Well, here’s what I thought would be a short little post about Affiliate Marketing, but has now turned into a lengthy rant… I apologize for the length. But, it’s actually my attempt to come to terms with the ethical dilemma going on in my head. Here’s my take on Affiliate Marketing’s Dirty Little Secret – (now) Exposed!
Ok, so, here’s the “thing.” Back when the whole internet thing began ( geez.. really? Is this a story about how my parents used to trudge through 3 feet of snow walking ten miles to grade school?) ..almost… but, not quite. Way back when the whole internet thing began, there was a whole learning curve going on with those of us who adopted this technology quicker than others. So, while many of us were learning things and figuring out ways to monetize this whole thing, there were relatively few “scams” going on then. In addition, there were honest people learning how to build websites and honing their skills to figure out how best to use this technology. Many of us learned “html” (basic computer mark-up language) on our own and by trial and error to find which methods worked, which did not, and which were total turn-offs to their prospective buyers. We also learned about the major search engines and what they required to get on the first page in the search engine results.
“You Have Mail!”
After receiving our “Free AOL Disc” and listening to weird techno sounds emanating from our computer, our online experiences began. Waiting for our dial up connection to talk to some sort of phone contraption that allowed not only email, but allowed us to chat online in “real time.” But, soon after even that, advancing technology changed things again. We no longer need free AOL discs to chat online. Now, we have “high-speed” internet access, cell towers, and satellite access which enables people to chat in real time while looking at each other on our mobile phone screen. “Yes, there’s an app for that!”
Not only did we begin watching and listening to online seminars, now known as “Webinars,” they became the “norm” to present and market products and services. All combined, we now have “online meeting rooms” complete with real-time audio and real time typed chat where you can present your products, and pitch your sales presentation to “attendees – in listen only mode.” It’s amazing how far we’ve come! Simply amazing!
Anyway, over time, marketing gurus became better and better, and pretty soon, there were “third-party” companies springing up which allowed those of us who wanted to earn money from home a way to be paid simply because you have posted some live links on your web-site. We saw the birth and growth of large internet companies, such as Amazon, who also recognized the value of “Affiliate Marketers,” and we’ve seen nothing but growth in this new “work at home” opportunity. This rise in Affiliate Marketing along with other online opportunities allowed many of us to achieve a very real and very legitimate “work at home” lifestyle which, by the way, is expected to grow to over 6.8 Billion over the next five years. (Source: http://mthink.com)
So, OK, let’s now talk a bit about some of these third-party companies… Enter ClickBank!
What’s a ClickBank?
Yes, enter ClickBank, and now, many others that have popped up to enable Affiliate Marketers yet another source of income. ClickBank, and others like it, is a company which acts as a sort of “middleman” between sellers who wish to sell products, especially digital products, and those (Affiliate Marketers) who have web-sites who will publish the links in exchange for a commission fee earned if and when a buyer buys. So, for instance, I am an Affiliate Marketer. I have many links up on this site, and should anyone click on a particular affiliate link, they will be sent to another site and page for more information regarding that particular product. If they actually buy something from that page or site within the set time-period, I may be paid a commission for publishing the convenient link in the first place. This is how Affiliate Marketers are paid for their work.
This process, or service, doesn’t add a dime to the cost of the product for the buyer as the price usually remains the same. What it does do, however, is make sure the publisher, the Affiliate Marketer, who provided the convenient links to the potential buyer will be paid for his/her efforts, creating their site, maintaining the site, and reviewing, writing about, or promoting said product.
Many Affiliate Marketers work very hard at publishing good content for readers, and, as mentioned, those who do buy via the links do not pay any type of higher price for the product when using our links. Affiliate Marketing is established as a legitimate way of earning income online – for sure. In fact, this is one of the major themes discussed on this blog. Earning passive income and building wealth – especially while working from home – is what this whole blog site is about!
But, there is one “little” problem…
BARE NAKED SECRET – EXPOSED!
As the internet has progressed, the scammers have also progressed, but we now see the use of “Limited Product Launches” and “Sweepstakes” to entice Affiliate Marketers to push a particular product – whether it’s a good product or not… But, it’s the “not so good” products that may continue to be “pushed” and reviewed favorably, and that’s the problem…
While it’s true that buyers have become more savvy, this problem is only growing larger. Buyers have automatically become more inquisitive, curious, and are more apt to conduct some research before purchasing some item from some “marketing guru” or affiliate marketer who has simply “told” them this new “XYZ product is the bomb!” But, what good is a biased review to a potential buyer who is really seeking an “honest review?” Buyers don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes… which is why I am now exposing this dirty little secret…
A “BEHIND THE SCENES PEEK” AT AFFILIATE MARKETING:
I think people ought to know not only why someone is just “glossing” over some product just to get it published. They ought to know why they keep receiving e-mails about a particular product, and they also ought to know why someone “may” be writing – shall we say – less than honest reviews.
Let’s talk about the companies who either outsource or have employees who write posts to “fill-up” the search engine results. I have seen many articles about this or that product which really do not offer the buyer any thoughtful insight as to why he/she should buy the product. The marketing guru or blogger is just spewing his or her “opinion,” and they use a variety of labels and descriptive words to capture attention – without offering anything in the way of quality content. They are basically saying “just buy the product because I said so.”
I’ve seen a lot of suspicious articles appear under specific keywords, and when you look up the “who-is” information, the product site, and the “research” site are located on the same server. So, yes, companies do hire, or have employees, who write a bunch of articles to help fill up the search engine’s top pages and to “dilute” any possible negative articles out there by submitting biased “good” articles about the product. …Illegal? No, but Ethical?… …That’s another matter entirely.
Here’s an example: Let’s say that I am a Seller who has created Product A. I now offer this product through one of the middlemen companies who have thousands upon thousands of affiliate marketers out there ready willing and able to publish and market the information about my product and get it “out there” so that I can literally watch the sales roll in and watch my profits soar. (Yes, true… and yes, I’ll be working on a product of my own… soon, I hope!) Anyway, back on track… That’s Capitalism – and, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But, when the company begins filling up the search engines top pages with bogus and biased “reviews” just to do “just that,” buyers really aren’t getting the true picture of the product or opportunity. I mean, seriously, if you “Google” some keyword or a specific product, how many pages do you even bother looking at after the first page? …It’s a known fact, that if you can reach the 1st page of Google, you are pretty darn “golden.” Not only will you get traffic, but you are blocking other reviews from reaching the first page because, as we all know, there are limited spots on the first page of the major search engines: Google, Bing and Yahoo.
In addition to this, Sellers who are using the middlemen sites to help promote their product(s) are also realizing that there are many other people who are also creating and marketing their competing products. More and more people are coming out with their own products, and some are better than others. So, not only do they have to deal with Affiliate Marketers who are offering honest information and reviews, now, they’ll have to be vying for the attention of any of the Affiliate Marketers who can write reviews who, in turn, write and market their product, and can literally make or break them during their “product launch.”
Ah, yes, “The Product Launch!”
The online “Product Launch” came about, I believe, as a way to get the Affiliate Marketers excited for the reason just discussed. There are so many products and software being created on a daily basis now, it’s getting ridiculous to even try to keep up. So, the “Product Launch” is now part of the Marketing campaign and making a product available even “for a limited time!” Vendors create and offer a new product, get it out quickly, use scarcity marketing techniques and build the fear of “losing out” if you don’t “act fast.” Now, as mentioned, many use a time limit, or an amount sold limit, and create a “Sweepstakes” for Affiliate Marketers to push the product out to the buying public – sometimes without even actually “reviewing” it! The sooner, the better! Consequently, many sellers along with the Affiliate and Internet Marketers get people to buy the product before any negative reviews pop up in the search engines… and the buyers “may” pay for a product that is not so great after all.
So, we have competitive marketing efforts and actual “Prizes” being awarded to Affiliate Marketers who can sell the most by a specific cut-off date, and these people earn the respect of other Affiliate and Internet Marketers with recognition and cash prizes… decent sized cash prizes while pushing, reviewing, writing about, and/or promoting what may be a “not so great” product. Legal? Yes, but… Ethical… ? Well, that depends…
Here’s my specific problem, and yes, it’s a bit complicated so bear with me…. I have read bogus and, what I term as, “fluffy” reviews written by obvious biased people who:
- A) have something to do with the product itself (owner, employee, third-party outsourced to provide false reviews and fill up the search engine page rankings, etc.)
- B) is an Affiliate Marketer who who DID NOT purchase it, and just thinks every product is just “wonderful” while promoting it just for the sake of promoting it and obtaining an affiliate marketing income.
- C) is an Affiliate Marketer who DID NOT purchase it, but quickly label it a “scam,” so, here, buy this one instead…
- D) is an Affiliate Marketer who DID purchase it, but didn’t use it, and quickly labeled it a “scam,” so, here, buy this one instead…
- E) is an Affiliate Marketer who DID NOT purchase it, but is promoting it because he or she is just vying for the prize money.
- F) is an Affiliate Marketer who DID purchase it, has since failed to “correct” a “positive” review on a “not so great” product after all, but continues to promote it because he or she is really just vying for the prize money, or
- G) is an Affiliate Marketer who DID purchase it, provided an “honest” review, and may or may not provide a link to the product not because he or she is just vying for the prize money, but because, yes, there are people who would still want to buy something that is “Not Recommended.” This type of Affiliate Marketer still believes in providing others an educated decision by providing an honest and unbiased review while providing buyers their “Freedom of Choice.”
And, yes, I’ll be explicit here for those who haven’t figured it out, I’m more of the “G” type of person, just so you know…
So, now what?
Well, I probably left out “someone” in this entire scenario, but what I’m trying to say is that not only do buyers have to conduct their research before purchasing a product online, now, they also have to glean through all the information being thrown their way in the search engines in order to determine who’s really providing an “honest” review. They now have to determine the writer’s motive for either providing a “Good” review, a “Scam,” or “Not Recommended” Review.
Buyers should be allowed the courtesy to think about whether the writer based his or her “unbiased” review on research, whether it was thorough, or whether the writer / author has actually used the item. At the very least, potential buyers “should” be told up front, and they should also be told whether that writer/author received the item at a discount or for “FREE” in order to provide a review.
Although there’s nothing wrong with basing a review on research alone, shouldn’t it be good, thorough, and truly unbiased research? I think so, but, then, ..that’s me. So, again, it’s totally up to the buyer to determine his or her level of comfort and to determine whether the Affiliate Marketer / Writer / Blogger has purchased the item, has done thorough research, and has even made the effort to write out a well thought out review or opinion of a particular product. This is the only way to earn a reputation for being a trusted source of information.
How to Remedy This Situation?
Well, at first I thought the remedy would be simple. I “thought” that I’d only be writing about products that I purchased and actually tried to use. Even some of the well-established Affiliate Marketers espouse that basic premise when offering advice to beginner Affiliate Marketers. But, the products, software, pdf’s, books, etc., are coming out at such a fast pace now, there’s no way anyone can keep up. In addition, there are so many now that I’d go broke trying to buy them all in order to review them for this blog. That would be totally insane and unreasonable…
Then, I thought, well, I’ll have to conduct thorough research for some while buying some others. But, again, they are coming out at too fast of a pace to keep up and get out the information to anyone who actually may be interested in whatever product is currently available. Don’t forget now, many sellers use the “limited” time offer now, and yes, they follow through which means that some of my readers may lose out on something because I didn’t write a review fast enough or send out an email quick enough… And then, I wonder, who am I to not offer something to my email list just because I haven’t reviewed it yet? In fact, this actually just happened to me!
I recently received an email with a Subject Line about obtaining a list of “Hot Toys for 2016.” I thought – Great! I can put those up on my Day Gifts Site, and get ready for the Christmas Holiday Season! …But, I forgot about the limited “end” date. I got sidetracked with a “family issue,” and I didn’t buy it when I saw it. So, when I remembered and went back to purchase and obtain the list – it was GONE! …I was met with a stark page that simply read: “Sorry, Please input your email address and we’ll contact you NEXT YEAR!”
So, while I struggle with my ethical dilemma, and have now realized myself that I lost out on something that “I personally wanted,” but missed the “deadline date,” here’s my “new policy” when it comes to my readers, my blog and my e-mail subscriber list.
When I offer a Review of a particular product, I will state whether I purchased the product or not, and I will also state whether I paid full price, received a discount, or received it for free.
I think this is only fair to buyers who are looking for honest reviews. Affiliate Marketers / Writers / Bloggers, in my opinion, should be explicitly telling readers whether they have actually purchased it, used it, and are basing their review on this experience – or whether they are basing their review on research. Again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with basing a review on research – if it’s valid research and not just a fluffy article to sway the masses, appease an employer, receive a discount, or win a prize…
I HAVE TWO DISTINCT EMAIL LISTS. I have a blog e-mail list for those who wish to receive updates on my newest posts to my blog (the one you’re reading now). You, as a visitor to this blog, have probably seen a pop up or two to ask you to join my email list so that you can be notified of new articles.
However, I have also begun to collect email addresses from those who actually want “work at home opportunities” and products. (See the Survey Question to the Right ——>>>>) As a result of this ongoing survey, my readers are telling me that they want “work at home opportunities.” Consequently, I am now working on building that email list. I may (and will reserve the right) to combine the two lists because it would be easier for me, and many readers are here anyway to learn about “Building Passive Income and Wealth.” But, for now anyway, there are two separate lists for people to join. Readers can join my blog to receive updates on new articles, and they can also join the Email List to receive “work at home opportunities.” Click the Green and White Book image if you wish to join the “Work At Home Opportunities” list and receive the Free Report. —>>>
The Secret Exposed
So, this is Affiliate Marketing’s Dirty Little Secret – Exposed. Now you, as a buyer, know that there “may” be an ulterior motive when you receive an invitation to purchase something online or via email. And, while I have no problem with people buying things, I have no problem with marketing urgency and limited offers, I have no problem with rewards and recognition, and I have no problem with earning a profit, but I do if the effort disregards, misinforms, deceives, and takes advantage of buyers who are simply trying to learn more about a product. People work hard for their money, and there are honest ways to earn a living. So, the main message, as always, is “Buyers Beware.” In the end, it’s always up to you, the buyer and whether YOU have made an educated decision based on a good, well thought out review or whether the Affiliate Marketer is providing you with as much information as possible to make an informed and educated decision.
My Promise To You
Blog: Overall, all I can really do is to write out my reasoning or justification about a particular product based on either real experience or research, and I will identify which in the post itself. I will also state, in an “Author’s Disclosure,” whether I paid for the product, received a discount, or received it for Free in exchange for a review. I will likely put this info at the top of the article.
EMail List: As for my email list, and those who join to receive “work at home opportunities,” all I can do is try to offer some further insight or statistics that may provide a better reason to purchase something. I do not want my subscribers to lose out on an opportunity just because I didn’t get to write a review yet. More and more vendors are offering “limited time offers” or even “discounted, limited time offers.” Some vendors are truly limiting their products and are not using the limitation as a false marketing ploy. But, it is difficult to determine which are and which are not. Therefore, I will look for and publish any refund rates that may be provided in the same email you receive about a work at home opportunity product.
This particular rate, or any similar information, should shed some light on the amount of refunds provided to customers who have asked for their money back. Obviously, if it’s a high refund rate, the “market” is telling you the product is NOT what it’s cracked up to be. Sharing this information is the only way I can think of to both share some information about a new product and get it published right away so my readers are less likely to lose out on a “limited” opportunity while being forewarned that the product may not be as good as it seems. And, it’s the only way that I, as an Affiliate Marketer, am comfortable in resolving “my dilemma.”
If anyone has any other ideas about how I can provide you with good (and timely) honest reviews and how I can better gain your trust, please feel free to share your opinions, questions, or concerns below. I look forward to hearing from you!
To Your Wealth!
P.S. If you truly want to learn more about becoming an (honest and trustworthy) Affiliate Marketer, there’s no better educational forum than Wealthy Affiliate. Please read my Wealthy Affiliate Review for more info.