How to Avoid Deceptive Online Marketing

Scams on the web are nothing new. Between phishing, hackers, malware, etc. roaming around on the Internet can be hazardous duty. With many of these threats a good anti-virus software, updated software, and some common sense, for example will help you avoid a lot of problems. Deceptive online marketing is a different matter.

Marketing that prey on people’s lack of knowledge, experience, and technical know-how is a danger. Those dangers are harder to avoid because they are masked in ways that make them look authoritative or official.

One of the most notorious of these is the SEO Domain Service companies. These companies have been around for a long time and used to send their notices out via mail but have since graduated to email. These deceptive offers have been a thorn in the side of digital marketing consultants forever.

Protect Your Domain Name

As a webmaster, I manage many websites for small business. These businesses trust me to look out for their best interest. That only works if these businesses involve me before they make a bad decision. Unfortunately, deceptive online marketing can be very convincing and small business owners are prone to act before asking me. It is important that you hire the right webmaster and consult with them before making potentially bad decisions. The core of most client’s web presence is their domain name. If someone gains control of your domain name, they have control over most of your entire Internet footprint. So, protecting your domain name is of the utmost importance.

Lose your domain name and you lose your website.

That is where this company comes in and flirts on the edge of unethical by utilizing deceptive online marketing. They prey on a small businesses owner’s lack of knowledge. Domain ownership records are public and can be looked up by anyone. Unless you pay an extra fee to use a proxy that keeps your information private your information is available to anyone.

This company looks up the ownership information of domains that aren’t protected by privacy and sends them this notice…

First, notice how this email uses words like “expiration” and “important notice” as well as the owner’s domain name. Second, they further sprinkle the notice with expiration dates and lay it out in a way that is very deceptive. It isn’t technically a lie because if you read and understand [key point] this notice spells out what you are getting. Finally, it is clearly designed to prey on the fear of losing your domain name.

Lack of Knowledge Will Hurt You

First, these notices go to these small business owners directly. As their digital consultant, I don’t always see them. Next, out of fear they are about to lose their domain name they will act on this. In a best-case scenario end up paying a hefty fee for a “service” of dubious value. In a worst-case scenario transfer their domain to someone else’s management. Unfortunately, if your domain is transferred to someone else that company can change where it is pointed at and bring down your entire website!

This kind of deceptive online marketing practice is unethical and should be stopped. Unfortunately, I have been seeing these notices show up for 15 years, so I don’t think they are going away anytime soon.

Strategies to Avoid Deceptive Online Marketing

  1. Don’t Act – Never act on one of these notices without showing it to your webmaster first. As soon as a client describes this to me on the phone or forwards it to me in an email I tell them to delete it. Unfortunately, not every client calls me first; which is what this company is counting on.
  2. Read it Carefully – Don’t be fooled by the bold titles that say “expiration” and “official notice” along with your domain name. What this notice says is spelled out in here. The other elements are designed to make you act before you carefully understand it.
  3. Implement Privacy – Privacy should be every domain owner’s right without an extra fee. Today a proxy or privacy block is an extra charge. If you aren’t knowledgeable about your Internet strategy you should spend the extra money to remove your contact information from the public web. These companies can’t send this garbage to you if they don’t know who you are.
  4. Meet Your Webmaster At Least Quarterly – You should be talking to or meeting with your webmaster and/or digital marketing consultant at least once quarterly. More often is better. These meetings should be used to review your marketing, analytics, website. The time can be also be used educate you about what is happening in the online world.

These simple strategies will help you avoid deceptive online marketing and build up your experience. As a digital marketing consultant, I spend a lot of time keeping up on trends, strategies, and how to avoid potholes in the online road. I do this because it is my job. Your job is running your business and making money. Utilize and lean on my experience by meeting or talking regularly.

First Line of Defense – YOU

First, it is important to know that no matter what these notices say or offer because they have no power over your website unless YOU give it to them by acting. Second, your domain name is not going to expire because you don’t act. Finally, if you read the small print it is generally a waste of money and won’t produce any meaningful results to your traffic or sales.

Many in the industry believe these types of marketing practices should be outlawed. In a best-case scenario they are designed to prey on people’s lack of knowledge and scare them into acting on things that are not in their best interest.

If you truly have a good service or product you should NOT need to resort to deceptive online marketing practices. Second, spell out what your offer is and don’t use deliberate techniques to prey on people’s lack of knowledge. Next, be honest and forthright. Finally, let your results speak for themselves. If you truly offer a value in the market it will be obvious to your customers without using dubious and deceptive online marketing strategies to trick people into doing business with you.