Shady Marketing Practices – Part 2

Suppose you are considering a purchase and want to find out about a product or a company. Maybe you have a particular product in mind, or perhaps you want to find out what the best options are. It is natural to turn to the Internet to do a search.

When I was preparing to create this web site, I was looking for a new web host. Web hosting is something you need when you have a web site. The web host provides a location for the web site. They provide the services and equipment that allow your web site to exist and to operate.

I already had a host that I used for some of my previous work but I wanted something better for this site. My previous host (which I still kept) had limitations that were likely to be problematic as my site became more popular.

I did a search for reviews on web hosts and found sites that listed the “top 10” web hosts or promised similar results. Many of the same companies kept coming up on the lists. But, from my previous experience and research, I knew some of these companies were poor choices for what I needed. I investigated further and discovered that a great number of those companies were all owned by a single, larger company. That larger company has a history of providing poor quality and service. But, unless you get behind the scenes and find out what people in the industry really think, you will never discover that.

I performed dozens of hours of research before deciding on the host I am using. (In most cases, you can find answers to your questions in much less time than it took me, but web hosting is an area where there is a great amount of bad information and I wanted to make sure I selected a highly dependable solution for my site that was still affordable.) I ended up with a short list and then researched each of those, relying on reports of the experiences of those who had used them. None of the handful of companies that were promising appeared on those “top 10” or “best of” lists. Why were these top choices not listed on the lists of the best?

One Popular Method Used to Promote Products

One of the ways people and companies market their products is by recruiting other people to pass the news about the products along to others.

Companies use salespeople all the time. They may be salespeople in a retail store. Or they may be people sending you ads in the mail, placing ads in the newspaper, or people passing out flyers. On the Internet, it has become very popular to enlist “affiliates,” who do essentially the same thing. The affiliate recommends the product to other people. In return, the company pays them a commission if someone buys the product based on their referral. So, if Joe recommends that you buy Product X and you click on Joe’s link to buy that product, Joe will get a commission for the sale.

This is not a bad situation, necessarily. The company sells their product, Joe gets paid for his work, and you get a good product. The amount you pay is no different whether you go directly to the company or use the affiliate’s referral link to get to the company’s sales page. The commission comes out of the company’s profit. The only problem with this system is if Joe recommends an inferior product and you end up unhappy.

This problem is most likely to arise when the affiliate (or marketer) allows their desire to make money to take priority over honesty. If the marketer misrepresents the product, then the buyer gets taken advantage of.

What many marketers do is look for products to promote that will make them money, but they don’t put in the effort to evaluate the products. Perhaps they take the word of the product creator, or they may be swayed by a trend. But, if the product is inferior and they promote it, or if they promote it to the wrong audience with a promise that it will work for them, the buyer gets taken advantage of. Unfortunately, that happens far too often. It happens often enough that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now expects marketers to disclose when they are receiving a commission for recommending a product.

The fact that someone is receiving a commission for their recommendation does NOT mean that the recommendation isn’t good or that the product isn’t good. Some of the very best purchases I have made have been the result of referrals made by people who received a commission for their referral. I am happy to allow them to receive a commission in return for their passing on a recommendation to me. If it weren’t for the affiliate programs, I would never have found out about many really worthwhile products and services. Some of these have even had free options, which I took advantage of. The affiliate only gets paid if I actually make a purchase. And, if I do make a purchase, since I don’t pay any extra, I am happy for them to get a commission. I do realize that I need to evaluate the recommendation myself, especially if it comes from someone that I don’t already trust.

On occasion, I personally recommend events, products, services, and people that I think are worthwhile. In some cases, I might receive a commission if the person makes a purchase based on my recommendation. But I will only recommend those items that I truly believe are good. I would recommend them even if I were to receive no benefit from the referral. But, if they do have an affiliate program, I may sign up for that program. I might as well take advantage of that opportunity, since I am going to recommend it anyway, since it won’t cost the buyer any extra if they make a purchase. Many other people also operate out of this higher ethical principle.

Nevertheless, there is the potential for people to make recommendations based on the money they will make instead of whether or not the product will benefit the people they are telling. As a result, it is worth considering that possibility if you are receiving a recommendation from someone.

The reviews and lists I mentioned above when I searched web hosting recommendations were based on how big a commission the recommended company paid for referrals. Web hosting is a product where the majority of the reviews you find in the search engines are based on the profit to the person making the referral. Relying on a search or on the reviews that are easily found would have resulted in my signing up with a mediocre or poorly-performing company. It took a lot more work to find reliable information and to sift through it all. You may have to dig deeper to find good information that isn’t based on the profit the information provider will receive.

By the way, the company that I chose for my web hosting also compensates for referrals. However, the amount is smaller than many of those that are frequently recommended.

Another category of product where I find careless referrals made is the “make money online” offerings. Nearly every day, there are several new products being launched and there are easily a dozen “big” launches each month. I get e-mails from numerous marketers about these products every time there is a big launch. Of course, every product is something promoted as something you absolutely need, claiming it is better than the last similar product recently promoted. It would be easy to waste a lot of money if you believe it all.

Some of these are actually really good products. But, it is often hard to tell for sure. Typically, the product creator creates a sales page telling how great it is and then hundreds of people jump on board to promote it. Most of them are just repeating the promises they hear. And some of those products are riddled with problems and are of low quality. You either believe the hype or you don’t. And you take a chance.

Why This Matters To You

The markets I’ve described above are a couple that most of you are not going to be interested in. But they do describe a situation that also exists for products that you are interested in. It is probably just not as blatant and obvious for the products you want.

The Secrets Behind “Reviews”

Here’s an example of something you may have run across. You do a search for something on the Internet and find someone who has created a review of the product. The reviewer puts up a web page that offers a review of the product. In many cases, it is really a sales page the product creator put together and provided to people who want to provide their “review” for it. A variation on this in recent years is YouTube review videos.

These may be good, reliable reviews. But, there is a good chance that many of the reviews you see are “manipulated.” I have heard numerous Internet marketers talk about how to “make money on the Internet.” One of the recommended ways to do this is to create a review of a product that pays a nice commission.

Here’s how they say to do it:

* Find a product: It’s best to look for a product that will give you a good commission.

* Create a review of that product: You can get the information for the review from the company’s web site that tells the features of the product.

* Write an article. Better yet, create a YouTube video. Even better, get the product and create a video where you show the product and talk about it.

* Be sure you include a negative point or two about the product. That negative doesn’t need to be a flaw. Just find something minor that sounds negative and mention it. If you include something negative, it makes you appear more trustworthy because you are showing both sides of the story, not just the good side. People will be more likely to believe you.

* Be sure to include your affiliate link and send them to the site where they can buy the product after they watch your review.

* Collect your commissions. Ka-ching!

What was that? Let me repeat a couple of these for emphasis:

* Select a product based on a good commission, not on how well it solves a problem for people or upon its quality. Finding a good solution to a problem is never even mentioned. It’s all about finding profitable products.

* Although they may recommend buying the product so you can find out more about it, some say you can use the information that the company (or other sources) provides. That hardly sounds like an unbiased “review” to me.

* Include a negative point (something minor) so that people will believe you are giving them both sides of the story.

In other words, it’s all about making money, not about providing good, reliable information so that people can find a solution for their needs.

Some Marketers Are Ethical

Now, to be fair, I have also heard a number of ethical people talk about creating quality products, about being honest, and about truly looking out for their customers. The picture I have painted above does not represent everybody. But there are far too many people that follow the formula above. If you have looked for product reviews, there’s a good chance that you have seen reviews that fit the profile described above.
Even the “Good Guys” May Be Biased

I have found a related trend in some trade magazines. The products for which reviews are provided are often those of big name companies. Many of those campanies are sponsors of the magazine. The reviews themselves may be really good and reliable reviews and they may be good products. But there isn’t room to include every product in the category being reviewed. Some products that are even better than the ones being featured may not be included in the reviews. It is the products of the companies that support the magazine that get featured. So, even though the review may be dependable, there may be other choices that are better which you never hear about.

To summarize:

The bad:

There are a lot of reviews that do not offer an accurate view of the product being reviewed but are basically sales pitches designed to convince you to buy the product.

Some sites offer a list of the top products or the best products, but they are based on the commissions the “reviewer” gets and may never mention the better products because they don’t pay the best commissions.

It’s Not All Bad:

Affiliate commissions do not necessarily mean the recommendation is bad.

Some excellent products are recommended by people who adhere to high ethical principles and only recommend things they truly believe are in the best interests of their followers.

Good products are often promoted using techniques that are also used by shady marketers (especially bonuses and deadlines). Many of the “techniques” are neutral; the problem arises when someone with questionable ethics uses them for their self-interest at your expense.


A quick search may result in misleading information. Sometimes, you need to take more time to uncover the truth.

It is important to evaluate the information you find and to determine how reliable it is likely to be. Knowing the tricks marketers use can help you in this process.