Friday, September 22, 2023

The right way to use referral sites


I recently ran across a new-ish referral site called invitation.codes.

It’s a site that aims to be one-stop shopping for referral bonuses. These are the extra sign-on goodies that you sometimes get when signing up as a new user on a site.

Often a website will offer a bonus to its current users for referring new users. This is usually good business practice because the current users will work for free, and only get rewarded when someone signs up. It’s cheap marketing labor!

Even better when the site throws in something for the new user to help the current user get the sign-up. Generally money well spent by the business.

Invitation.codes is a place for people to post their referral codes so they can get the bonuses. There are thousands of users, and about the same number of websites with referral codes. The users try to market their codes to the other users. A lot of what happens is that the users trade sign-up for sign-up.

People promote other third-party platforms … why?

I signed up for the site myself to check it out. I entered my 30-some referral codes and because I was a new user, I got a few profile views. All good.

Shortly after signing up, I looked at my profile and found there was a place to put a link back to my website, which I did immediately. I want to be able to draw people back to my website, and the platform allows it, so I do it.

(Actually, for the moment, I’m not doing that, but will soon. I’ll explain below.)

As I looked around at other user profiles, though, I noticed something. Most of the other users weren’t doing this simple thing to build their own online presence.

Here’s what they were doing:

  • More than half of the users linked to nothing at all. If they had any other places where they were active, I wouldn’t be able to tell from their profile.
  • A handful (maybe a quarter) of others linked to another third-party platform, like a social network or buymeacoffee.com.
  • The smallest number linked to a free website on wordpress.com or some similar platform. (One was on a platform called Jimdo, a European platform that I’d never heard of before.) This kind of thing shows a fair bit of initiative at least.

No one I saw was promoting a website that they owned and controlled. If that link was there at all, it was always someone else’s!

Generate content you own

Now, it is true that you need to participate on third-party sites to get them to work for you. Twitter won’t send traffic to your profile if you never tweet.

However, you need to have a strategy at least to build a primary, owned platform by using these sites.

There are several reasons for this.

You control the content on your own site

Invitation.codes, for example, makes it very easy to add your referral codes into their templates. It does not, however, let you enter things in descriptions that look like web addresses or email addresses.

They’ll block out a lot of web addresses and email addresses that you put in messages, or in descriptions or posts. They want to control how their platform is used, and these kinds of things are inconsistent with their goals of their site.

Not so with your own website! You can put in links that suit you and your goals!

You benefit from the domain authority

Every message, every description, and every link promotion created on or for another site benefits that site. You’re working for them, in a way.

Search engines use algorithms to determine which sites make the top of their results. Active sites with a lot of links in usually rank higher, all other things being equal. Your work on them helps them to rank higher.

And, again, some of this is fine because the site will reward you for participating and adding value. But if it’s all you’re doing, you’re missing out on a lot of the benefits of your work.

Creating content on your own site adds value to “you dot com” and sends signals to search engines that you are worth ranking higher in their results! And higher ranking in the search results means higher value for your website, and for your business!

It’s a lot harder to get your account shut down

Your participation on third-party websites like referral sites lasts only as long as you’re benefiting them.

But sometimes it only takes one misstep for them to cancel you. It may not have even been anything you did; you could get canceled as collateral damage!

After that, you no longer have any access or benefit to your work, though the website keeps all of the people you referred, as well as any content that didn’t run afoul of their mission. Ouch!

With your own website, you don’t have to walk on eggshells. You set the rules. You can produce content and speak your mind without fear of the ban hammer.

(To be fair, getting your website shut down isn’t impossible. If you’re spewing hate, inciting violence, promoting illegal activities, etc., then you could get shut down even if you own the website. So don’t do stuff like that. Otherwise, be your own awesome self!)

How I’m using referral sites to build things

With my account on invitation.codes, I of course put up my referral codes there. More than that, though, I use it to build things of my own.

Members posting their referral codes already have an entrepreneurial mindset, and these are my people, so I start conversations with them through the discussion section and through direct messages.

As I discussed above, most of them don’t have their own website, and as a result, they’re leaving a lot of money and growth on the table by pouring all of their efforts into third-party platforms.

So I chat with them and look to see if they’re someone I’d be interested in helping build their online presence. Since website links are usually automatically removed from messages, I’ve been directing people to the link on my profile, which is allowed. I did have it point initially back to this website, but I’ve changed it temporarily to point to my new Facebook group for building an online presence. Eventually, I’ll develop a page here that’s dedicated to marketing the Facebook group.

Basically, I play by the site’s rules, provide value, and look for tasteful yet effective ways to use the site to escort people to my properties to build my business. I may get some referral sign-ups along the way, but I have bigger goals firmly in mind. The referral sign-ups are the icing rather than the cake.

Build an online presence that you own

If you create content, please start building an online presence of your own if you haven’t already!

I can help! Join my free private Facebook group and we’ll get started with your questions!

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