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Articles for Webmasters     How Web Sites Can Afford to Give Away iPods, Laptops and Gift Cards


Weíve all seen the online ads: sign up, click on some links, refer a few friends and earn an expensive item. Sometimes itís an iPod. Other times, youíre earning a new video-game console. There are also laptops, big-screen TVs and high-dollar gift cards available (among other things) depending on which site you visit.

You donít have to pay for the privilege, either. Signup is free Ė and you donít even have to enter a credit card number. Just sign up and start earning those expensive electronics.

This sounds like a ridiculous, obvious scam, but itís not. Many Internet users have in fact earned or won their electronics from these sites. Some users upload photos of the delivery truck pulling up at their houses. Others post photos of their rewards. Another trust-builder is the fact that journalists have investigated some of these sites Ė and reported that the goods really do arrive as promised.

The truth is that many ďgiveaway sitesĒ really do ship the items they claim to have in stock. You will receive your iPod, laptop computer or whatever else you signed up to earn. But how can these Web sites afford to give away items for free? Where do the companies get the money to do this? Did they legally acquire the iPods, computers, gift cards and other prizes? Are the items authentic or fake?

These are all good questions. Savvy consumers and Internet users should ask these things before signing up for any offers or sites. Itís the smart thing to do, after all. Hereís how the companies can afford to give away the merchandise Ė and how you can earn brand-new stuff.

When you sign up, you have to give valid addresses (e-mail and snail mail) and a telephone number, among other things. Make sure that all of your information is legitimate: otherwise, you could have problems earning your free stuff.

Once youíre signed up with the site, you have the chance to refer your friends. Some sites require you to refer a certain number of people: otherwise, you donít get your stuff. Others make this part optional. Either way, referring friends will only help you earn your rewards. And because some sites allow you to earn more than one item, you canít hurt yourself by referring too many people. Just make sure that you donít spam or flood the Internet with unwanted messages: itís annoying and, in some cases, can cost you your rewards.

Most sites work on a points system. An iPod, for example, could be worth two thousand points. That seems like a lot, but many sites will give you points just for joining. So in reality, you donít have to earn all two thousand points: a couple of hundred or more are already credited to your account.

You earn the overwhelming majority of your points by completing offers. The giveaway site has hundreds, or even thousands, of links to advertisers: click on the links and complete the surveys, buy the merchandise, register for free newsletters, et cetera.

Example: You might receive one point for clicking on a link to a record club. But if you sign up for the club, youíll earn more points Ė thirty, forty or more depending on which site youíre using to earn your free stuff.

Another example: A pharmaceutical company might want you to fill in a form (name, address, et cetera Ė standard information) and print a coupon for a free trial of medicine. You donít have to actually redeem the coupon to earn your points, though.

Some of the offers are free. The advertisers want you on their mailing lists so that they can send you e-mails and, in some cases, sell your information to other sites for the same purpose. Thatís not a big deal, though, if you use a Web-based e-mail account for these offers. Just make sure that itís not your ďregularĒ address. You should use a real account, though, instead of making up an e-mail address: if you put in fake information, the giveaway site cannot (and will not) verify that you really signed up for the offers.

Other offers cost money. These, of course, are worth more points. If you actually want the products Ė and are not already registered with the sites that offer them Ė you might be able to earn enough points for your reward in just a few weeks. If you decide to make a purchase, itís a good idea to use a ďdisposableĒ credit card. That way, if your personal information is compromised, itís not a big deal: the card isnít associated with your bank account.

You can also sign up for free trials. Many of these require a credit-card number or bank account. This is another reason to use a ďdisposableĒ card. Itís a valid and fair way to earn the points without compromising your private data.

Eventually youíll earn enough points for your item. When that happens, you redeem the points and wait for the delivery truck or mail carrier to bring your merchandise to your door. This can take a few weeks or longer, though. Be sure that you read the estimated delivery time before you redeem.

Because the advertisers pay the site tons and tons of cash for the promotion, the site can afford to give away merchandise. Youíre basically volunteering to view the ads and sign up for the offers in exchange for your stuff. This works out well because everybody is happy. The site earns money. The advertisers increase their mailing lists, customer databases or sales. And you get free stuff.

Basically, you are volunteering to be part of the target audience. The advertisers know that, because you must view the ads or sign up for their offers to earn the points, you will pay attention to their advertisements. This is a more targeted advertising tactic than, for example, placing an ad banner at the top of a Web site.



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