I got an email yesterday from pointing out a new site that was set up specifically to sell ebooks on a certain topic. The site is two pages: the main page listing four ebooks with brief descriptions of each and links out to their affiliate programs and an ‘about’ page. The person who emailed me pointed out that he thought the site is a great idea and was wondering if copying it would be ethical.
This is a question I’ve struggled with a bit. My main affiliate earner is actually an idea I got from another internet marketer who focuses on travel sites. He didn’t tell me what he was doing, but I noticed his site, thought it was a great idea and set one up for myself with great results and thousands of dollars in earnings. Since then, dozens of people have jumped on the idea with copycat sites so I’m happy I got in there early before the masses. He wasn’t bitter at me for using his idea and I certainly can’t blame anyone else for wanting a piece of the action. It’s the nature of business.
There are few barriers to entry in the internet marketing game, especially for simple concepts and sites without any fancy programming involved. A one-page website with a list of related affiliate programs is super easy to copy. The difficult part about affiliate marketing isn’t creating the site or finding the affiliates, it’s coming up with the idea for which keywords to target so that people who come to the site are ready to buy. When someone has already done this and goes into detail about how much they’re earning, it is tempting to want to grab a piece of the pie for yourself. Once you have everything set up it really just comes down to who is doing a better job at SEO.
I am happy to talk about most of my websites on this blog but you will notice from time to time that I mention a site without giving the URL or too many details away about the exact topic or revenue stream. The reason I keep them quiet is because they are simple sites and would be very easy to copy. In creating them I did a bit of keyword research, stuck up some simple sites and now I’m hoping for the best. Because anyone could spend an afternoon and replicate one of these sites, I prefer to keep them quiet, at least until they’re at number one in Google with a zillion backlinks.
So far these small, simple websites are based on ideas I have thought of myself and I have no idea if or when they’ll pay off. It would make a lot more sense for me to work on an idea that is already proven so if I stumble onto a website that I know earns money, I will study it, check out the competition and consider launching a copycat site. This isn’t something that’s happened yet, but my eyes are always peeled. If I don’t do it, someone else will.
What do you think? Is it ethical to copy an idea for a website (I’m not talking about copying at site word for word, just about the idea) and launching your own version? If you see a simple site and you know it earns and doesn’t have much competition… is it stupid to ignore it just because someone else got there first?