How Bloggers Manipulate You and Why I No Longer Trust Blogs With Price Tags On Them

Would you voluntarily join a sect?

I bet you’re thinking – “HELL NO!

This is how most of us will react, yet there are hundeds (if not thousands) of sects around the globe – all because most people get there by being deceived!

It all starts with a friendly invite to attend some meeting or lecture on a topic that bothers you, which in reality is a point of no return.

For the most of us the word “Sect” has a negative meaning and is quite often associated with the word “BrainWash“. That’s because we know that the people standing behind any sect are brilliant psychologists and outstanding public speakers, they use all known NLP techniques to manipulate your conscious and subconscious minds and make you do exactly what they want.

Now what if I say… that the Internet gave a birth to a brand new type of sect.

It all happens online now. From the very first interaction being a blog post, a video, a webinar or even a tweet, you get sucked into a funnel with one single purpose – getting all your money.

Guys, I want you to meet The World’s Most Deceiving Online “Sect” being…

Internet Marketing:

I strongly encourage you to stop reading my post and watch this video from the beginning and to the end. And in case you have some extra time you might as well check a brilliant post associated with the video above (big as hell, but really worth reading).

This whole “Internet Marketing Sect” is nothing else, but carefully crafted MLM pyramid.

Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a marketing strategy in which the sales force is compensated not only for sales they personally generate, but also for the sales of others they recruit, creating a downline of distributors and a hierarchy of multiple levels of compensation.

In other words, joining the forces of some scammy internet marketer requires you to buy his products as well as help him distribute them among your own network. And if you’re lucky and persistent enough – you might even sell a couple copies of your own product – but you will never get a check as big as your “guru”. That’s because he’s somewhere at the top of the MLM pyramid and he’s not interested in letting you reach his level and split profits.

I won’t dissertate about the success you might or might not achieve with an MLM business of any kind, I just want you to understand that people want to bring you to MLM not because they want you to make money, but because they want you to buy their products and redistribute them. And then it’s up to you how close to the top you can climb, but that’s not even close to something that’s called “get rich quick“.

The Blogs With Price Tags

According to my theory the “price tag” is one of the many indicators that the blogger is trying to manipulate you. Let me break down all of them, so that you could either approve or criticize my theory:

Stolen Face

There’s no better way to improve the credibility of your words other than show your face right next to them (hint: take a look at the top of my sidebar). Which of the testimonials will sound more credible to you: a) un-signed paragraph of text; b) a paragraph of text signed with a name; c) a paragraph of text signed with a name and a photo; d) video testimonial.

You might vote for the video testimonial as it’s the hardest to fake. Yet, with people offering video testimonials for $5, the right answer would be: e) a testimonial by someone you’re 100% sure he actually exists.

The internet is flooded with bots, fake names & paid testimonials by random people. You cannot trust anyone unless you know he’s real.

By saying “real” – I mean that you should be able to track a person if that’s needed. For example you can find me on Foursquare and see where I hang out (even though my account is barely active). You can find me on Facebook and talk with my friends about me. You might even find my YouTube channel and discover my little hobby – spinning vinyl :)

What I mean is that every real person will leave a ton of “footprints” around the web and if you’re struggling to find them – there might be something wrong with this person. I think that the only reason someone might want to hide his identity is doing something dodgy or unethical.

Do a reverse image search on a persons photo and you’ll quickly find out if it was stolen.

Fake Personal Story

There’s nothing wrong with storytelling actually, thousands of bloggers tell their personal stories to build that rapport with their readers which helps a lot in delivering their message.

Yet you must consider one very important thing. While you’re reading all those personal stories, your brain treats them as if you were actually there when it happened, which makes you think you know this person, which in its turn makes you think you can predict his actions in certain situations. Which is very very wrong…

I’ve just finished reading a book by Richard Branson “Screw It, Let’s Do It”. The book is great and it made me feel that Richard Branson is a very kind and reasonable person and in fact I even feel some attraction to him (no gay). Yet if I ever be lucky enough to do business with Sir Richard I don’t think I’ll make desicions based solely on what I’ve read about him in this book. Cause in reality I have no clue of what kind of person he actually is, I’ve just read something he wrote about his own self!

But Sir Richard has a huge advantage over poky online people – one hell of a reputation that can be confirmed by thousands of people he had dealt with in his life.

Speaking of online marketers, a few Google searches like: “name scam”, “name rip off”, “name cheat” might really add to that shiny personal story that you’ve just read.

Crafty Cliffhangers

Again there’s nothing wrong with this tactic in general. Lots of bloggers will drop cliffhangers here and there to make you want to come back to their blog later and read that little thing that was elegantly seeded into your mind.

What if I use a cliffhanger right now and say that next week I will reveal how this very blog post helped my friend to escape the trap of buying a $10.000 training course from a scammer? Did that make you slightly shiver of impatience to read this story? Well that’s the Zeigarnik Effect in action:

The Zeigarnik Effect is the tendency to experience intrusive thoughts about an objective that was once pursued and left incomplete. The automatic system signals the conscious mind, which may be focused on new goals, that a previous activity was left incomplete. It seems to be human nature to finish what we start and, if it is not finished, we experience dissonance.

You were reading this post and suddenly I made it kind of incomplete by promising you to reveal a very relevant story. There’s a good chance it’ll stick into your mind and you’ll recall it sometime after. So what’s the problem with this tactic anyway?

Well, you see, in most cases a sequence of cliffhangers means that you are in a sales funnel. So get ready to be pitched some product at the end of it.

Again, I’m not necessarily saying this is something bad, but if you add that to the other “scam indicators” you might not like the fact that some dodgy person is manipulating you.

“Expensive Free Stuff”

Those are the price tags I was referencing earlier. How many times have you seen messages like “download my FREE ebook, valued $97”, “attend my FREE webinar, normally sold for $197”, “sign up for my FREE email course, previously sold for $247”.

What irritates me a lot is that those products were never ever sold for the declared price even once. Their creators are simply exploiting a well known psychologic trick that people value things according to how big is the price.

Yet at the end of the day the only purpose of this “FREE $97 valued ebook” is simply to get you into that sales funnel with a sequence of cliffhangers nurturing you for the purchase of a product, which in its turn is nothing else, but another sales funnel for a more expensive product.

Enter The Mystery:

First of all, I’m not making any claims here, just sharing my observations.

Recently I’ve discovered a very nice IM blog called CopySean and I was blown away by the success story of the guy behind it. It was really inspiring and pleasure to read. I didn’t think long before I submitted my email address into one of his lead capture forms.

Yet something was bothering me about him. And so I decided to tell that to him directly:

Afterwards, we had a short conversation on Twitter where he assured me that he was a real person. I didn’t care that much anyway…

But sometime later I decided to learn more about Sean and searched for his social profiles. To my surprise I was not able to find any. So I did a reverse image search on a photo he had on his “About” page and discovered that it belonged to some other person.

At the moment of writing this post the photo was no longer there.

But it was still in Google cache, so I decided to record a video proof:

Spencer Finnley is someone who actually exits – at least I was able to find him on Facebook, unlike Sean King.

You might say that there’s nothing wrong with faking your online identity, using a pen name (I use one myself, actually) or even hiding your face behind fake photos. And I totally agree with you on that one (that’s why I had to add some X-Files music to my video – it creates drama LOL).

I’m not saying Sean King is a scammer or a bad person and something makes me think this post will help him a lot more than harm him, but in any case I’ll keep an eye on his blog and see where it all goes.

What the battle is for?

I’m an avid learner. Each and every day I will dig deep into the world wide web for some new information on internet marketing, productivity, business, management & stuff.

These days over 90% (my own estimate) of information is available for free, you just have to spend your time to find it and lean it. And I hate it when I get sucked in yet another sales funnel with a sequence of cliffhangers promising me an informational holy grail which at the end appears to be some paid product which I know I won’t purchase.

Instead I want to spend my time reading trusted resources that will provide real value in each and every post they publish. And THOSE guys actually have great chances of selling me something.

Will you join my forces?

Tim Soulo is the Chief Marketing Officer and Product Advisor at Ahrefs, a leading tool trusted by hundreds of thousands of SEOs and marketers worldwide. His SEO-related data research studies have been cited by media giants, including Inc, TechCrunch, and VentureBeat. He's also a regular speaker at some of the largest industry conferences around the globe, such as PubCon (US), BrightonSEO (UK), and the Digital Marketers Australia Conference (AU).