I can't tell you how often I hear how shady, scummy, and overall filled with unethical, sleazy people the affiliate marketing world
has. Personally, it drives me crazy. There are a TON of awesome people in this industry - thousands of them. Possibly HUNDREDS of thousands of them, yet somehow the world still thinks we're a bunch of criminals.
An anonymous reporter recently put a request out to find more information about the internet marketing space. I sent them a letter to address their question. Here was the original post:
Summary: Are All Internet Marketers Scam Artists?
Category: High Tech
Media Outlet: Anonymous
Deadline: 7:00 PM EST - 12 July
I've been reading the Salty Droid with a great deal of interest, and have been intrigued by his claim that "you can't make money online." The site's founder was a prime source in a video and commentary by the Verge taking down the entire Internet marketing segment as being a syndicate of scam artists.
I want to kick the tires a bit harder on the Verge's commentary and do some actual reporting to test the claims. Are there legit Internet Marketers and Affiliate Marketers online? What should content providers know and what questions should they ask before signing on or, even more importantly, entering payment info?
This is for a leading industry Website with high traffic levels. I am looking for expert commentary and data for a serious,
investigative piece, not product pitches. Thanks.
Before I even go into my list of reasons why we have a bad rap - PLEASE SEND THIS REPORTER A MESSAGE WITH THE TRUTH THAT LEGITIMATE INTERNET MARKETERS ARE OUT THERE AND SHARE YOUR STORY!
Anyway here are 17 reasons I think the world has a horrible misconception about our entire industry. If you have some to add, please do!
1. No Formal Education
It seems when there is no formal education, training or reputable organization backing an industry people think it's not a legitimate profession. There are no universities or colleges (that I'm aware of) that have top level degrees or recognized designations in affiliate management or social media, for example, that people can study for two - four years like other recognized professions that give them the respect they deserve. I predict that over the next few years this will change.
2. Is it Legal?
When I say "affiliate marketing" the VAST majority of people I speak to don't have a clue what I'm talking about. One of our account managers' mothers asked if what she does for a living is legal! We still have a long way to go to bring awareness that people who work online are legitimate business owners and are not breaking the law by working on the internet. Part of this issue might be from lack of #1.
3. No Really, Is it Legal?
Because "internet law" is so new in itself there is so much grey space in the online landscape it's still like the wild wild west out there. With better regulations, attorneys who understand the landscape and online business owners who better understand the legal issues surrounding the internet, we will start to become taken more seriously by the rest of the world. Right now, no one really knows who regulates behaviour and dishing out consequences online, so everyone just does what they want.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and legal issues are not my strong suit - so please do your own research in this regard. If you are or know of a good internet attorney, please let us know so we can contact you.
4. Industry Lingo
When an industry has it's own lingo and that language gets thrown around by different people who don't fully understand it, the meaning of those terms becomes skewed. People are afraid of what they don't understand, and franking most of the people I speak to - even in the industry - either don't use the right terms or don't understand them. SEM, SEO, PPC, CPA, CPL, CPS, EPC, ROAS, MLM, Click Fraud, Trademark Bidding, Direct Linking, Back Links, Widgets, Datafeed and Tagging are just a few examples of terms people in the industry use a lot, but others don't have a clue what they mean. And because there are so many industry specific terms and so many novice people in the space (which is understandable since it's growing so rapidly and there is no formal training) people just don't get it.
All our favourite thing. That tasty meat that makes us cringe is about as appealing as when people bombard and harass you in your personal space online. Somehow that seems like an oxymoron, but seriously - I don't want another mass email to 486 people to my Facebook inbox. I don't want my personal email passed around because I donated something once and now 50 charities suddenly know who I am and want my money too. There are a ton of ways we spam and are spammed and people always attribute it to internet marketers.
6. Cheesy Aliases
SexKitten69, PimpDaddy11, FuckHead09 - sounds very professional right? Well if I'm someone outside of the industry seeing aliases like that, I'm not going to be impressed or trust you. Or the website, forum or social network you're on either.
7. Stolen Personal Info
How many times have you ordered something online and wondered if your personal info (name, home address, credit card info) is safe. I know I have. I won't buy from a site that looks shady and lacks authentic security seals. I know several people who've been ripped off buying something online - or have had their personal info used to register for things they had nothing to do about. No wonder people are scared give their info. Everyone knows someone with a similar story.
8. Adware, Spyware and Toolbars
Between all the popups, popovers, warnings and download requests how is anyone supposed to trust anything these days? In the affiliate marketing space these things are used to give unfair advantage over other affiliates and even the merchants themselves. These in-your-face (and sometimes under-the-radar) requests are not only annoying but worrisome. Even more so when people don't know what they mean or if they should accept them or not. How do we (or any regular user) know which ones are legitimate or not. Downloading tools to help us determine this only makes us all the more paranoid.
9. Turning a Bind Eye
This one drives me nuts. When I was 16 years old I fainted on the sky train on my way to work. I was by myself during rush hour and woke up three stations later with people walking over my body to get on and off the train. Why is it people insist they can't see something happening? Or they pretend it's ok? Or they expect someone else to do something about it? I'm not one to just sit around hoping someone else is going to do something. I know from experience they probably are not. Therefore it's up to you and me to stand up and say something when we see something that's not right. For us, it's just a matter of knowing who to say something to which is probably the hard part in the online space. Again, this could be a result of #1, #2 and #3.
10. No Accountability
Similar to turning a blind eye, I find people just don't take responsibility for their actions. It's so easy to point the figure at someone else, especially when public scrutiny is a real possibility in the online space and of course no one wants to be embarrassed. But at the same time how can we improve if we don't properly reflect on how to improve. If we just continue ignore the things we need to change then this industry isn't going to get any better.
11. Promised Overnight Success!
"Get rich quick! Make a million dollars with my easy three point system! Buy this one time solution and earn $100,000 within 3 days!" These people drive me nuts. Anyone who's been in the space long enough knows there is no such thing as a get rich quick scheme. There is just a scheme. Internet marketing takes patience, determination, skill, proper business strategy, focus and often times a specialization. It also takes time. Nothing is quick, easy or free. We have to work for it just as hard as any other industry, if not harder.
12. Cheap Tricks
Cookie stuffing, giant red flashy banners, popovers (add adware, spyware, malware and toolbars to this list) and a slew of other things people do to have an easy advantage over others is one major reason people don't like internet marketers, especially in the affiliate marketing space.
13. Pornography, Gambling and other "Questionable" Booming Industries
I'm not one to judge a person's pastimes but there are some who will argue the ethics of the industries in the online space. Seeing as pornography and gaming are two of the most profitable and popular industries online today, I can see how some would question decency of the internet overall and the sites that might be exposed to eyes that preferably wouldn't see them. Parents have to put in a ton of effort to protect their children from sites like these, which makes them angry that they have to put that effort in at all - then they worry that their child will still be exposed to it somehow anyway.
14. Offensive and Hateful Material
Freedom of speech allows us to say whatever we like. Unfortunately some of that speech is incredibly harmful. Even decent websites and social networks that allow commenting who do not monitor regularly could be victim to such hurtful content.
15. Technologies People Don't Understand
Again this goes back to people are afraid of what they do not understand. As technology advances throughout multiple channels (search, mobile, social, etc) more technologies are introduced that many people judge or fear fall into one of the categories listed above. Because technology advances so quickly it's almost impossible for one person to keep up with all the changes so instead of understanding it, everyone simply becomes skeptical and untrusting until proven otherwise.
16. Completely Unpredictable
No one knows what to expect online. It's completely unpredictable and everyone seems to be responsive and reactive rather than proactive and controlled. How can you be though when everything changes by the millisecond? In the time you took to read this, the ENTIRE online landscape changed and you could spend the next year reading to catch up to the last 10 minutes - if you never slept, ate or did anything else for 365 days straight.
17. All Marketers are Liars
Internet marketers already have a hard job because so many people think all marketers are liars. In some cases, yes, they are. They will make ups stories, names, fake product reviews and hide who they really are in order to make a few bucks. But that's not everyone - and good marketers know to tell good stories based on facts without having to do this. Not all marketers are liars. The best marketers are just good story tellers who touch the minds, hearts and souls of those they wish to reach.
What are your thoughts on all this? What do you think are other issues that are causing us to have such a bad rap and how do you think we can solve the misconception that all internet marketers are scam artists?
I'm going to continue to fight for a better name in the industry. What are your ideas to help improve the image of our space?