Scamming the internet: How Google can be a villain when it tries to be a hero

Posted by Kole McRae

Techvibes editor Knowlton Thomas ran an interesting article on Primerica. He asked how a scam like Primerica can survive in a world with the internet—when all you have to do is google "Primerica scam” and you’ll find tons of information on why you shouldn’t work for them. He offered this (googling the company name + scam) as simple advice to help you avoid scams in the future.

The problem is that companies know about this advice and use it to make even more sales.

Lets look at the fun world of ‘male enhancement products’ as an example. One such product called ‘Extenze’ is known for it’s misleading marketing. A quick search for ‘Extenze scam’ brings up the following webpage as the number 1 result: Extenzescam.com (Probably NSFW).

This website is far from helpful and in fact is an affiliate for Extenze—meaning they are trying to sell you Extenze by pretending to be a review site. Using Google’s natural appreciation of exact match domain names and thousands of purchased links (both black hat SEO techniques) this website has made it to the top result for a search term used by thousands of people looking to know if the product is legitimate.

You’ll find the same kind of results if you search for a product + complaints or product + side effects and others. Messing with the search results is actually a common tactic used by affiliate marketers.

This isn’t the only way companies are intentionally misinforming the public. They also build fake ‘review sites.’ On these websites they rank their own products highly and devalue all others. This makes it so when you search for “product + review” you get the scammy companies website devaluing the original product searched for and instead they get you to purchase their own product.

Lets go back to the original example category of ‘male enhancement products.’ I found one website called Mens Blog Talk, that seemed to review hundreds of these products. Here’s there review page for Extenze.

As you can see, tons of people commented on it, giving you a plethora of opinions on the product. This is usually a good thing, but if you scroll down to the bottom of the page you’ll see this:

Disclaimer: ...Mens Blog Talk.com is sponsored by Urban Nutrition (the makers of a male enhancement product, their number 1 product in fact.) ...additionally there are also sponsored postings by our own bloggers...

They write their own comments and get away with it.

The best way to avoid this is to only use trusted websites such as the New York Times or other reputable publications (like Techvibes) for all your information and research. Also make sure to check multiple sources for information, and if your gut tells you to avoid a company like the plague, trust your gut.  

Company:
Google
Website:
http://www.google.com
Location:
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. As a first step to fulfilling that mission, Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed a new approach to online search that took root in a Stanford University dorm room and quickly spread to information seekers around the globe. Google is now widely recognized as the world's largest search engine --... more


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Kole McRae

Kole McRae

Kole is a tech journalist and all round nice guy. He was built by a mad scientist with the parts of lesser writers. He was made to destroy the world but ends up just eating ramen all day and writing tech news. more



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