Do You Know What You’re Promoting?

We have all had something to say at one time or another about online scams; people who make money by selling things to others which they don’t need, which don’t do what they are said to do, and which can even waste people’s time or distract them from what they should be focused on – […]

We have all had something to say at one time or another about online scams; people who make money by selling things to others which they don’t need, which don’t do what they are said to do, and which can even waste people’s time or distract them from what they should be focused on - besides being a waste of money in the long run.  And the fact is, that is far from the worst of it.  Do you want to earn money by promoting unethical products?  Probably not.  But are you always fully aware of what you are promoting?

We have all had something to say at one time or another about online scams; people who make money by selling things to others which they don’t need, which don’t do what they are said to do, and which can even waste people’s time or distract them from what they should be focused on – besides being a waste of money in the long run.  And the fact is, that is far from the worst of it.

Do you want to earn money by promoting unethical products?  Probably not.  But are you always fully aware of what you are promoting?

There are a few categories of products which you should probably be aware of when you are deciding what to promote.  You might want to think twice before you throw together a website to promote these types of products, or put one of their ads on an existing site.

After all, it’s not all about money.  We are also human beings.

1. Products which are unnecessary, wasting people’s time and/or money

The “Make Money Online” niche is home to some of the worst culprits – including individuals, sales pages, emails, and advertisements which promise you unlimited riches as long as you invest ($47/$97/$5,000 etc.) in whatever it is they are trying to sell.

Whether it is a coaching program on how to earn money online, an amazing new software program which allows you to rake in thousands of dollars with a few minutes of work, a monthly membership, or perhaps just access to an enormous quantity of downloadable information which you don’t need right this second.

Some of these types of products have real value and only require a reasonable investment.  When they are useful, they do pay off in the long run.  There are certainly legitimate products and services which help people save money, earn more money, or learn how to do so.  I have invested in quite a few myself, and have been happy with a majority of the items I have purchased.  For example, I always recommend Honest Riches to new Internet Marketers, as well as useful free materials such as the Blog Profits Blueprint.  Not a $97 per month membership or $5,000 coaching program.

Some products have little-to-no real use or value for the consumer, but use a convincing sales pitch, and cost too much.

In between the two extremes there are various shades of gray.

But this is not what inspired me to write this post.  There are other products one can promote, outside of the “Make Money Online” niche, which are just as bad, and even worse.

Products which are used to steal money

There are bogus “free trial” offers which latch onto a customers credit card, steal unauthorized recurring payments, and never let go, no matter how hard the customer tries to cancel.

For example, see this video on how Companies Steal from Bank Accounts.  [Jan 2011 update – the video is no longer live on the external website that was linked to at the time this article was written].   (As a note, I generally consider payments through Paypal to be the safest, as one can cancel subscriptions through one’s account as well as having access to other protections, and I have also found any product purchased through Clickbank to be safe, as the refund process is guaranteed and automatic.)

I have seen affiliate programs for such products.  In some cases, these offers would have been relevant to one of my websites.  Did I choose to promote them?  No!

Examples of products which are likely to be promoted in this manner include Acai berry, colon cleanse, teeth-whitening, and stop-smoking products, which often offer a “free trial” requiring a credit card number “for shipping,” and give you “automatic renewals if you don’t cancel.”  A bit of research and Googling will often reveal whether there are scams or dishonest tactics involved.

Not every free trial with paid shipping is a scam, but I am definitely careful before signing up for them when I do.

Products which harm people

Then there are is another type of products you can promote.  You would only promote these products if a) you don’t really know what you are promoting or b) you don’t care about people and money is your only motivation.

These are products which don’t simply waste people’s time and money but actually harm people.

It takes a bit of confront to look beyond the surface of modern day life and realize that not everything is what it looks like on the surface.

The sad fact is, that just because an item has been endorsed by an official agency, an “expert,” or a learned authority, (government or otherwise) does not necessarily make that product useful or even safe.

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the worst in this respect.  That does not mean that every pharmaceutical medicine is harmful.

But if you were to do some real, unbiased research in the field, you would be amazed at how many well-known and widely used pharmaceutical drugs:

  1. Have never undergone actual scientific testing as to their results
  2. Were approved for use by the same groups, individuals, and networks, who are profiting by their sales.  (Yes, approval agencies do have ties to the pharmaceutical companies and yes, the people who approve drugs for use do make money by approving them.)
  3. Have known side-effects (known even by the producers and salesmen of the drugs, but not promoted by them) which range from health problems, to death, to suicide, to murder.
  4. As an added benefit there are ties to the media, which is sometimes (but not always) used to attack any group which begins to expose what is occurring.  Which leads people to disbelieve organizations that do so.

If you look into it, you will find that almost every school shooter, loving-family-member-turned family-murderer, or sudden unexplained suicide, involved someone who was taking one of these types of drugs.  Common examples are Zoloft, Paxil (Seroxat), and Prozac, to name a few.

Furthermore the same doctors who were involved in the creation of these drugs can be found openly admitting that the diseases and disorders which the drugs were designed to cure do not exist.  These diseases were not found by blood tests or any other form of testing.  They are invented by majority vote.  (If you like, you can see a series of videos on this, starting at Making a Killing, Part 1 of 10.)

But they make a lot of money. Billions per year.  So hey, why kill a booming business?

In a previous profession I had first-hand experience with individuals who were the victims of these drugs, sometimes as young as the age of three, and had the heart-wrenching experience of seeing the damage that was done.  In some cases I was able to help undo the damage by getting these individuals onto detoxification programs or other handlings.  But, sadly, the effects of legal, approved, and even common-place pharmaceutical drugs were often more harmful, and harder to correct, than the effects of any street drug.  I still remember the three year-old-girl who had been put on a drug by a doctor.  With a bit of research we found out that the drug was actually Speed.  We were actually relived that it was Speed instead of something worse, (and yes I helped the little girl).

Sound difficult to believe?  It is.  So is war, needless killing of civilians, Chinese killer-cat food, genocide, kid-napping, human-trafficking, and a host of other insanities which occur on a daily basis, inside and outside of the US.

The fact is that it is a crazy world.

In American middle-class society it is very easy to forget that there is something beyond the glossed-over existence we see in front of us, where all appears so happy and regulated.

The purpose of this post is not to depress you about the state of the Earth.  The purpose of this post is to communicate to affiliate marketers and online entrepreneurs about what they can do to stem the tides of damage.  Or, at least what they can not do.

Because, sadly, I often see affiliate marketers blithely promoting the same products and drugs, which harm people, children, and lives on a regular basis!

When something is too incredible to be believed, we have a tendency to disbelieve it.  When we don’t believe it, we don’t do much about it.  History is full of incidents which we would never have believed could have happened, but happened.

Okay.  My point – just because you do some keyword research and find a niche does not mean its all hunky-dory to promote that item.  I have spoken of bogus Make-Money-Online products, free trials, and pharmaceutical drugs.  But that’s definitely not the only thing.

Craigslist has been prosecuted for promoting prostitution and contributing to devastating effects on women and children.  (For some videos, see Sheriff Takes Aim at Prostitution on Craigslist and Craigslist Cracks Down on Prostitution Ads).

A few days ago I saw a banner ad on an Internet Marketing side.  It said “Pimping has never been this easy.”  I hoped it was a joke and was curious, so I clicked on it.  It then went on to say how you could earn $500 per day just placing these ads … in the sidebar I saw a string of prostitution ads.  They weren’t joking at all.

The upshot – think before you promote.  Most people care about others and want to help people.  Only a few are truly money-motivated, and even those are basically good – way, down deep.

There is nothing wrong with making money online as long as you always remember to put ethics, honesty, honor, and integrity first.

Some References and Links:

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16 Responses to “Do You Know What You’re Promoting?”

  1. Mr. I
    July 16, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    As a rule of thumb, I always recommend what I have personally used. (I do not sell drugs or get rich programs!)

    Till now, I have tried hands at ad networks and had good success because I was using their ads alongside!
    .-= Mr. I´s last blog ..Darren Rowse’s Secret: How To Become A Successful Blogger =-.

  2. Jake
    July 16, 2009 at 12:01 pm #

    Nice post! As far as Marketing tools… over at my blog I try and only promote things I’ve used or at least things from the same source… for example if John Doe puts out a great e-book and I know he has a great reputation and makes good e-books.. Then I’m inclined to advertise an e-book of his that I may not have read… but 90% of the time, I’ve used or tried what I offer!
    .-= Jake´s last blog ..Are You Ready to Make Money Online? =-.

  3. Anna
    July 17, 2009 at 2:13 pm #

    @ Mr I, Jake, and Luca

    Thank you all for your feedback and comments. It is good to know we are not alone in trying not to be jerks 🙂

    I agree fully with the same promotional strategy that all three of you say you have adopted (and which I use as well) – I only promote products I believe will be helpful to my visitors, usually because of personal experience with the product, and sometimes due to experience with and trust in the creator of the product, and sometimes even because a close friend has used the product and had good results…

    On this particular blog I am especially careful because the Internet Marketing field is particularly vulnerable to such bogus products. One reason I removed any Adsense from this blog was because I just did not see how I could control the advertisements well enough to ensure that get-rich-quick scams did not appear.

    I have some other blogs which I have to be careful about as well. For one blog in the Health niche, for example, I removed Adsense because I realized my blog was showing ads for harmful products and I just could not filter out every crazy ad in the world from my blog. So I will have to work out another monetization strategy for that blog, and that’s okay (meanwhile it’s basically not monetized till I have time for it lol).

    I’d rather do that than mislead people. Furthermore, most people (who aren’t Internet Marketing savvy) don’t differentiate between an automatically generated ad, and a “hand-made” link which you have put on your site. They might see an Adsense ad and think that you put that link on your site because you are personally recommending that product, whereas the fact is that you have never heard of it!

    That’s not a big problem for me if the niche is electronics or some such, but it doesn’t work for those niches which more easily fall prey to the dark side.

  4. Luca Di Nicola
    July 17, 2009 at 1:59 pm #

    Great post Anna, I feel the same way. When I first started looking into making money online I could not beleive the amount of products that promoted (and still do) get rich quick overnight with no experience or work required. Unfortunatley it’s a formula that appears to works and people fall for it. Even I did early on. The worst ones are the ones that show you their huge house, boats cars and “proof” of earning. The funny thing is that there are good marketers with excellent products that also have similar sales letter. I guess they do it to compete.

    I want to build a readership for my blog and customers from my list by being as honest as possible. We all want to make money but at what cost. I try to promote products that I use and products from people that I’ve come to know and trust. I obviously can’t afford to buy everything I want to promote but after being in this business for awhile you learn to read through the lines and can judge the good from the bad. That does not mean that we can’t be fooled – it’s happened before but experience goes a long way.

    As for health products especially mental health, I just can’t tolerate anybody exploiting the ill and the weak. It’s just not right.

    Thanks for your heart felt post
    .-= Luca Di Nicola´s last blog ..3 Ways to Use Small Reports Created From PLR Articles =-.

  5. James from Bird Houses
    July 20, 2009 at 6:37 am #

    I agree and would only ever promote a product I had personally used or tried before i would actively reccommend it. There are lots of examples of greedy bloggers who develop a good relationship with their ‘supporters’ and then ruin it by promoting a profitable product that provides little or no benefits to the purchaser.

    Stick to what you know and what you have used – then you can build a long term profitable business
    .-= James from Bird Houses´s last blog ..Colon Cleansing Diary 1 Week On =-.

  6. Stefan
    July 21, 2009 at 9:40 am #

    This is a common problem in the “make money”-niche. People trying to sell “fantastic” products that will make you rich without having to do anything. Isn’t it weird that they are giving away this “fantastic” secret..?

    Anyway, this is the reason to why I created To show people how easy it’s to create a screenshot and why they shouldn’t trust them.
    .-= Stefan´s last blog ..Review: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko =-.

  7. Anna
    July 30, 2009 at 5:42 pm #

    I hear you Joe! I appreciate that you use that policy and I think a lot of others do as well. You probably earn more money in the long run that way (maybe not the short run lol) and you feel much better about it, too.

  8. Normal Joe
    July 30, 2009 at 5:25 pm #

    we MUST know what we promote.

    That is why I have a page of stuff I promote in Joeville! It is stuff I use and I routinely turn down offers to jv with various marketers…why? I don’t have time to look into what they are doing so I won’t promote something I can’t or haven’t used myself.
    .-= Normal Joe´s last blog ..Jimmy Vee and Travis Miller piss me off! =-.

  9. Normal Joe
    July 30, 2009 at 5:54 pm #

    Yeah Anna, for me it’s not about the quick profit, I’m building a community and a reputation, so I have to protect that.

    It works out much better in the end and like you said, I can hold my head high knowing I didn’t scam anyone intentionally!

    For me, a good collection of “go to” tools and products proves much better than an any thing goes type of plan.
    .-= Normal Joe´s last blog ..Finally learning to read faster with the Readers Edge =-.

  10. Danni@ Bird Feeders
    August 1, 2009 at 11:33 am #

    I agree with all the comments here so far, I suppose its the people that don’t follow these guidelines that we have to worry about and watch out for. When I looked in to internet businesses I wanted to choose one that I enjoyed, was knowledgeable about and had tested the products – obviously profitability is important as well but so were the other ‘soft’ factors.

  11. shailesh@ Rental advertising
    October 12, 2009 at 9:48 am #

    Thnks for information but i thnk that would only ever promote a product I had personally used or tried before i would actively reccommend it.

  12. Andy Answers
    October 21, 2009 at 12:20 am #

    I especially liked your article about building from nothing techniques. This is another enriching story I’ve learned a lot from. I fully agree that there is lots of useless stuff on the Internet people are trying to make money from. Some of them are pure scam, some others promote obviously useless stuff you can find anywhere else such as credit cards or poker sites. Anyways, subscribing looking forward to more inspiring articles. Thanks, Anna.
    .-= Andy Answers´s last blog ..How to Build Your Own PC from Scratch =-.

  13. purva@wholesale thailand clothing
    November 22, 2009 at 11:45 pm #

    I agree with this we are not aware of what we are promoting sometimes which cause harm to general people………this blog is good for marketers.
    .-= purva@wholesale thailand clothing´s last blog ..Baiyoke Wholesale Apparel =-.

  14. Bob
    January 14, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

    I agree with this we are not aware of what we are promoting sometimes which cause harm to general people.

  15. alisa
    August 16, 2010 at 5:04 am #

    Dear Ana,
    Great post! I agree almost 100% in whatever you’ve wrote about, except : it’s not a small percentage of people willing to do and promote stuff harmful for others only to make money, it’s on the opposite: there is a (too) small percentage of people online (and offline) that are willing to put honest and integrity on the front instead. Sad, but truth. Many of such people actually don’t think about harmful consequences and yes…we all should raise our voice against such practices and raise up the community awareness. Hopefully, this could help to ‘fight’ big boys who make big bucks and who unfortunately know exactly what they are doing.


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