Blogs and the Art of Deception

trustIt’s no secret that I love social media marketing.  I view social media as a natural and predictable “evolution” of the web.

Things have gotten very “wild wild west” on the web and social media is the “natural” next step in the never ending pursuit of an answer to the question, “Is this for real?”

If you’re “for real” – if you’re starting a “real business” offering goods and services- then social media marketing is going to be your new best friend.  Just ask Jannie Funster …. who has recently released her first CD.  Jannie received flowers from fellow bloggers Patricia of Patricia’s Wisdom and Davina of Shades of Crimson to celebrate the CD’s release.  These women are “for real” – as are the dozens of blog commenters who hang out at Jannie’s blog for their daily dose of music and fun like Betsy Wuebker and J.D. Meier.

What a STARK contrast to an ugly “seedier” side of the internet upon which I stumbled this morning – which is the ANTITHESIS of social media marketing.  This site tries to emulate social media’s favorite tool – a blog –  to trick you into trusting the site’s owners enough to easily part you with your hard earned money.

Brief Background….In the early days of the web,  geeks gathered online and communicated freely with each other. In those early days – communication was good – commerce was bad. Slowly but surely, commercialization took root on the web.

Enter the internet marketing gurus. “Make easy money on the internet” was their battle cry.  They set up single “squeeze page” websites on domain names ripe with keywords, set up a Google Adwords campaign on long tail (a.k.a. cheap) keywords, sit back and watch the money roll in.

Then, Google got wise – and the gig was up.  Around this time, the new battle cry began to sound “Blogs are the way to easy internet wealth!”  However, it wasn’t long before the “easy money via the internet” marketing guru wannabes discovered TWO ugly truths about blogging….

  1. Blogging is labor intensive.  Creating original, quality content takes time and talent which are definitely not attractive ingredients in a recipe for easy money.
  2. Blogging is transparent…  with a real blog – people can leave comments.  While the blog owner definitely has the ability to moderate said comments – comments are definitely a way for a blog owner to gain credibility with readers.

I shouldn’t be surprised to see the latest “internet marketing” creation – the FAUX blog.  Maybe it’s been around for a while, but this is my first faux blog encounter.

This “faux blog” I found is truly a marketing masterpiece and definitely a study in the art of deception.

I don’t want to offer an endorsement of this product so I’ll use the time honored “screenshot” to illustrate.  (As an added “bonus”, the screenshot will live on for as long as my blog remains active – while I strongly suspect that the site in question will not.)

I found this faux blog via an ad placed on a REAL blog… the first in many brilliant moves by a marketing genius.

fauxblogad I have to confess – I LOVE this marketing tactic!   This ad really stood out in a sidebar cluttered with various ads.  Even though I usually ignore such “get rich quick” kinds of ads – I had to see what was going on with such a great design on an eye catching ad.  I was taken to my first “faux blog”:

faux blog screen shot It sure looks like a blog, doesn’t it?

It’s not.   It’s faux through and through – even down to the “google adwords” box to the far right which is just links to other “articles” on the website a.k.a. faux blog.

This “faux blog” is a study in marketing genius.

If you scroll to the bottom of the faux blog you’ll even see “comments” – just like a real blog.  Since I’m not linking – I’ll include yet ANOTHER screenshot -

fauxblogcomments21

Every comment – down to the avatars – is hard coded.  Those “user avatars” are simply images living in the images folder on the site.

The “comments” are all carefully crafted as part of the “sales pitch”. Even the fact that YOU can’t leave a comment is “explained” by the blog owner “closing” comments – due to spam.

This “faux blog” is a work of art – the art of marketing AND deception.

I was going to link to this blog as an example of one of the three types of blogs and illustrate the Capitalists use of a self hosted WordPress blog – until I looked at the code.  (Hey, then it’s officially “work” related – right?)

To say that the site is working would be an understatement.  The links on the faux blog take you to another site where you are greeted with an opportunity to see if you “qualify”…  in the internet marketing biz, this is known as a SQUEEZE PAGE:

squeeze

If you fill out that form – and I’ll bet that you’ll find you are “qualified” to give them your money as I was!!!

(Note:  I didn’t give them a working phone or email address – I don’t suggest you do either.)

Next, you’ll see a similar screen where you have the opportunity to give them your credit card info where you can pay $1.97 to have this VALUABLE information sent your way.

When it comes to giving a REAL credit card number, I quit playing.  “I’m out.”

However, the site creators anticipated that – which is the reason for the initial “qualification squeeze page”.  At least they got my phone number and email address out of the advertising dollars they spent to get me here.

Oh, I’m in good company arriving at the squeeze page site…according to reliable online traffic spying tools,  the site has gotten almost 3 MILLION unique visitors over the past three weeks.  The faux blog is just ONE of many referring sites contributing to that flood of visitors.

Barbara Swafford over at Blogging Without a Blog wrote a post, “What If?” where she asks if her readers are prepared for their blog to go “viral”.  I acted like a party pooper in the comments and stated that most blogs aren’t set up to take full advantage of a “surge” in popularity and pointed out that even a mild traffic surge can cause huge problems for the blog owner.    For example, when one of Cath Lawson’s post went “viral, her web hosting company shut her down her site without warning.

It takes a lot of planning and preparation to take advantage  of (a.k.a. make money from)  a viral blog post.

Right now, I’m kind of feeling like an honest politician because I’m an “ethical marketing consultant”.  On the one hand, I really appreciate the planning and strategy behind the faux blog.  It really is a work of ART when it comes to science of marketing.  However, I HATE the deceptive nature of the piece.

I actually started to think I was being naive in my belief that telling the TRUTH about your products and services is the path to marketing success until I remembered all the REAL people I’ve worked with who achieved REAL success by doing just that.

How many of them got 3 million visitors to their site in three weeks?  None.

However, unlike the faux blog above and the ensuing squeeze page site- their blogs will still be around this time next year and beyond.

If you wonder how I can confidently predict this site will be short lived, read more about the future of marketing in the land of social media in Why Coming “Social Commerce” Era Should Terrify Brand Marketers.

Your thoughts are welcome below….

Comments

  1. Hi Kathy,

    What a great topic. Talking about faux sites, I landed on one and it was set to claim some young lad had made a kazillion dollars (or some unrealistic) amount with a blog/site and he just happened to have been born, raised and living in the city where I live. Curiosity got the best of me so I looked in the phone book for his name. You guessed it – nothing. I then entered the URL of the site into my search bar and the landing page showed he was born and raised (same story) in some other city. It was a great “scam”, but what concerned me the most was a lot of people believe everything they read online and get caught up in that “gotcha” – just like the one you tested.

    Like you, I believe in being honest and ethical in my online activities. And like you said, we’ll be around in next year and beyond.

    P.S. Thank you for the mention. I truly appreciate it.

    Barbara Swaffords last blog post..What If…

  2. Hi Kathy – Thanky for the linky!

    I have to admit to reading this post three times, and I still don’t totally understand what the phony is doing. It seems like a lot of work, but maybe if you really know how to code, it’s not. This just reminds me of what my dad used to say, “Don’t bullshit a bullshitter.” I think he meant it’s a lot more work to create a facade and maintain it, than it is to be real. If you’ve fried your braincells like I have, it’s easier to tell the truth because then you don’t have to remember your lies.

    Somebody (like you) could probably make a bundle (off people like me) on an e-book telling how to tell a phony site. :)

    Betsy Wuebkers last blog post..LESSONS FROM THE ROAD

  3. Thank you for the mention and I am not sure I understand all of this information and real and unreal, but I am always left wondering if everything thing has a scammer/faker/ deception attached to it. I am getting telephone solicitation from New Jersey and Florida right now so I just got caller ID and keep reminding my partner not to answer those calls – ever, but he doesn’t think about it and does – I am going to be gone for 3 weeks – it worries me!

    Maybe Bloggers need a weekly fact checker post to go to? Maybe that is already out there?

    Patricias last blog post..Hesitation

  4. How many of them got 3 million visitors to their site in three weeks? None.
    I think that is funny. When someone starts a blog they first want Digg to crash it, but not have our site taken down. Sorry Cath!

    This is a very interesting article and I am glad I read it. I have to save this for later though, getting ready to party after the big game tonight!

    Jim Gaudets last blog post..Tuts Plus – Mad Skills

  5. Kathy says:

    Barbara –
    I LOVE it that you tracked one of these shysters down. You go girl!!!

    Betsy-
    In a nutshell -the website looks like a blog but it’s not. The comments were created as part of the page’s “copy”. The site owners are trying to gain your “trust” by leaving fake comments on their fake blog.

    Patricia –

    I’m afraid you’re not alone in this sentiment, “I am always left wondering if everything thing has a scammer/faker/ deception attached to it.”

    That’s why social media marketing is so attractive to businesses who want to sell products and services to you – and why I found this “fake” blog so offensive. It’s using 100 different tricks trying to deceive you. Not only is is masquerading as a blog – but it’s masquerading as a NEWSPAPER blog.

    Jim –

    One of my favorite sayings is “Be careful what you wish for… you just might get it.” The Digg effect is well documented – a lot of visitors who I call “drive by” visitors. The come, they read, they leave but while they’re there, their sheer numbers may crash all but the heartiest blog.

  6. I think its great that you have highlighted this. I had a colleague two years ago wanting me to help him set up one of these dodgy sites (Said NO – obviously) but it was something he’d bought into, he’d paid money to be given the ‘valuable information’ to set up as one of these cheats. Needless to say I don’t know the guy anymore, and I really hope his activities weren’t a success! But the process was interesting, I believe it was some sort of pyramid scheme, so they suck you in, then get you to do the dirty. Bad bad bad. But very clever.

  7. Kathy says:

    Amelia,

    I’m with you – it’s a bad product with great execution. I love the term “dodgy” GREAT WORD CHOICE!

  8. Kathy,

    It is so sad that sites like this exist. On the other hand, there will always be “fools gold” and people to sell it. Fortunately, there are also people like you, Amelia and other experienced bloggers who expose the fools gold and help people find the real thing.

    I believe that the takers in this world will always lose out to the givers in the long run…it’s natural selection:~)

    Saras last blog post..You Can Reach Beyond Your Fear

  9. Kathy says:

    “Takers in this world will always lose out to the givers in the long run…it’s natural selection:~)”

    I believe that is worth a Tweet my dear!!! Thanks for sharing this exceptional bit of wisdom here!!!

  10. Hi Kathy.
    This turns my stomach! And then it angers me. I think it’s great though that you are exposing these types of sites. When I’m followed by similar sites on Twitter I never follow back. Eventually they unfollow me. Thanks very much for the link… and thanks to Patricia for instigating a wonderful plan.

    Davinas last blog post..Positively Breathing — The Significant Victim

  11. Kathy says:

    Unfortunately, I can’t even BEGIN to “expose” them all. What I try to do is to educate my readers so they can recognize a scam when they see one!!!

  12. I haven’t seen this type of site, but I’ve seen the fake information site, where it looks like a website about, let’s say, vitamins, but it’s really just selling one brand of vitamins.

    I’ve also seen software listed where it appears that he developer or his/her friends wrote several of the reviews.

    Dots last blog post..Auntie Meme

  13. Ah, how did I miss this nice post with shout-out. I better start keeping up with yoru blog better. I’m just so busy these days working on my new squeeze page, counting all my Google ad dollars and trying to keep up with myself now that I’m so amazingly viral. You know how it gets, Kathy!

    :)

    Jannie Funsters last blog post..Gravatar update

  14. You’ll never see me throwing stones for being too busy to keep up with it all!!!

  15. This post gives a whle new meaning to the saying “caveat emptor” (latin for BUYER BEWARE!) In the internet age, it’s easy to be misinformed by news which misrepresents itself as fact, when IN FACT, it is merely opinion. This is just one of the many unsightly problems with our beloved web.
    .-= Mouli Cohen´s last blog ..Hotel Cristal – Carvoeiro, Portugal =-.

  16. Dilek feneri says:

    Your article is excellent. Thanks for sharing.

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