9 Things I’ve Learned from Sleazy Internet Marketing Tactics That Have Changed My Life

I’ve always been fascinated by building and running businesses.

Finding ways to generate money and to make an impact from one’s own creative ideas and one’s own hands, without working for someone else, have been a life-long interest.

I first picked up the book: Starting an Online Business for Dummies when I was about sixteen in a bookshop in Denver, Colorado on a family holiday driving through the mountains.

Since then, I’ve played with using the Internet to create a business that actually worked, with some small successes.

It wasn’t until getting spurred into building a passive income online through reading Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week many years later in 2008, that I began to really envision success online.

A lot of my progression through making an income on the web was guided through reading posts on the ‘Warrior’ forum – an ‘Internet Marketing’ mecca for seekers of the elusive online dollar.

‘Internet marketing’ effectively applies to any form of promotion using the Internet.

I’m however, referring to a segment of the online industry that is more aggressive about making money with methods that often do not add value – they simply support the next internet marketing scheme.

A typical Internet Marketing banner ad with dollar bills included.

A lot of what ‘Internet marketers’ tell you to do is trash.

Many of their tactics embody the sleazy, ‘quick-fix’ mentality that characterises selfish business.

I’ve always read the information coming from this industry with caution and a pinch of salt.

There have been several things I’ve learned from this community that have been a huge source of value for me, however.

Not all of these are things that actually work, rather they have shown me what not to do having tried them.

Here’s a list of the good, and the bad, from Internet Marketing, that will help you too:

1. You Can Earn Great Income Without Working

Internet marketing has produced many successes, notably the fact that you can earn passive income, and a lot of it.

Making profit from selling digital products, affiliate products, physical products (including “drop-shipping”), documents and other stuff over the Internet does work.

You only need to hear a few backed up stories and to see small successes at smaller scales to know that it does.

Eventually building a system that generates passive income will take a lot of work to start, and will likely never be 100% passive, but you can and will get closer to it with the necessary work.

With passive income comes the leverage to be able to do other things, like working on creative projects, and still earn money as you go.

My own experiences shows that it works, even if I did not follow the advice of every ‘guru’ to the book. Seeing the success of others earning well online has motivated me and given me something to get excited about.

2. Building a Big List

The thing you hear Internet marketers raving about more than anything else by far is the importance of building your ‘list’.

This is your newsletter subscribers captured in an email marketing database that you are then able to regularly communicate with through email (I use a great system at Active Campaign).

More than any other promotional channel, email is still considered to be the most effective means to keep your tribe and followers updated on what you’re doing and sharing.

Things like RSS feeds and social networks come and go, but email appears to be sticking about into the long term, even if open-rates are diminishing a little.

So building a large and engaged subscribers list has been an important part of Red Lemon Club’s growth over the years. As of writing, I have close to 15,000 of you clued in to every post and every update.

Not only that, but you are all relevant and interested in what I have to say, because you were brought to the list through my own content that you enjoyed.

Though only a portion will open emails whenever I send them out, there is tremendous value in that and it is growing by 15 to 20 people every single day.

The methods of many Internet Marketers are for short term gains, and shitty.

Many operate on the premise that they will gain a load of subs but also lose a ton with each annoying, overly salesy email they send out.

That’s ok (ish), but you’re not building a loyal, trusting audience that way.

You are distancing yourself from large numbers of people, and it’s more work in the long term.

My strategy is to build a large email list of interested people who are hungry to hear more of what I have to share because they are genuinely benefitting from my content.

I’m not going to lie that the list is vital for making money through my platform.

I have thousands of people listening in to what I do. This includes any news of products that I’m selling. This is, after all, a business and I plan on making a lot of money over the years from all the work I’m putting into RLC.

3. You Will Get More Traction When You Become the Product

The simple fact is that people will become loyal, trusting potential buyers of you and your work when they know they are dealing with a human, especially one with flaws like them.

When you show more of who you are, you are morphing into the product. The product is not just your work and your skills. You are the full package. And that is what people invest in – their time and their money.

The articles I’ve shared that have been met with the best responses by far have been those that bring myself and my own real experiences into the message.

Internet marketing, for the most part, encourages quantity; ‘finding a niche’ and building a system that you can step back from, i.e. you separate yourself from your product.

This might work at large scales, sending a ton of shallow material into the noisy, crowded marketplace, and waiting for a small percentage of people to bite. But you will not have an engaged loyal following, which is vital for a business to be successful, not to mention more efficient and long-lasting.

Obviously it’s harder to create a totally passive income system when you and your personality are part of the brand.

You can still create a huge amount of such residual income when you work on the net, with all the flexibility and little overhead it brings.

“Effective engagement is inspired by the empathy that develops, simply by being human.”

—Brian Solis

4. How to Build a Huge Social Media Following

Reading Internet Marketing ebooks, articles and forum posts taught me a lot about building a social media following, albeit in bits and pieces that I took and refined.

For those of you who think my large Twitter following is to do with me being a genius celebrity, you are mistaken. I’ve worked hard over the last six years to build the following I now have.

I built my Twitter network through a mix of following thousands of relevant people, unfollowing those that did not follow me back after a while, following some more, and sharing consistent, useful, interesting content made for those people.

I’ve been doing this on repeat for years.

Was I gaming the system? Probably. Was doing so useful for me, and others? 100%.

Growing a solid Twitter network with goals in mind and a level of determination has been one of the best things I’ve done, even if my bold following irked a Twitter employee or two.

What I now have is useful and encouraging content that is reaching and helping thousands more people had I otherwise not done so.

Sometimes you have to bend the rules in your favour to come out a winner.

In fact, if you aren’t bending any rules in your life to your benefit, you’re living too comfortably.

5. The Importance of Collaborating for Making a Bigger Impact

One of the best things about the Internet is how it connects people. With this, comes the instant capability for people to share resources that they have already built, with one another.

This means that if you have something to share with others on the web, you can join forces with someone else to quickly expand your reach. It might be that you swap access to each others’ audiences through a newsletter or social media, for example, or you might give your partner a commission on each product that sells through their channel.

In Internet Marketing, this is called ‘Joint Ventures’ – working with one or more partners to expand your resources.

This resource could be access to people, but it can be other kinds, like products, skills, interview swaps, and product collaboration.

For example, if you create an online course, you can expand the value of your offering through including products from your partners in your own shop.

I’ve partnered up with a few people in the past to boost the impact of product launches and it has made a massive difference.

By developing some strong contacts in the right places, I’ve been able to make a bigger impact and expand my audience through little effort beyond getting to know a single individual and agreeing to work together.

Partners don’t just come knocking on your door. They also won’t work with you if they don’t know you or have not heard of you.

This is why it’s so important to start working on developing connections with the kinds of people that can help you over the long run, who also stand to benefit from knowing you too. You must do this as early as possible.

You also don’t have to work with others. Some people may even bring you and your reputation down. So be aware of who you choose to build relationships with.

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” —Isaac Newton

6. Quick Fix Leads to Burn Out

One of my biggest peeves with Internet Marketing is the general focus on the ‘short-term win’.

Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but a lot of these guys talk about creating a product (or borrowing one from someone else through affiliate marketing), marketing the crap out of it, and then moving on to the next product.

This ‘launch promo’ business model can work because of aggressive advertising, but whether the products actually work or are of any quality is dubious. Often the deal they are putting forward is win/lose.

Some may not be, but generally these products are full of fluff with numerous ‘upsells’ that promote products that are about other regurgitated Internet Marketing ideas, ad nauseum.

This approach has shown me one way, but it has also showed me another.

This is the way of building a brand for the long stretch.

Focus on creating posts, pdfs, podcasts, products and presentations that will be absorbed in years to come, not just next week.

Quality, original material that comes from the heart is what will establish you as a strong brand that will develop a loyal following, and a thriving presence for a long time.

Ultimately it takes far more energy to continually build short term products for short term audiences, only to have to start from scratch each and every time.

You must build an ark, not a banana boat. [click to tweet this]

7. How Social Proof is Everything

One of things Internet Marketers have helped me a great deal with is the idea of the importance of demonstrating to people that other people are interested in you. This is social proof.

You’ve heard it before. We are all social creatures. We are stronger, more resourceful humans when we have stronger ties and a thriving network of other people with resources.

Social proof in the form of testimonials, past client success case studies, video reviews, social media followers, numbers of comments on your blog, is important.

Red Lemon Club has been exponentially increasing in popularity because with each new positive testimonial of support I get, through a comment or a tweet, for example, the more social proof I get, and the more people are attracted to me and the brand.

Show the world how others support you. There is no better form of credibility than this kind of social proof. People follow (and buy from) people who they trust. People trust people who are trusted by other people.

Let others do the talking.

8. The Subtle Importance of Online Design and User Experience

Internet Marketing advice, and the sites that spring from it, is crammed full of eye-gougingly awful design, based on excellent layout and psychology principles.

Because one of the central tenets of Internet Marketing is to ’test, test, test’, these guys are extremely perceptive at knowing what works, structurally (rarely aesthetically), for maximising user response and ‘conversion’.

They talk about the importance of the design and feel of the buttons you use; the use of white space on a web page; text colours (hugely powerful); when to use a link; most effective navigation; width of written lines; use of photos, etc.

This knowledge has been very useful for me. But I like to think that with some taste and an awareness of the importance of aesthetic (especially for a ‘creative’ audience), the two combine to create something very effective, and ultimately win/win for all.

I still have a huge way to go in terms of moulding the design and UX of my websites and landing pages, but I have a lot to thank the Internet Marketing world for making what was important clear to me.

“People ignore design that ignores people” –Frank Chimero

9. How to Write Effective Copy

There’s too little time on this Earth to get involved in web publishing of any kind and to write text that does not make an impact, and sway your readers in a particular direction.

Tepid web copy does that. Those websites are invisible for a reason.

The word ’copy’ applies to written text of any kind on a website, or physical document. This includes written text in blog posts, but also the text you see on landing and sales pages, and more.

Closely related to structural design, layout and user experience, the aim of good copy is to deliver a message to the reader as effectively as possible.

Internet Marketing, for the most part, has some spectacular examples of poorly written articles. This is a symptom of the quick-fix nature of the industry.

Developing mastery in something is rarely on the agenda for those that want to make a quick buck.

But for them, writing effective and persuasive sales copy most certainly is. Now you can see it as manipulative, or you can see it as a way of making readers more keenly aware of the product that they need to be buying.

If you have a great product that will truly help someone, why put a barrier between it and the buyer through poorly-written and badly structured copy that does not enliven the reader to take action?

The problem here with Internet marketers, is that they’ve systematised the way they write copy so much that most of them fail to bring any emotion into the writing.

They follow a blueprint, and it can work to an extent. But they don’t really know what they’re truly saying any more.

This has made me realise that attention to persuasive copy is important, but a lot of it should come from your heart, rather than following a set of guidelines.

You need to write what you really mean and feel. It will really come through the writing.

Internet Marketing taught me about the importance of writing effective, high-converting landing pages and articles that make an impact.

For that, I am thankful.



  1. Would you say that as social animals, we are adept at learning from other’s mistakes as well as our own? Or is it that when we see something that makes our teeth itch, it makes us want to know why we react so adversely?

  2. Alex, some great pearls of wisdom here and an important topic imho. There is much to learn from sleazy internet marketing tactics – especially what NOT to do.

    Truth be told, I’ve had to field blows from some of these distasteful marketers for my clients who did not know better. Educating them on what to look for in the future has increased my value to them as a long-term strategic creative partner. One who is truly looking out for their well being to increase their business growth rather than trying to make a short term quick buck.

    Live and learn!

    • Good stuff – yes indeed there is a mix of good and bad that can be learned from these guys and their approaches!

  3. Good article, Alex. The one thing I would emphsize is that it generally takes time to build a successful busienss — lots of time. Although overnight success happens every once in a blue moon, it’s not the norm. It takes time to gain recognition, build a brand and build a loyal audience. The key is to not give up — keep going!

  4. Great article Alex. Sleazy internet marketers can be horrible at times but there are also amazing things you can learn from the. I agree!

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