search on your domain – at least this is what I have read . If so, the ownership would be known, exposing you for the fraud that it made you appear to be.
  4. Such sites are of little value, and without regular updates, they will not gain any power to help your pagerank for your main site. You just created a whole bunch more work for yourself, and a distraction from the upkeep of your main site.
  5. Why spend time promoting and registering 20 other sites just to get attention for your main site when you could be using that time and energy to simply promote your main site directly. Far simpler, and far more effective! Focus on consolidation and efficiency, and don’t get distracted and fragmented.

If you want to build multiple sites, then do it right! Build more high quality sites, and interlink them with relevant links. That is a legitimate tactic because each new site adds something of value to the web.

Don’t be dumb and try to create a shortcut that is many times harder than just doing it right!

Bad Marketing Examples

  1. Not testing the market
  2. New product at too low of a price

“60% of new ventures fail because of bad marketing decisions” says Wharton marketing professor Leonard M. Lodish in Entrepreneurial Marketing"" (Get it on Kindle)

Own Your Own FFA or Free Classified Site

This one almost sounds usable on the surface – it is only when you think about the real meaning of the idea that you realize it is NOT GOOD.

When I first heard about this one, I was experienced enough to spot the flaws in the theory right off. Not everyone is though.

It goes like this: Since you hate going to FFA or Free Classified sites because of the spam that you get, why not own one instead, and SEND email to all the people who sign up!

The problems with this theory as an open marketing venue are numerous. Try some of these on for size:

  1. This type of site takes a huge amount of work to maintain. You have to either check EVERY post, or you get overwhelmed by auto-posts by site spammers.
  2. If you choose to check every post, to keep your site clean, you’ll spend hours of time each day deleting spam posts – if you want to run your site as a directory, and as a real business, fine, but if you are looking for a no-work option, this is NOT it!.
  3. If you do not take the time to delete the spam posts, your site will be banned by the search engines, and will be classed as a “bad neighborhood” by every site that you could legitimately promote it on.
  4. If your site gets classed as a bad neighborhood, you’ll not be able to get the traffic you need to make anything off it.
  5. Even if you could harvest email addresses from it, you’ll have a range of problems with that strategy.
  6. Emails harvested will have a high percentage of forged and invalid email addresses.
  7. If you send emails to the people on the list, many will not recognize you as being someone they authorized to send them emails. You’ll get accused of spamming, and risk very severe legal consequences.
  8. Even if you tell them what they are signing up for, there will be so many forged email addresses that you’ll get accused of spamming by the people who really own the email addresses that are used.
  9. The whole thing is not a simple and quick way to fall into a large email list. It is a huge amount of work to create such a site, takes a huge amount of time to market it to get traffic to it, and the potentials for abuse of it are so huge that this is not a viable business in any way shape or form anymore.

Every benefit that someone might consider getting from owning a Free Links Site, or a Free Classified site will be blasted into discouraging oblivion. If it gets off the ground in the first place, it will fail fairly rapidly, and end up being a colossal waste of time. There is no legit way to “harvest” email addresses.

Save your efforts for something more real, and something that has fewer built in traps.

Alternatives include:

Build a directory site, and operate it as a real directory. Choose a tight niche, and target your marketing closely to businesses who might need it, and people who want to use it. The key to a successful directory is in choosing a niche that needs it, which is not already saturated.

Establish a niche “trade association”. Again, choose a tightly focused niche, and figure out what real benefits businesses in that niche need, then offer them in a membership site. Key to this is to choose a niche that NEEDS certain benefits, and then offer high value benefits at a group rate.

Promote a quality eZine or newsletter directly to build a list. Don’t mess around with “list building” programs, or other time wasters.

Traffic Exchanges

OOOOh I REALLY have a gripe about these! They give all the appearance of working, with none of the substance!

These work on the “safelist”, or “paid to surf” principle. You join a traffic exchange, and you get to “visit the sites of other members” to build credit and get return visits to your site. They work in a number of ways, some have a time requirement (you have to spend a certain amount of time on the site – say 30 seconds). Usually you get something like 1 click back onto your site for every 2-3 clicks you make on other people’s sites.

Many of these have a multi-tiered setup. You can refer other people, and then you can earn clicks based on their clicks – a 5:1 or 10:1 ratio, or something like that. So if you can persuade other people to busily click away, then you get a few clicks back from THEIR efforts too.

People talk about how much their traffic raises from using these. And they will cite supposed benefits from them. But there are some fatal flaws in the whole concept:

  • People who use them are not there to VIEW sites, they are only there to earn clicks. This means they are not at all interested in what you are selling, or in your site.
  • Generating traffic is not the same thing as increasing your income. People who use these will usually sheepishly admit that they cannot see any real increase in income after using this type of system (yet strangely, they continue to devote half an hour or more per night rabidly clicking away to generate traffic to their site!).
  • The purchase, or ad click rate (the things that actually make money for you) for these types of programs are abysmally low – we are talking like 1 in 10,000, compared to the usual of 1 in 200. This means that you are spending TONS of time to get negligible results.
  • Some people will tell you that getting more traffic will help your search engine rank. While this is partially true, it is NOT affected In any significant way by traffic exchange programs. It is ONLY affected by traffic from the search engine that is doing the tracking, or by traffic that comes from their network, or which they can track through some kind of toolbar (which will weed out hits that come through traffic generators). They have neither the massive resources, nor the proper permissions to be able to track every single visitor to your site (that requires either code on your pages, or permission to place a tracking script on your server – they cannot do it without your cooperation, nor do they have the computer power to do something that will not help their bottom line). Don’t let someone twist the truth to make it sound like traffic exchanges can affect search engine rank, they CAN’T in any significant way other than from a link to your site from their site.
  • There are people who still promote these like they are the greatest thing since peanut butter. Don’t you wonder why, if they are such a waste of time? Well, it is that multi-tiered aspect. If they can persuade YOU to click away, then they get traffic while not having to do the time wasting work. It makes their numbers look good anyway!

And that is the ONLY thing that Traffic Exchange, or Traffic Generation systems are good for – making your traffic numbers look good. They are useless for increasing your income. And all those numbers mean nothing if you are not earning.

Remember, if it does not help you earn more, it is NOT effective marketing! Traffic Generation programs do NOT help you earn more money. They just waste your time.

Paid to Surf

Paid to surf programs have two sides – the surfers, and the surfees – neither one is particularly effective!

This operates on the same principle as Paid to Read programs. Surfers get pennies per click (if that), and people who market through these pay far more than what the surfers get paid (of course – how else does the company make a profit?).

They are not an effective marketing method, nor an effective income generation method. The reasons they fail to market well are numerous:

  • If I am getting paid to visit your site, then I want to get in and out as fast as possible. My goal is NOT to see what you have to offer, it is to rack up as many pennies as I can, and I do that by SPEED.
  • I don’t particularly want what you have to offer, I just want the pennies. I am not going to even look at your page.
  • If I am a “career surfer”, I’ll have multiple browser windows open at one time. I’ll not even look at the contents, I’ll just keep switching from one to the other to tell them to load the next page.
  • Some people use software for auto-clicking and moving from site to site. You cannot be sure there is even anyone in front of the computer!
  • People who join these programs are people who are not successful at operating a real business (some people will take exception to this statement, but if you have any kind of effective product or service sales, it will beat Paid to Surf any day). This means that they are not the most organized or logical of people. Is that the market you want to target?
  • If someone feels they are desperate enough to work that hard for pennies, are they going to have the financial resources to buy your product?

If you are going to pay for clicks, do so through a legitimate Pay Per Click program, NOT through a Paid to Surf program. Fraud happens in both, but it is worse through Paid to Surf programs because there is more motive for the end user to defraud you in ways that are not easy to track as fraud.

Paid Inclusion or second tier (not Google or Overture) Pay Per Click will get you better results than this, and will cost you less in the long term. You can set up a Kanoodle account very easily, and get low cost clicks, or you can pay for inclusion with Exactseek and get good return for the low amount they charge for top 10 placement on their network of search engines (which is growing all the time).

SafeLists, Announcement Lists & Ad Forums

**A Safelist is an email list where it is “safe” to advertise without getting accused of SPAM. Imagine, 1000 or more people, who all agree to let you advertise to them. They may also be called Announcement Lists, Ad Groups, or Ad Forums. **

So what’s the catch?

Everyone is talking, but nobody is listening! Every single person on that list is there for the same reason you are – to ADVERTISE! They are NOT there to READ. In fact, many people on safelists just blast their ads every day, while they use a separate email account to collect the emails from the list, which they delete without ever reading.

Are you on the list to see what other people are marketing? Neither is anyone else. There are far more effective uses of your time besides just blasting ads into oblivion.

If you want to market using email, then advertise in a credible eZine that targets your market. It will go to people that are actually interested in what you have to offer. Sure, it will cost you something to do, but what good is a free marketing method that wastes your time?

If you need a free method, then write articles and submit them to article directories. It will get you a lot further than blasting ads to a safelist where nobody gives a rip about what you are selling.

Autosubmitting to Blogs and Forums

The thing about this that really chaps me is that marketers who profess to be honest and caring people are selling software that autosubmits to blogs and forums, under the pretense that this is an effective or legitimate way to market.

Not only is it entirely unethical, it is also totally ineffective, and will waste your time and land you in potential legal trouble.

Nobody likes a spammer, and that is what you will undoubtedly be if you attempt to use software to submit to blogs, forums, classified sites, etc. Here is what happens:

  1. The software cannot possibly submit in any way that sounds remotely human. It will create a post that says something like, “Gee, loved your site.” and then it lists your sig line. It may be able to create other impersonal, sometimes nonsensical messages, all of which are easy to spot by any blog or forum owner who has a grain of intelligence (don’t underestimate that, most of them have enough to detect this tactic!). This means that your post will be deleted promptly from any reputable forum.
  2. Once you are identified, your account will be deleted if it requires logging in. If not, then your IP address may be banned.
  3. Even if you use tactics to get around IP banning, a forum owner will NOT allow someone to take over their forum if they run a reputable one! Believe me on this one, they’d rather close it down than allow it to be overrun by inconsiderate and lazy people who have not the intelligence to do things the right way!
  4. If your post does not get deleted, then it is being posted to a blog or forum that CANNOT maintain any kind of search engine rank. The whole purpose of this is to try to find an underhanded way to get good search engine rank by getting lots of backlinks. Well, if the only sites that your link stays on are disreputable ones, then it is not doing you any good at all, because the disreputable sites have already (or will soon be) banned from the search engines.
  5. Reputable sites (the ones that are indexed by the search engines, and the ONLY ones that do you any good using this tactic) are almost always either closely monitored, or moderated. This means your post will be almost instantly deleted, or that it will never be seen by the public (or search engines) at all. The only sites that it will stay on are those that are neglected. And neglected sites are almost always banned by the search engines, because they fill with Spam posts (Like YOURS), and the search engines have no use for such worthless tripe – nor does anyone else!

AutoSubmitting is Rude, and a waste of time. It takes someone who is either very uneducated, or of low intellect to persist in such a counterproductive effort.

If you want to post on blogs and forums, then do so honestly, by participating. Follow their rules, contribute meaningful comments or suggestions, and take the time to do it effectively by building your credibility and dropping your signature line discreetly.

Pop-Ups and Pop-Unders

Annoying your prospective customers is NOT a good idea!

Over half of the people online think that pop-ups are an annoyance. An annoyed person is going to click the close box before the thing even loads. And a large percentage of people online now have pop-ups turned off in their browsers. They have already closed the door to you!

Because of the high rate of pop-up blockers, internet marketers now use what they call “unstoppable pop-ups”, which are actually floating menus. Now, consider for a moment. Pop-ups tick people off. So they turn them off. Instead of finding another way to market, you are going to FORCE them to view what you already know TICKS THEM OFF? This is NOT a smart marketing idea! You cannot force people to see things your way. Marketing by taking away people’s choice is BAAADDD! It just makes them angry, at YOU. Which means they will NEVER buy from you!

Then we have the pop-under. Some people say that they are better because they only show up when the browser window is closed. But they are still just a pop-up by another name, and they get the same treatment – punch that X as soon as you see it, to get it to go away! And you STILL pay for the ad if you are paying by the impression! You just paid to have someone tell you to go away!

Pop-ups and Pop-unders may have been a successful thing at one time, but for all but the most incredulous internet users, they are now an ineffective marketing tool. If you prize integrity, and hope to enjoy a lasting and friendly relationship with your customers, DON’T USE THEM!

Go for simple text ads, on a content related page, or banner ads that are targeted for your market. They will get you further than annoying pop-ups, and they give people the choice to be interested or not, so those that click through will do so from intelligence and genuine interest.

Repeat Submissions to Search Engines

Those who tell you that you need to submit your site repeatedly are either mistaken, or trying to get you to buy their service.

It is not necessary to submit your site to the search engines more than once, and you really don’t even need to do it once if you have other websites!

Search engines regularly re-spider the web. When they do, they follow the links on established sites, so if your site is linked into an existing site, it will get found and indexed, even if you do not submit it. Once it is found, it will be re-spidered every so often – if you make regular changes, it will get spidered more often, if you let it sit there for six months without any changes, it will get redone less often.

The only time you need to resubmit a site is if you change its domain, or if you neglected it, and then made a whole bunch of changes that you want to have indexed right away. Otherwise, forget resubmitting, it is a waste of your time, and in fact, may be seen as spamming by some search engines, which can hurt your site. In fact, many search engines tell you outright to not submit your site more than once unless there have been major changes (and then it is only necessary if it has been unchanged for a year or more).

Don’t buy a service that promises to resubmit on a monthly basis. It is a waste of money, and totally unnecessary (and can reputedly get you banned). Just let the search engines do their job, and you get on with your job, which is providing good products or information!

Your time and effort can be better focused on creating new pages, adding new products, or otherwise making regular enhancements to your content. It is the most effective way to keep your site accurately indexed, AND the best way to attract good visitors!

Search Engine Submission Services

I am not talking about hiring someone to submit your site to the important search engines and directories. I am talking about paying a fee for an automatic submission service, which promises to submit your site to 1000 search engines (or more), with the implication that they can do a better job than you can.

Save your money, because there is a double lie in these kinds of promises.

Those 1000 search engines only include a few that are really important. There are only about 10 search engines that matter anyway, and of those 10, about half do not accept automatic submissions, but require you to do so manually. So the implication that they can do more, and better, is false on both counts!

You see, once your site gets indexed by the most important search engines, the smaller ones will pick it up over time anyway. And they don’t make enough of a difference for you to worry about spending the time to list on purpose. 99% of your search engine traffic is going to come from the top 10. Is it worth spending money or time chasing 990 other listings just for 1% of your total traffic? You can get many times that much more traffic through other less expensive and less time consuming marketing methods, and that 1% will come to you free in time anyway.

Take the time instead, to search out niche directories (not the same thing as Free For All sites or Free Classfied sites). Get listed in those, and that will help you much more in the long term, and it will help your search engine rankings as well. And of course, put some effort into article marketing, and other smart marketing tactics. If you are going to pay for something, pay for inclusion in a directory network that will give you good exposure for a low dollar amount – it will beat paying for search engine submission by a wide margin.

Do it smart. Don’t be taken in by promises that a quickie service can do more or better. It can’t. It will do a less efficient job, and miss the really critical parts of the job, and the parts that it does do more of don’t matter one bit.

SEO Black Hat Tactics

Black Hat Search Engine Optimization Tactics have the potential to outright harm your marketing efforts.

Shoestring startups may have a great need to depend on natural traffic from search engines, and intelligent search engine optimization is critical to maximizing free and low cost marketing efforts. Use of black hat tactics is not a wise use of your resources.

Black hat tactics are those which search engine companies have specifically stated are not encouraged or allowed by them. Such tactics can get your site banned from the search engine indexes. Not something that helps your business.

Some of them will give you short term immediate benefits, but it will backfire and plummet to nothing when it catches up with you.

So, avoid the following types of search engine rank strategies:

  1. Misleading tags or titles on your pages.
  2. Invisible text or invisible image links.
  3. Overuse of keywords in your pages. Use them naturally instead.
  4. Any tactic that seeks to “trick” search engines into giving you higher ranking.

The goal of the search engine owners is to accurately index the contents of websites. If you help them to achieve that goal, you’ll be on safe ground. If you try things that are aimed at elevating you above what they consider to be your deserved placement (by their rules), you’ll actually do yourself more harm than good.

Focus on good quality content, and you’ll not go wrong – good content ranks above everything else, and will get you further than all the tricks and technical tweaking ever will if you don’t have good content.

See the Google Webmaster Guidelines for more information on what to do and what not to do.


Undervaluing Viral Marketing

Undervaluing Viral Marketing is as much of a mistake as overvaluing viral marketing. Most people who do one or the other simply do not understand how it really works, and how it can benefit you best.

I have been involved in several book projects which leveraged the power of viral marketing, with the power of joint venturing. In other words, a group of authors collaborated to produce a viral book, and then each of them used their established distribution channels to promote it. The power was far reaching, and I have seen direct and trackable benefits from that effort.

Now, I have also encountered people who refused to participate in this type of venture, feeling instead that the book should be marketed for a price. They failed to realize that when a book is promoted as a viral marketing tool, with many people distributing it, it gains power to bring in business. That is worth more than the price of the book. If a similar book were charged for, it would have to be distributed directly, and the marketing of it would eat up a great deal of the profit from it. Further, it would not work as effectively as a viral marketing tool.

If you have the opportunity to participate in a viral marketing collaboration, consider carefully before you turn up your nose and demand compensation. In a collaborative effort you may have to actually give very little – write a few paragraphs, or even a page or two. You’d do as much to produce an article for article marketing. In return you get advertising power that is at least equivalent to that of an article, only it will reach a different market than an article would. And the power of that advertising is worth quite a bit in dollars and sense.

It just amazes me that some people will demand payment for every effort they make, and then turn around and cry that you cannot market successfully without spending money. With viral marketing (if you do it right), you take the time, and it compensates you in the end as though you had spent a great deal more money than you could have earned in the time you took to do your part.

That’s worth doing free.

Pay Per Click Gambling

Pay Per Click is not always gambling, but there are people who would have you believe that it is as simple as paying your money, writing your ad, picking out a few keywords and then sitting back to watch your income explode. T’aint so… The reality is much more dismal than that!

Pay Per Click marketing is a skill. Doing it right takes time, analysis, research, and then continuing monitoring, reanalysis, and adjustment.

AdWords gets the most attention in this type of advertising. And it is the hardest system to use. It does offer more flexibility than other systems for making different kinds of adjustments and for tracking results, managing multiple campaigns, etc, but there is a definite learning curve, and to ignore it is certain disaster. AdWords, without understanding, can open a great sucking hole in your marketing budget that fails to return anything at all!

Don’t gamble with Pay Per Click. Start out with a simpler system, and learn to use it well. Once you know how to make money with it, then try AdWords and be willing to study and learn how to make it do what you want it to do.

And never use Pay Per Click with a business that cannot support the cost of clicks. Remember, with PPC, you pay for every site visitor, regardless of whether they buy or not. So you might have to pay quite a bit to get site visitors. If you have a low per order profit margin, then PPC is not going to work for you. If you have an ad supported informational site, the chances are extremely low that you’d be able to get PPC ads at a low enough cost to offset the even lower returns from PPC income on your site (you pay more for incoming clicks, and you pay for EVERY incoming click… outgoing clicks pay you LESS, and only 1 in 100 or fewer people coming in, will click an ad to go out… do the math!). Paid Inclusion may be a better option for ad supported sites.

Gambling means that there are more losers than winners. Education is important with Pay Per Click, otherwise you might as well be rolling dice.

Search Engine Optimization and Nothing Else

This isn’t actually ALL bad. It can work in the very LONG term. But it won’t build your business for you without some other intelligent marketing alongside it.

Search Engine Optimization can only get you so far. There is so much competition out there, that you’ll have a hard time, especially with a startup, in achieving high rankings. Not that you HAVE to have high rankings to get decent traffic, but if you focus all your efforts on more and more search engine optimization, you’ll miss out on a whole bunch of simpler, and more effective strategies.

With SEO and a small business, just do the basics. Get your keywords into your content, optimize for one or two phrases per page, keep your site design clean and search engine friendly, give your page a good code title, put alt tags into your images, good meta tags into your code, and then move on to other strategies.

Get good backlinks to your site, use your signature line, participate in networking forums to get your name out there and learn, and market through other good quality free and low cost methods (online AND off). Lay a good foundation with your site, and then focus on actually marketing it. Because search engine optimization is just an enhancement to marketing, not the whole ball of wax.

Autoresponders for Everything

There are “marketing experts” who will tell you that you cannot run a business online without an autoresponder, when the truth is that it is merely another tool, which you may choose to use, or not to use.

Overuse of autoresponders depersonalizes your business, and harms your ability to build a solid relationship with your customers.

The right way to use them is to provide scheduled informational delivery, instant delivery of information that is requested, or to complete a process that is dependent on verification from your customer. An autoresponder should ONLY be used for sending out information that is the same every time – use instructions, download acknowledgements, standard support availability mailings, mini-courses, ezines or newsletters. If having it sent by autoresponder would provide additional convenience and value to your customer, then it is a good use. If it is a substitute for personal attention, then it is NOT an appropriate use.

To think that an auto-responder is a simple, or even necessary, part of internet business, is flawed reasoning.

First of all, setting one up takes some time, and certain skills. You must learn to use the autoresponder system that you choose, and you must learn to configure it properly to do the things you want it to do.

You must also be able to write effective instructional or sales materials that will achieve the purpose behind the utilization of the autoresponder. This involves producing the written materials, and then insuring that they are worth sending. Self centered emails sent by an autoresponder will not help your business.

It also costs to use full featured autoresponders. Cost generally varies depending on volume, but you can expect a minimum of $10 per month, usually more.

The last aspect to using autoresponders is that if you have no customer base, and no traffic base for a website, you’ll have to build that in order for the service to benefit you at all. They are not an instant solution for telling people what you want them to hear! It is hard work getting enough people to make the service cost effective.

So, remember the following points: They take time and money to set up, they do not work for all businesses, they are more of a hindrance than help if used wrong, and you CAN build a business without one if you choose to do so.

If you choose to use one, provide quality information, don’t use them for things that are meaningless (like out of office messages when you are gone less than two days!), and be polite about not abusing the privilege of having access to your customer’s email address.

Misleading Email Subject Lines

Dumb, dee-dumb-dumb… What is the purpose of trying to get someone’s attention by one thing, if you are only going to lose it as soon as they see what you are really talking about?

When you are trying to make a point with marketing, the sooner you get to the point, the better. If you put a subject line in emails with one topic, and then make your email about something else, you just wasted your time by deceiving them. Try going to a park full of kids and hollering, “Free cookies!”, then when all the kids come running, hand out lettuce instead. They will all call you a liar, and then go look for REAL cookies!

The only people who use misleading subject lines are people who are selling illegal or unethical things. And even that is pretty stupid. Because the subject line is what tells people whether they want to open the email or not. They only do if they think what is inside will interest them. If they GET inside and find that something else is there, then they’ll kill the email because:

  1. It was not what they were interested in.
  2. They now know you are a liar and they won’t trust you for anything.

Spamming and dishonesty are pretty stupid to begin with. Mimicking their tactics will only lump you in the same group with them. No honest business owner would want to go there!

Duplicated Instant Websites

Instant Websites are presented as an all in one business solution. The real truth about them does not sink in until it comes to marketing, and the truth then really bites if you don’t know what is causing it to fail, or what to do about it.

Instant websites come in several varieties, but all of them have the same kinds of problems:

  • Virtual Malls – You get a site that is duplicated, and stuck in a subdomain or sub-folder of someone else’s site. You can’t ever really make these unique, and many marketing avenues are closed to this kind of site.
  • Business Packages – You get a site that is essentially the same thing as a Virtual Mall, only it is for a specific MLM or direct marketing package. Same problems as Virtual Malls, you have to market them differently than you are lead to believe you have to.
  • Replicated Websites – These are sites that are pre-built and sold to multiple people. Search engines penalize them for duplicate content, even if the sellers tell you they do not. This kind you upload into your own webspace, and you CAN change them.

The problem with these types of websites are that your primary sources of free marketing are closed to you one way or another. Search engines will not index sites that have nothing but duplicate content, which means you don’t get any free traffic that way. It also means that article marketing and link placements have only the power of their own clicks, and give you no other exponential benefits like they will with a regular website. Further, if you have a subdomain, or an affiliate type link, most search engines and directories now will not allow you to directly advertise those sites. You cannot use link trades or ad swaps with business packages or virtual malls, because there is no place for you to put a reciprocal link on your site. Even if you try paid ads, some venues will not allow you to market that type of site directly.

Replicated websites also have the further problem that they may contain links that go to sites that have been banned, or that are low quality, which will hurt your reputation with the search engines. Pagerank of the sites that are linked into it are not the problem, unless they have been banned. Site quality very much is an issue, and those links can hurt you. Some articles in replicated sites may also be poor quality, which can hurt your site’s reputation.

So, avoid a business that has one of these unless you want to take the time to market in different ways. There ARE ways to cope with each of them, but they take much more work than is implied most of the time before you buy.

For Virtual Malls and Business Packages, you need to build a small site of your own. Put up a Home page, a Contact page, and an About page. Add some informational articles if you want it to attract better traffic. You can put in articles that deal with topics that are related to your business. Link your business site into every page (you can do that in a sidebar where it fits quite naturally as an extension of your small site). Then promote THAT site instead of your business site. The search engines will index it, you can list it in directories, and you can market using article submissions. Link trades fit nicely into it. Plus you get to put in your own testimonial, tell your own story, or give your own personal reasons for being involved in your business. That can have a powerful influencing affect, and begin the process of building a relationship with your prospects.

For a replicated website, make it unique. Check the links on the pages for quality, and check the articles to make sure they are useful and well written. Remove any pages that you don’t like the content to (that will help make it different and improve the quality), change the filenames and the links to them, add comments on each page, giving your opinion of the articles on the site. Then upload it and register it, and it will do OK because it is no longer a duplicated site – it is unique, and it adds something to the informational content of the web, and that is all the search engines want! To keep it earning, learn how to add new pages, and how to find articles to add to it (this isn’t hard – go for quality and good information). This process is time consuming, and a LOT more work than you were told it would be, but it is still much faster than building a site from scratch, and can be a very helpful way for new businesses to get a foot in the door more quickly.

These items are not disasters unless you don’t know the catch. If you do, and can work around it, then you can be much more successful using them.

There is only one kind of Instant Website that does not have these problems, and the reason it does not, is because you copy and paste your own content in (from a packet of reprintable articles). The trade off is that you have to do a little more work to get the site up and running, but you get a site that is totally unique, fast to build, and which has good support behind it if you purchase from the right place.

Doorways and Portals

Another item that has an appropriate and legitimate use, and a harmful and unwise use.

First of all, I need to define what this is referring to, since these terms are used in more than one way. A doorway page is a single page which links into one or more sites. A Portal is either a large all in one, comprehensive website, or it is a single page that links into a large number of websites.

The bad use for these is when you splatter doorway pages all over the web, to link back to your site, to make it appear that your site has greater link popularity than it actually does. Some people use a doorway page to do this with multiple sites, to imitate content, and they call it a portal. But it is not a true portal site.

If you misuse doorway sites, then one of two things will happen:

The search engines may just ignore the doorway pages as being unimportant – they add no content of value to the web, so they are not even indexed.

Some people say that using them can get your main site banned, others say that it won’t. I don’t feel it is worth the risk either way, because I don’t have time to gamble on a known loser.

The legitimate uses for these are:

Portals are actually large sites that cover a range of related topics, or a large topic in a comprehensive manner. They can be a very successful and highly respected resource online. It is only when they are degraded to web spam that they are not a good thing.

Doorway (or gateway) pages are acceptable if used only as a means of providing a single marketing domain for a large number of quality sites which are owned by the same person. They should never be used as a means of getting multiple links to search engines for a single site. Creating one that links into multiple sites, so that you can put just a single URL on your business card is acceptable, but even then, you ought to put additional content into the site – articles relating to the sites you are promoting, new sites that don’t quite justify a separate domain, explanation of your business, etc.

Remember, the search engines want a website to add to the informational substance of the web in a unique way. So any site you create must have a purpose that enhances that objective.

Bad Redirects

Redirects are used by unscrupulous marketers to conceal the final destination of a URL – you think it is taking you one place, it takes you someplace else.

They are also considered a “black hat” SEO tactic when used in this way. There are still a few less than reputable sources online that will recommend this as a means of building traffic, by registering a bunch of domains, and redirecting them to a single domain.

Forget it. Search engines consider bad redirects to be a sneaky tactic if they are used to try to increase traffic through dishonest means. Besides, in the same amount of time that you could set up all those extra domains, you could get that many legit links from established sites, and for the same cost you could purchase effective advertising, so you gain no advantage by doing so.

The only people anymore who use them are people who are intending to deceive. Don’t lump yourself in with THAT crowd.

Redirects can be used when you move part of your site to a new domain, or when you change domains for honest reasons. They can also be used when you remove part of a site, to send people to an error message. Otherwise, leave them alone, they’ll hurt your business. They are not a useful marketing tool.

Instead, go for listings in good quality niche directories, high quality link trades (as the opportunity presents itself), article marketing, and use your signature line politely everywhere you go.