I Don?t Smoke, But I Love a Good .sig!

.sig, or "Dot Sig" as it's affectionately known, stands for "Signature File" and is the text and (usually) other contact information placed at the bottom of email or other computer-based correspondence. It is traditionally used for things like phone numbers, alternate email addresses, mailing addresses, web site addresses, etc. However the real truth is, it can contain anything the author wishes to include. It is like having your very own piece of legitimate, non-intrusive, socially acceptable, 100% SPAM-free advertising space on every piece of email you send or posting you ever make!

Think about that a moment. Really think about it. Do you have a .sig on your emails? Have you ever noticed other people's signatures? Have you ever clicked their links out of curiosity? Have you ever noticed that the links can have absolutely nothing to do with the topic being discussed, and yet it is still considered acceptable to use this space for what amounts to advertising much of the time?

Have you ever stopped to think about how many eyes could potentially be reading your online postings for years to come? Or how far an email you type could go if it is forwarded a few times to various groups of people you don't even know? You may not realize this, but many online forums, Yahoo Groups, etc. are publicly readable; you only must be a member in order to post something to the group. But since anyone, including bots, can read the messages, they are some of the most widely "spidered" content on the internet (see sidebar). This means that your comments or postings could potentially be read by millions of people beyond the one, two, or ten people you intended it for. What would you pay for that kind of targeted advertising? Make sure your .sig is ready!

Googlebot - Your Friend on the WWW
Googlebot is Google's web-crawling robot. It collects documents from the web to build a searchable index for the Google search engine. This automated process is commonly called "spidering" because these (ro)bots crawl the web in their search for information. The key is that they love text. Google tends to rank sites with lots of text content very high - especially discussion forums! Because of this, your online forum remarks can live almost indefinitely, and may be seen by people years from now. This means any .sig you include at the bottom of your post will be nearly eternal free focused advertising.

So, what is the proper protocol for creating a .sig? The internet standard is to place two hyphens (dashes) at the bottom of your email, and on the next line begin your sig. For example, mine looks like this at the moment:

|ARBITRAGE == Risk Free Trades, Profit Up Front!
|Why gamble, when you can win every time!
|www.ArbitrageBusiness.Info - For Business Builders
|www.SportsArbitrage.Info - For Pure Traders
|www.PMLinvestments.com - For All Investors

Notice I said that this is what my .sig looks like at the moment. Your signature is a dynamic thing, and you are free to change it at any time. In fact, you don't even have to have a standard one. Though most email programs have a place for you to put in automatic signatures, you can also simply type two hyphens, hit return, and type whatever you wish to be your signature on that particular email or posting. Think of the possibilities, be creative! Play with formatting and layout, don't be afraid to create simple shapes & boxes as I did above. Beware however that formatting doesn't always survive in emails, especially in html format, so you will want to experiment with sending yourself emails a few times while you get it "just right."

As long as you follow the protocol of two hyphens followed by your content, and place this at the bottom of your email, this is a universally acceptable method of self-promotion. The absolutely most critical component is, that your actual communication whether it be email or a forum posting must be on-topic!

This means you can't just post a message saying "I agree!" followed by your signature, on a dozen forums and not expect to be criticized for it. So make sure whatever you have to say is relevant to the topic at hand, and then be sure to include your .sig at the conclusion of your writing.

I believe that too many investors, business people, artists, and more do not take advantage of this amazingly powerful method of nearly-viral marketing. The major players in web-based email have known about the power of this for years! HotMail for example was a success primarily because of this technique! Back when they first started, their only form of advertising was by putting a small message about themselves at the bottom of every email each HotMail user sent. This meant that, whether they wanted to or not, every recipient of a HotMail user's email was exposed to a HotMail ad with a link to sign up. Because of this, HotMail was my first web-based email account back around 1998. Today, I don't know of any major web-mail provider that does not include a link to themselves in each user's email messages. This technique works; people do click those links!

In closing, I'd like to make a confession. I myself only created my .sig very recently. Though intellectually I knew all these facts and benefits to be true, I just didn't take the necessary action! Now that I have done so, I have received many more website visitors, and participants in some of my business ventures, because they saw my signature and decided to click. Creating this signature was such a little thing, why on earth did I wait so long to do it?!

Don't wait ? take action now. Needless to say, this advice extends far beyond just creating a good .sig!

Jonathan van Clute is a full time investor, educator, speaker, and online options and sports arbitrage trader. In addition to his business activities, he is also a musician, video editor/animator, and one of the world's greatest Segway Polo athletes. He can be reached via email at jonathan@PMLinvestments.com and is speaking at an upcoming teleseminar, visit http://snipurl.com/dotsig for details.

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