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Deceptive Affiliate Product Reviews Hurts Everybody Involved

I must confess that I have just about had it with product reviews you find online, that aren’t really reviews but poorly disguised affiliate sales pitches.

You probably know what I mean:

You are considering to buy product X, so you decide to google the term “product x” or perhaps “product x review”.

Deceptive affiliate marketing reviews

Many affiliate marketers simply do not deliver what they promised in their so called "reviews".

Skimming through the first few pages of results you usually find dozens of sites that are carefully SEO:ed to rank for this term, with a page description that promises to give you anything from a “honest review” to some kind of bonus for buying the product.

Others again try to give the impression that they can reveal Product X as a fraud or scam, but oddly enough they all always end up trying to sell you the product in question through their affiliate link anyway.

Another very common version seems to be the “don’t buy product X until you have read my review!” kind of headlines. Yet, the article itself rarely offers anything more than a walk-through of the features of said product.

This trend is more or less a rampant epidemic when it comes to internet marketing related products. But can be observed in other niches as well, particularly if it is a product sold through Clickbank.

Being an affiliate is okay

I am certainly no stranger to making money through promoting affiliate offers. In itself that is a perfectly legitimate and viable business model.

But saying that you are going to provide one thing (a review) and then providing something else entirely (a blatant sales pitch or even misinformation), is simply not acceptable behavior among civilized people.

If I read a review on something I expect to get some insight, above and beyond  listing the contents and features. Was it easy to use? How was the information presented? Is it worth the price asked? Did it help you and did it work? Who would you recommend it to? Are there similar products out there that I might consider instead? And so on…

I would also be surprised that someone would actually be making very many affiliate sales with these fake reviews. Tempting someone with a “honest review”, then giving them nothing but a revision of the pitch they have already read on the sales page. And by doing that expecting them to willingly click on your affiliate link seems just silly to me.

I guess there’s always the odd chance that someone googles the product name before actually visiting the product vendors site, and you might get them cookied that way. But with dozens and dozens of competitors doing exactly the same thing I think your chances are rather slim.

Furthermore, Google is usually rather good at ranking the official product page as number one anyway. Which is of course indeed in the best interest of the search engine’s users.

They definitely need to come up with better ways of filtering out this kind of nonsense in their search result though. Because right now they seem absolutely powerless against this kind of fake review site.

Mind you, merely detecting the presence of affiliate links isn’t enough. Writing a genuinely helpful and informative review is and should be considered an acceptable way to market online.

Which is what I want to give a few tips about next.

A few suggestions on how to do it properly

The guys who produce all these not so informative review sites are obviously very good at quickly churning out sites, often using WordPress, and they know how to get good rankings in the search engines quickly.

What they need to add to the mix is a little bit of respect for their would be clients. Here are a few suggestions:

1.Don’t claim to have a review if that isn’t true. There’s nothing wrong in trying to rank for a product name. But buy the product and review it for real, or choose another approach to marketing it.
2.Skip the “Product X is a scam” strategy, unless that is your honest opinion and you actually don’t want people to buy the product.
3.Offering bonuses is perfectly okay – if they actually provide additional value. Personally I prefer something that enhances the main product I am about to buy, rather than the biggest package of loosely related products (that I may have little use for anyway) you can muster.
4.Don’t hard sell the product on you affiliate page. The searcher is probably looking for a friend to give him a second opinion – not another sales man giving a sales pitch.
5.Do tell a story if you can, but be careful if using a persona. Claiming to be an overweight 40 year old woman when you are really a skinny 25 year old man is simply a bad idea, and probably illegal as well.

I could go on, but that’s enough for now. As you see what it all comes down to is this: Don’t try to deceive people in order to make an affiliate sale. Be a decent person!

There are certainly enough legitimate products out there in virtually any niche. And if you get known for providing people with solid informative reviews, maybe you won’t have to compete with all those affiliates duking it out with their instant affiliate sites.

If you also are tired of these deceptive affiliate reviews, share this post on twitter and facebook to help spread the word.

Photo credit: jcoterhals

8 Responses to “Deceptive Affiliate Product Reviews Hurts Everybody Involved”

  1. I don’t know. Product reviews help me a lot but you have to read between the lines. What concerns me mostly is the ease of negative reviews and how difficult it is to remove them

  2. […] what I wrote in my earlier post on affiliate product reviews, you may find it funny that I haven’t actually bough or used the product. That’s why I […]

  3. Mike says:

    Extremely interesting post thank you for writing it I have added your website to my bookmarks and will check back :) By the way this is off subject but I really like your blogs layout.

  4. Tom says:

    Certain this was a decent article. I actually checked it out and see where the author is coming from in this case. I just sort of look at it as what else is this going to be of use to other individuals within the grand scheme of issues. Is this some thing that will probably be helpful later in life or is it just gerat for entertainment purposes? I figure though the greatest way to see what’s up is to do just a little investigative operate myself. Sometimes I can be extremely unsure so that is why I ask. If this seems sensible I thought it was an interesting read at the very least. I found it rather a unique and interesting concept, once more though, I am not truly sure how others will respond to this. I dunno, I guess that is me just becoming a cynic and all. Okay well I’m done rambling, so I’ll let you formulate your own thoughts from here lol. Im’ outty.

  5. Bob Johnson says:

    A great piece – thank you so much for posting it. I would definitely recommend thet every one else should have a look at it.

  6. Ed says:

    Hey Michael,

    Let me start by saying that the content of this post is the EXACT REASON that I started my own blog a little over a year ago. I too was hard pressed to find any kind of “Review Site” that was anything more than either a Mirror Image of the sales page or just somebody who decided to toss their hat into the ring as another one of those “Me Too” sites.

    I think that what pisses me off more than anything about these sites is that, generally (and I’m not saying that they’re ALL like this) the “Reviewer” not only wants you to go and buy through THEIR link, but, 9 times out of 10, they haven’t even looked beyond the sales page to see what the product in question is even about!

    That’s almost the same as taking advice from the ignorant… “Hey, go buy this thing, I hear it’ll get you where you want to go!” In this instance, you’re looking to purchase a Lamborghini, but the “Advice Guy” is sending you to a site that sells “Farm Plow Horses”. Sure, it’ll get you to where you want to be and the BONUS is that your field will look great too.

    When I started my blog, I was already pissed off at the majority of “Snake-Oil Charlatans” (did I just say that out loud?), so seeing as there wasn’t any kind of “Watchdog” system in place to tell somebody the real deal with most of these “Products” (and I use the term VERY loosely), I figured that doing it myself would be a good idea.

    Hey, if nothing else, I got to not only give “My Opinion” but, if the product sucked (which most did), I also gave them one of my 3 ratings… “Tool”, “Stool”, or “Jewel”. Granted, I haven’t made too many friends of these “Gurus”, but, so what? The way I see it is this… if some poor slob just wants to see if he’s going to be tossing good money after bad at something that’s purported to be the best thing ever since sliced bread, he should at least be able to find 1 actual review from someone who’s blazed the trail before them, as it were.

    Hey, I’ve actually pissed off a few folks with some of the stuff I write about, but you know what’s really weird? These same folks keep coming back to see what kind of trashing I’m gonna give to the next P.O.G. (Piece Of Guru) crap that’s proffered up as gold. So, I guess that I must be doing something right.

    As you can see, I whole-heartedly agree with you that if you’re going to put up a “Review” of ANY KIND, you really need to have some “First Hand Experience” with whatever it may be, otherwise, you’re not only NOT giving the Full Picture to whoever reads the review, but, you’ll wind up losing any credibility that you may have with your readers. And if that happens, you’d really need to enjoy reading and writing all of your own stuff, because nobody else will be looking at it.

    Dude, Great job pointing this out. I hope that your readers will take heed and do the right thing with regard to any “Reviews” that they might want to put up.

    Stay Frosty

    WHY?…
    … Because …

    … Ed Says …

  7. Most people have a motive to give this kind of review to the product. for example if product a pays them better commission than product b, which one do you think they going to write better review for?

    • Mike says:

      Of course, and basically there’s nothing wrong with choosing to promote a product because it gives you better commission. Just don’t promote a page as a “review” if that isn’t what’s on your page. Simple enough I think.

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