Wednesday, August 26, 2009


A competitor?

What's this clown up to?

You oughta know.

Are You A Site Owner?

Then Opt-In To Keep Tabs on the Competition

Most site owners know the story behind opt-ins. Webmasters bait the trap with a free eBook download or “10 Tips to Immediate Wealth.” Pretty tempting. But, we all know what happens when we give up our email addresses to receive a weekly newsletter about a particular industry.

But opting in provides more than straight information. A newsletter from the competition gives you a peek behind the curtain, a look at what the competition is doing. And that info is delivered to your inbox weekly or monthly. Can’t get easier than that.

Opt Ins – Beware the Backsell

You know it, I know it – anyone who’s spent more than 15 minutes on the web knows it. The object of an opt in is to get that email address. Then, backsell. Once the user has given up his or her address, you’ve established a relationship with that buyer. That makes it legal to email them. In fact, it makes it legal to slather the poor opt in with spam until her inbox explodes!

So, do you want to plow through 100 hard sells each morning, along with the 250 legitimate emails you get from customers, clients, vendors and site owners looking for a links exchange? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.

Making Opt Ins Work For You

First, opting in to competitor sites offering a weekly or monthly newsletter reveals a great deal about the web site and the humans behind it. And that information is very useful in creating your site’s unique selling proposition or USP.

Sure, each site owner is going to urge you to sign up for the $97 (why $97?) secret charting system for picking micro-caps, or the seven signs of some horrible disease. You know this going in, so it’s a given. Delete, delete, delete.

But some of the information is going to be very useful to you. For example, let’s say you’re in the micro-cap oil and gas sector. Sign up for every newsletter, free eBook or the “12 Secrets to Micro-Cap Millions.” It’s free.

The secret, of course, is to dissect the newsletter, not as someone interested in buying micros drilling for oil in the Tasmanian Sea. Instead, analyze the content. Is there an article about some aspect of micros you think might make a good piece for your site?

You can’t steal the words. They’re copyrighted and belong to the site owner. On the other hand, as we’ve mentioned previously, you can’t copyright an idea. That means that you can use the competition’s newsletter to spark ideas. Conduct your own research on the topic, rewrite the text (so that it’s completely unrecognizable in relation to the original), add your own spin (so and so says blah, blah in his weekly newsletter but I must respectfully disagree with my competitor.) Then, off you go presenting a different view, opinion, slant or position. Controversy sells.

Don’t be afraid to name your source of inspiration. As long as the rewrite is different from the original in content architecture, vocabulary and even point of view, you haven’t violated any copyright laws.

Meet Your Competitors

As an op in, you hold a special place in the hearts and minds of site owners who now consider you part of the family. This does a couple of things that work to your advantage.

First, you understand more clearly the SEM efforts of your competition. Some provide more news and a little hype. Others cram those weekly missives with garbage that surrounds the one actual news story. Read between the lines. Is the competitor driven by dollars, by slow and steady connectivity and expansion, building links popularity and other reasons the W3 is strewn with digital litter?

Second, as an opt in, you usually have an access point to speak directly to the site owner. If you send a note to, you may get a response. Or your email may be deleted without even a look. The person sorting through the swamp of e-garbage in the inbox clicked you to oblivion.

On the other hand, as an opt in, you’re in a much better position to contact the site owner and say ‘Hello.’ Why? This is a great way to build links popularity – a reason for competitors to link to your site. If you contact Ol’ Bob over at, Bob is going to be more interested in linking to your site for seniors, And why not? You aren’t a direct competitor (you’re not selling eyewear), but your typical site visitor wears glasses and may be looking for a place to order on line.

Links popularity increases all on its own. No more links begging. “PLEASE link to my site. Aw, come on. I’ll be your friend?!) Tough nuggies. If there isn’t symbiosis – if there isn’t something in it for the newsletter publisher, you won’t get the link.

Building Your Own Weblet

As you opt in for more and more free newsletters and eBooks, you have the opportunity to meet other site owners who make up parallel competition. They don’t sell the same products but they do market to the same demographic. So, using our seniors’ site, you could create a small group of sites – a weblet – that’s inter-connected with 10 or 15 different sites all marketing products to your target demographic - seniors.

A word of warning: owners of higher ranked web sites will be reluctant to link to you PR2 site. On the web, you’re known by the company you keep. Conversely, if your site can deliver real, cash-carrying traffic, the fact that your site has a lower PR than your new opt-in friend won’t matter much. You’re making the site owner money.

Expand to other goods and services using the members of your weblet to build links popularity. “Hook up with us and you become a member of a 15-site weblet. That casts a wide net and will drive traffic to your site. In turn, you drive traffic to the sites of other weblet members.”

It All Starts With That Opt In

That’s the door opener. That gives you a look behind the curtain at the people who have created and run the site. Once you’ve become a member of that site’s community, you’re in a much stronger position to seek out a links exchange. And the more opt ins you sign up for, the bigger your site family becomes.

Use the opt in for good topic ideas, but remember, it’s not nice to steal the work of others. In fact, it’s plagiarism and just not worth the hassle. But an idea is just that – an abstraction. Take ideas from competitors’ newsletters or eBooks and rewrite them for your own newsletter or site news section.

Track the competition for a few months until you develop an idea of the drives behind the site. Rip off, low life, straight up, well researched, expert in her field. It won’t take long to determine the nature of the author. As an opt in, the newsletter will also provide contact information that may or may not appear on the site itself. Try to reach the site owner directly.

Explain that you’re a fan of the newsletter, you look forward to it each week and “would you be interested in a links exchange to create marketing synergy.” The site owner is much more likely to listen to your proposition because you’re a member of his or her site community. You opted in.

Finally, if you find that your being spammed to a slimy, spammy death, most newsletters have an opt out link somewhere on the newsletter. If you’ve contacted the author of the opt in and it’s a no-go, opt to take a hike to find another site owner who recognizes the importance of connectivity within a narrow market segment.

Don’t fear the opt in. Take advantage of it to build your own small, interconnected weblet. You’ll expand your site’s exposure, you’ll help visitors continue their searches and search engines will think your site is tops, increasing PR, albeit gradually.

So, don’t view opt ins as time wasting opportunities to backsell. See them as entre into the office of the competitor webmaster – the one who shares your interests and your desire for success.

In no time, you’ll have your own weblet, your own newsletter opt in and a bunch of new online friends all eager to create synergies within their sites and the market.

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