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Buyer Beware: 3 Deceptive Online Marketing Tricks You Need to Stop Falling for

Buyer Beware: 3 Deceptive Online Marketing Tricks You Need to Stop Falling for

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.

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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:

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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)

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    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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    Daniel Wallen

    Freelance Writer

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    Published on September 17, 2018

    How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

    How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

    Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

    With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

    So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

    1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

    It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

    You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

    So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

    2. When you want something big, wait

    Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

    It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

    We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

    A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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    So, you get the itch.

    You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

    Here’s where you have to take a step back.

    Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

    Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

    It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

    The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

    3. Live smaller than you can afford

    You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

    You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

    That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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    Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

    Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

    The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

    But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

    4. Practice smart grocery shopping

    Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

    But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

    Create a grocery budget

    Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

    Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

    I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

    Make a list… and never deviate

    Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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    You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

    These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

    Eat before going grocery shopping

    It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

    If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

    After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

    Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

    However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

    This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

    5. Cancel your gym membership

    Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

    The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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    Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

    I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

    Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

    Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

    For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

    Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

    There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

    It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

    I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

    Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

    The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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