If it Sounds to Good to be True It May Be Unethical Marketing

man and woman discussing unethical marketing advice

The saying, If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, applies very well to online marketing.

It’s easy when you start out in business, or when you’re struggling to get your business up, running, and attracting clients, to want instant results. And, to buy into the big promises that some online marketers make about quick and easy results. But I caution you to be careful. Instant results can mean unethical marketing.

Case in point.

Just this week I saw an announcement in a Facebook group for a new video training course. This course promised instant results for your website. I’m not going to go into any more detail because this isn’t about bashing another instructor publicly.

The instructor was offering free coupons for the course, and because the course sounded too good to be true, I grabbed one so I could check it out. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I’d actually learn something valuable I could use to increase my own website traffic and share with my tribe. I really was hoping that would be the case. It wasn’t.

Black Hat Marketing.

The very first lesson in the course was comprised of a black hat marketing technique (unethical and intended to fool the search engines) encouraging website owners to create multiple fake profiles. While it may be effective to manipulate your own posts and other content online via multiple online profiles, it’s definitely not an above-board marketing practice. The course went on to teach several other hacks of questionable integrity.

I know there are all sorts of black hat Internet marketers out there whose primary goal is to outsmart or manipulate the search engines. But I’m wondering if they also realize they are manipulating and lying to their prospective clients. My guess is they do and they don’t care. And probably won’t until they get caught and banned. Even then they will likely count their dollars and move on to the next scheme. Black hat marketers are rarely in a business or website for the long haul. It’s a get-rich-quick marketing mentality.

There will always be good guys and bad guys.

I’m not naive. I know the Internet will always be filled with both above-board ethical marketers, and those only interested in making a quick buck off anyone gullible enough to buy from them. The challenge when you’re a newbie online is you may not recognize one from the other. And those promises of instant results can be pretty enticing.

But please don’t buy into those inflated promises.

If I had paid for that course I would have been pretty pissed. It was a total waste of my time as it was. But the even sadder thing is that someone who may not know better might think that’s the way to market online. And if they follow the suggested hacks they risk their website being banned from the search engines—talk about a business buzzkill.

Additionally because it’s so easy to look legit and successful online it can be tough to separate the dogs from the true experts.

Your first clue should be the promise of instant results.

Because quite honestly, success doesn’t happen instantly. Promising instant results is the equivalent of get-rich-quick marketing in my book.

Beyond this, you want to look at the person’s credentials and experience and use the following questions to further evaluate them:

  • How long have they been in business online?
  • Can you find their content on reputable article directories, blogs, YouTube, iTunes, or other podcast directories?
  • Do they speak at events, or do teleclasses?
  • Are they out their sharing their knowledge via reputable outlets?
  • Does their website include contact information, including an address and phone number?
  • Do they even have a website?
  • Do they have testimonials or references?
  • Have they done what they’re selling you for someone other than just themselves?

These are just a few questions to help you gauge whether someone is truly an expert.

It’s always a gamble when buying online.

Someone can look and sound very successful and the truth is you never really know if they are. But, if you do your due diligence, ask questions, and avoid promises that sound too good to be true, you’ll be less likely to be caught by one of these less-than-ethical hackers.

Building a business online takes time.

It’s not that different from building a business offline. Except that I think many people think it’s easier. It’s not really. Yes, we have many tools we can use to market ourselves online. But they’re just different tools than we use offline. Either way it still takes consistent marketing over time, a solid product or service that the market wants, and your willingness to keep at it until you get there.

Getting your website or content to show up in the search engine results takes time, too.

Focusing on keywords and creating lots of content can certainly get you there faster. But it’s not going to happen overnight. And anyone promising you that is either lying or will teach you techniques you really don’t want to be doing anyway.

Always remember if it doesn’t feel good to you, you shouldn’t be doing it.

We all have an internal compass that helps us know the difference between right and wrong. Heed your compass. Even if you’re in a brand new field like Internet Marketing. There are plenty of ethical marketing techniques that can get you to the top of the search engines and get you clients. It may take a little longer, but hopefully you’re in business for the long haul. And if you are, just keep at it and you’ll get there.

About Debbie

After spending 32 years in marketing, Debbie now spends her time blogging, teaching online courses, doing volunteer pet therapy, and encouraging others to follow a more inspired path through life.

2 comments on “If it Sounds to Good to be True It May Be Unethical Marketing

  1. Debbie,

    This post is exactly why I have trusted your advice and knowledge for close to 10 years now. You have had an entire career based on true expertise in the marketing field, both in a corporate setting and for the entrepreneur. You’re honest and ethical and care about your client. I’m sick of these “fly-by-night, have a 7-figure business by next week” snake oil salespeople. I doubt many of them have ever actually made a business for themselves, yet they’re making money telling us how to do it.

    Thank you for always telling it like it is!

    Lisa 🙂

  2. Thanks Lisa. I’m sick of them, too, but they seem to just keep showing up. Unfortunately, as long as there are people out there who believe they can have a 7-figure biz in 7 days (or want/need it so badly they set their common sense aside) these folks will be there trying to cash in on it. Hopefully I can be the sound voice of reason, at least for the folks who are willing to listen!

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