Literal Thinking

Real stories of workplace follies

6 signs your online guru might be ripping you off

Posted by A Friend on 20 March 2009

Online Rip-off Following on from our previous post on the lure of online ventures, below are six signs that your presumed online guru might not be a guru at all and may in fact be ripping you off.

Please note that this post is not about your garden variety online scammer. Neither is this about those who do affiliate marketing, network marketing, or pay per post blogging: these are legitimate online ventures that people from all walks of life undertake. Rather, this post is about those who purport to be experts in their niche areas but their supposed expertise are hardly visible in their online activity; and thus, the product or service they offer is often not worth the time and money that they are asking from you.

1. Their love of writing does not translate to lovely writing

A lot of monetized blogs that we have visited, regardless of their topic niche, claim their love of writing, communicating, and helping others as one of their primary reasons for starting the blog; never mind that half of their pages are percolated with advertisements and/or paid links. The first sign to look out for that your online guru might not be the real deal is if their proclaimed love of writing does not seem to flow through their content.

Bloggers often write posts in a hurry and click the publish button even more quickly, so it is harsh to always expect perfectly written articles. Not to mention that there are genuine bloggers out there who learned English as their second or third language. It should, however be expected of monetized blogs that their posts have at least had some thought before writing and publication. Astute blog readers can easily spot haphazardly written material and monetized bloggers who produce second rate articles too regularly are not worth paying.

2. Contents of their free e-book are freely available elsewhere

A common approach monetized blogs take these days is inviting readers to subscribe to free newsletters. Often, to entice the reader to subscribe, these bloggers offer a free e-book related to their niche. This free e-book is the subscribers’ first feel of what the blogger’s other premium services are going to be like, so one can be sure that a lot of care has been undertaken in producing the e-book, even if it is provided for free.

A telltale sign that a blogger’s premium service is not worth subscribing to is if the free e-book they provide contains nothing new. The web is so full of free information that anyone with an internet browser and a modicum of patience can find information on almost anything. A premium service, regardless of whether it costs $2 or $20, is only really worth paying if it offers something one can’t get freely.

3. Too much content filler

Bloggers have creative ways of churning out mindless posts when their minds blank out of post ideas. Some of these include posting an interesting photo or video they supposedly accidentally ran into (they may add a line or two of text to make it appear they exerted some effort); writing a list of top blog posts or related news stories of the week or month and providing nothing more than links to external sites and a couple of sentences (sometimes straight out of search engine results) for each link; running semi-relevant reader polls; and publishing best of articles that do nothing but rehash old posts.

These strategies are all right and acceptable if used sparingly. But some blogs – monetized ones at that – do these too regularly. So imagine a blogger doing Monday Mayhem (quirky videos), Wordless Wednesday (photos), Friday Feedback (reader polls), Saturday Sweep (weekly news aggregation), and Sunday Syndication (best of the blogosphere) posts: five blog posts a week, zero original content.

4. Too much affiliate marketing material

So you were interested enough in the blog and were seduced by the spiffy looking subscriber only free e-book (you only saw the glossy cover, but hey) that you decided to sign up for the blogger’s “totally free” subscription service. Unfortunately, in quite a number of cases, a lot of the good stuff ends with the submission of your e-mail address.

Some bloggers only aim to get you to subscribe and then go with the weight of numbers to hard-sell their product or service. One good way of measuring the quality of these types of subscription services is the volume of true free content that they provide.

Ideally, all the required content should already be in the newsletter. There may be occasional hyperlinks to related information, but the astute reader should determine how many of these lead to affiliate programs. Affiliate marketing can be quite lucrative for a blogger, generating the affiliate as much as 75% of revenue per sale. It is okay to sparingly do this, as there are some genuinely good products and services out there that may be related to a blogger’s niche. But if this is essentially all your guru provides, then you have to wonder where the “premium” service is.

5. Too many product and service endorsements

Another income generator bloggers may use is product and/or service endorsements, and the most common way of doing this is through pay per post or other similar programs. This alone can be a good revenue source for stay at home bloggers, and there are in fact blogs that provide nothing else other than paid posts.

Still, bloggers who profess to be experts and sell products and services related to their field should not be doing this, or at least not so blatantly. A sure sign that your guru may not be worth your time and money is when they all too regularly write posts singing praises of random products and services. It is likely that they already had their fill and you do not need to “donate” further through premium subscriptions.

6. Extravagant claims of success

The most telling sign that your online guru may be a sham is when they try to bamboozle you with extravagant claims of success – but only if you buy or subscribe to their product or service. Extravagant claims are a very common internet marketing strategy, but often by multi level and affiliate marketers.

“Expert” bloggers who resort to similar tactics either know very little about effective marketing strategies, or know clearly that their product or service provides very little value that they hope to gloss this over with an overwhelming sales pitch. Regardless, our view is they are not really worth your time of day, or your money.

As we stated at the beginning of this post, affiliate marketing, network marketing, and pay per post blogging are legitimate ventures people from all walks of life do online. But people who profess subject matter expertise should not be doing this. If you all too often see two or more of the above six signs in your online guru, it is probably a sign that you should walk away.


4 Responses to “6 signs your online guru might be ripping you off”

  1. Kai Lo said

    This post is nothing but the truth! Those people who “love” writing tend to end up getting bored of writing sooner or later when they find out they haven’t been making much money. I’ve seen couple readers who complain about other peoples’ blogs about grammar. My grammar isn’t that great either. The e-books are pretty much a collection of free data as you have mentioned. Most of the “Top 10 Secrets Revealed!!” are bunch of tips that can be found in other blogs for free. One “guru” blog that I found recently is providing people with random funny pictures and videos that are unrelated to SEO, and showing his appreciation of his readers twice a week. I’ve also seen a lot of bogus reviews claiming that the author has been using the program that he/she is endorsing for months.

  2. You won’t find much of the above on my blog.

    I don’t buy traffic, I don’t send out spam emails, I don’t engage in questionable or black hat tactics, I seldom seek JV partners, I never seek inbound links, I blog when I feel like it, my SEO happens automatically,

    I don’t solicit sales, sales just happen.



  3. […] Friend presents 6 signs your online guru might be ripping you off posted at Literal Thinking, saying, “Six signs that your online guru may not be the genius […]

  4. […] 6 signs your online guru might be ripping you off […]

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