The Internet is a breeding ground for dubious people ready to rip you off at every turn. If you don’t like to be scammed, you’d be wise to watch out for these three deceptive online marketing tricks.

1. Testiphonials

Even if a product or e-book appears to be heavily praised with a massive number of testimonials, there is no guarantee that the product is any good. I call these testimonials, “testiphonials,” because most of them are as fraudulent as it gets. Below is a simplified but accurate description of where these testiphonials come from:

  • Self-proclaimed guru releases “get rich quick” or “lose weight fast” information product.
  • Said guru asks friends who release similar products to provide him or her with testimonials.
  • Those friends typically don’t bother to test the information product for themselves, meaning their testimonial is actually a testiphonial.
  • The cycle repeats itself consistently, resulting in a hilarious situation where the same few people are trading favors over and over again.

Put simply: it is unlikely that the testimonials on product pages actually come from real people like you, and it is far more likely they come from friends of the marketer who sell similar products or (even worse) are totally fabricated.

2. “Unbiased” Reviews (that are actually affiliate links)

“Unbiased” reviews on the Internet cannot be trusted, because it’s awfully easy for deceptive marketers to manipulate search engine rankings in their favor. There are a couple of ways marketers can do this:

  1. Offer an affiliate program where anyone who refers traffic (potential customers) gets paid a small chunk of the total purchase amount.
  2. Pay an SEO (search engine optimization) expert to cover the Internet in fabricated reviews that appear to be written by different people.

I should say that affiliate marketing is not a “bad” thing in itself, because there’s nothing wrong with receiving a small cut for recommending relevant products and services that add value to your readers. A lot of marketers, however, will recommend anything (regardless of whether its truly valuable or helpful) as long as they think it will make a buck. In other words, you should be very careful about who you trust.

If you’d like to see an example of point #2, you’re welcome to open these four links:

Notice that those reviews are word-for-word replicas of each other, despite the fact that they appear to be written by different authors on different websites. I can’t say for sure (because I’m not a psychic), but I am willing to wager the creator of that product paid an SEO expert to spread those duplicates all over the Internet, creating the illusion of a critically acclaimed product… but it’s nothing but smoke and mirrors.

3. THIS OFFER IS GOOD FOR 24 HOURS ONLY!!!

Wikipedia defines artificial scarcity as “the scarcity of items even though the technology and production capacity exists to create an abundance.” ”If you’d like to see a familiar example of artificial scarcity, look no further than the McRib sandwich at your local McDonald’s. Even though this sandwich is available all year long in countries like Germany, it is ONLY AVAILABLE FOR A LIMITED TIME in America. Why would McDonald’s limit this offering in such a way? Because everything is better when you have to wait for it. Also, it becomes much more tempting to buy something if it is in (artificially) limited supply. This same trick is played by many online marketers. If you’ve ever seen a graphic like this plastered on an Internet sales page, this is what artificial scarcity looks like online:

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Extra Credit / Additional Reading

There are more deceptive online marketing tricks that I intended to discuss here, but I decided they were beyond the scope of this article. If you want to be an informed buyer, I recommend checking out any of these articles that might be relevant to you.

Tips to Avoid Deceptive Online Marketing Practices (via VISA)

Scamworld: Get Rich Quick Schemes Mutate into an Online Monster (via the Verge)

Herbalife: A Pyramid Scheme Disguised as a Business Opportunity (via the Huffington Post)

From Fat to Fit in Just 15 Minutes: Personal Trainer Reveals How Easy It Is to Fake a Transformation (via Dailymail)

Was this list an eye-opener for you? If you know of any deceptive online marketing tricks not mentioned here, please tell us about them in the comments. Please share this with your friends on Facebook and Twitter so they can avoid getting ripped off, too.

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