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

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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

    Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on January 5, 2022

    33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

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    33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

    In a difficult economy, most of us are looking for ways to put more money in our pockets, but we don’t want to feel like misers. We don’t want to drastically alter our lifestyles either. We want it fast and we want it easy. Small savings can add up and big savings can feel like winning the lottery, just without all of the taxes.

    Some easy ways to save money:

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    1. Online rebate sites. Many online sites offer cash back rebates and online coupons as well. MrRebates and Ebates are two I like, but there are many others.
    2. Sign up for customer rewards. Many of your favorite stores offer customer rewards on products you already buy. Take advantage.
    3. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. The extra cost up front is worth the energy savings later on.
    4. Turn off power strips and electronic devices when not in use.
    5. Buy a programmable thermostat. Set it to lower the heat or raise the AC when you’re not home.
    6. Make coffee at home. Those lattes and caramel macchiatos add up to quite a bit of dough over the year.
    7. Switch banks. Shop around for better interest rates, lower fees and better customer perks. Don’t forget to look for free online banking and ease of depositing and withdrawing money.
    8. Clip coupons: Saving a couple dollars here and there can start to add up. As long as you’re going to buy the products anyway, why not save money?
    9. Pack your lunch. Bring your lunch to work with you a few days a week, rather than buy it.
    10. Eat at home. We’re busier than ever, but cooking meals at home is healthier and much cheaper than take-out or going out. Plus, with all of the freezer and pre-made options, it’s almost as fast as drive-thru.
    11. Have leftovers night. Save your leftovers from a few meals and have a “leftover dinner.” It’s a free meal!
    12. Buy store brands: Many generic or store brands are actually just as good as name brands and considerably cheaper.
    13. Ditch bottled water. Drink tap water if it’s good quality, buy a filter if it’s not. Get 
        a reusable water bottle and refill it.
      • Avoid vending machines: The items are usually over-priced.
      • Take in a matinee. Afternoon movie showings are cheaper than evening times.
      • Re-examine your cable bill. Cancel extra cable or satellite channels you don’t watch. Watch the “on demand” movie purchases too.
      • Use online bill pay. Most banks offer free online bill paying. Save on stamps and checks, and avoid late fees by automating bill payment.
      • Buy frequently used items in bulk. You get a lower per item price and eliminate extra trips to the store later on.
      • Fully utilize the library. Borrowing books is much cheaper than buying them, but in addition to books, most local libraries now lend movies and games.
      • Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions: Re-evaluate your subscriptions. Cancel those you don’t read and consider reading some of the other publications online.
      • Get rid of your land-line. Do you really need a land-line anymore if everyone in the family has a cell phone? Alternatively, look into using VOIP or getting a cheaper plan.
      • Better fuel efficiency. Check the air pressure in your tires, keep up with proper auto maintenance, and slow down. Driving even 5MPH slower will result in better fuel mileage.
      • Increase your deductibles. Increasing the insurance deductibles on your homeowners and auto insurance policies lowers premiums significantly. Just make sure you choose a deductible that you can afford should an emergency happen.
      • Choose lunch over dinner. If you do want to dine out occasionally, go at lunchtime rather than dinnertime. Lunch prices are usually cheaper.
      • Buy used:  Whether it’s something small like a vintage dress or a video game or something big like a car or furniture, consider buying it used. You can often get “nearly new” for a fraction of the cost.
      • Stick to the list. Make a list before you go shopping and don’t buy anything that’s not on the list unless it’s a once in a lifetime, killer deal.
      • Tame the impulse. Use a self-enforced waiting period whenever you’re tempted to make an unplanned purchase. Wait for a week and see if you still want the item.
      • Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask to have fees waived, ask for a discount, ask for a lower interest rate on your credit card.
      • Repair rather than replace. You can find directions on how to fix almost anything on the internet. Do your homework, and then bring out your inner handyman.
      • Trade with your neighbors. Borrow tools or equipment that you use infrequently and swap things like babysitting with your neighbors.
      • Swap online. Use sites like PaperBack Swap to trade books, music, and movies with others online. Also, look for local community sites like Freecycle where people give away items they no longer need.
      • Cut back on the meat. Try eating a one or two meatless meals every week or cut back on the meat portions. Meat is usually the most expensive part of the meal.
      • Comparison shop: Get in the habit of checking prices before you buy. See if you can get a better price at another store or look online.

      Remember that saving money is not about being cheap or stingy; it’s about putting money into your bank account rather than giving it to someone else. There are many ways to save money, some you’ve never thought of, and some that won’t appeal or apply to you. Just pick a few of the ideas that sound doable and watch the savings add up. Save big, save small, but save wherever you can.

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      Featured photo credit: Damir Spanic via unsplash.com

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