“Internet Marketing” Isn’t A Scam; Fix It, Please, The Verge

dislike-thumbs-downHey, The Verge. Can I just call you Verge? We’ve got a little problem. Apparently you’ve grown past your gadget roots. In doing so, you’ve stumbled into just labeling a wide swath of legitimate marketers as scammers. By the way, in doing so, you’ve made yourself out to be scammers as well.

Postscript: Please be sure to read my follow-up post, The Verge’s “Scamworld” Profiles “Internet Marketing” Schemes You Should Avoid

You know what I’m talking about, that giant feature article called Scamworld. It’s a good, scary, sad tale of scummy make-easy-money programs out there. I’d love it if not for this one thing:

Raygoza is an Internet Marketer — a 21st century snake oil salesman.

Here’s the issue. I’m an internet marketer, but I’m not a 21st century snake oil salesman. Neither are the thousands or millions of other people who perform internet marketing activites such as:

  • search engine optimization
  • email marketing
  • paid search
  • display advertising
  • social media marketing

These are all legitimate internet marketing activities. I can see that The Verge itself does some of them. So how’d we end up being further described like this:

The term Internet Marketing describes both a particular business model used to sell fraudulent products and services online, and the community or subculture that embraces it. It operates out in the open — with poorly designed websites, tacky infomercials, and outrageous claims designed to scare off the wary and draw in the curious, desperate, and naive.

Wow. I’m in an airport right now dashing this out, but when I get home, I can’t wait to tell my boys this new term for what Daddy does.

Hey, don’t believe me that you’ve got it wrong? How about a look at Wikipedia. It has a page about Internet Marketing. What’s there is like what I describe, not the nightmare that you’ve redefined internet marketing to be.

Oh, but you mean — let me quote as I was informed — Internet Marketing. With Capital Letters. As your features editor tweeted to me:

we’re pretty clearly talking about a particular phenomenon, capital I capital M.

Oh, you’re pretty clearly talking about a scummy segment that pushes “Internet Marketing” as a make money scam. But you’ve done nothing, nada, in that giant huge article, to clarify there’s actually a broader, longer-standing discipline of Internet Marketing that has nothing to do with that.

But hey, if Nokia comes along and declares that all its Windows Phones are now iPhones, I suppose you’ll start calling them iPhones, too.

Please fix this error. Because it is an error. Then I can go back to loving The Verge again. Please?

Postscript: About 15 minutes after this story went up, The Verge asked if I’d come on the VergeCast podcast that was in progress. I felt we had a good conversation about the issue. I’d still hope they’d better clarify the story. Here’s the show:

YouTube Preview Image

Postscript 2: To stress again how long-standing “Internet Marketing” has been an umbrella term used for the range of legitimate marketing activities done on the internet, consider the Internet Marketing Association. From its website:

  • Founded in 2001
  • The board includes a director from Adobe and a partner at Ernst & Young
  • Corporate sponsors include IBM, Tesla, Google & Disneyland
  • Two US congressional representatives are listed as government sponsors
  • Members are from companies and organizations like Coca Cola, NASA and the YMCA

I can’t say that I’m that impressed by the group, which hasn’t seemed to react at all to the Verge’s article, despite the advocacy mission it’s supposed to have. Indeed, reading a recent article on the site advising people to using spinning software to create near-duplicates of articles is actually the opposite of what Google advises.

My impression is that the group started way back when internet marketing (of the non-Verge kind) was growing, similar to how the SEMPO group for search marketers was founded, and has since devolved largely into an annual awards and event group. It seems clever in getting lots of general support even if it doesn’t really do much to promote internet marketing activities.

Still, to get that type of support, it’s clear that a lot of major companies are involved with Internet Marketing that’s not the type described in the Verge article.

Postscript 3: Please see The Verge’s “Scamworld” Profiles “Internet Marketing” Schemes You Should Avoid.

(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Features & Analysis | Internet Marketing Industry | Top News

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About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://www.chrissouthcott.com/ cjschris
  • http://twitter.com/YoungbloodJoe Joe Youngblood

    Danny is dead on. Call out the scammers and the scuzbags and dont give them our industry label.

  • SEOChemist

    Completely agree, I do internet marketing, a lot of the time for small businesses. I help them legitimately grow their business selling real products.

    you might as well say all sailors are pirates.

  • Randy Cassingham

    The definition is actually perfect — if the term being described is “spam”. But to say all e-mail is terrible because some people spam? Ludicrous!

  • Roy

    Maybe the industry should have spent a little more time calling out and neutralizing the actual scammers, then mediums like theverge wouldn’t have to. Not enough self-regulation is the problem, not theverge.

  • jeffyablon

    That was actually one of the best articles of its ilk I’ve ever read. After researching and writing something that long, though, why they were so lazy as to just throw the idea of Internet Marketing—which is clearly the only marketing that works any more—into the basket occupied by these cheeseballs is beyond me

  • TheTruthHurtsDoesntIt

    Great article Dan. I don’t always agree with you (especially your Googlephilic bias) but I gotta admit, you’ve managed to dismantle their gargantuan feature in a mere 400 words. Top stuff!

  • http://www.experienceadvertising.com Affiliate Management

    I thought the article was great. I think most people will be able to discern real Internet Marketers from supposed super-affiliates selling a get-rich quick system to unassuming newbies.

  • http://twitter.com/SkipFletcher Adam Sanders

    If you read the Verge article and cannot discern the difference between legit internet marketers and the scammers the Verge are calling out, you are no smarter than the people who are being victimized by these scams.

  • Pat Grady

    Change the scenery… newspaper does an article describing a gypsy ripoff mob as typical of any professional roofing company, people discredit the newspaper.  Internet Marketing is now mainstreamly large… like people know the gypsy/Acme divide, most know this story is on The Verge of lunacy.

  • http://twitter.com/MaydayPictures Meredith Nunnally

     Wow! I wonder where this logic even came from. I too, cannot wait to tell people about my new title. :)

  • http://twitter.com/MaydayPictures Meredith Nunnally

    Oh, what? You don’t think “modern snake oil salesmen” sounds awesome? hahaha

  • Bruno M. Picinini

    Beautiful.

    I think they got what they wanted: attention.

    create a very controversial post and shoot it out.

    They might have reason and logic behind their arguments, but I believe they are shooting at the wrong people.

    Cheers!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Kozik/100001733073566 Bob Kozik

    Let’s be real, pretty much 100% of the so-called “educational” content you see online for Internet Marketing is plugged into a community which is no different than multi-level marketing. The closed mindedness, lies about earnings, every guy pumping a blog thinks he’s the only legit one, a ton inspirational stories, and even people who sold legitimate businesses are licensing their identities to companies in the space. Shit’s like every dude with lick of success online is cashing out. It’s a new aged ole boys club.

    Calling Internet Marketing a thing as though it’s something different than marketing is bullshit. The principles that made marketing possible online didn’t fall from the heavens. Everything we use online has it’s roots in brick-and-mortar marketing. The reality of everything which is popular is it builds upon what came before, and to suggest that using the Internet for marketing as though it is anymore more than a medium is destructive. Cause while it’s great marketing to push the idea that it’s different, special even, is great for your bottom line it hurts the space long-term.  Everyone who wants to enter the space should do what they’re going to do by themselves in addition to pursuing a degree from an accredited university. The fact that people aren’t pushing that line proactively shows how self-serving and immature this so-called industry really is.

  • http://www.thednetworks.com Dhawal D

    Some serious #ownage happening here! Way to go @dannysullivan:disqus 

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Well, Bob, we have education content here on internet marketing. It’s not plugged into a membership program. Each day, we list articles from across the web about internet marketing in our Marketing Day newsletter. Those typically aren’t plugged in, either. So I think you’re wrong on your 100% estimate.

    And yes, I hadn’t realized all these programs were billing themselves as “Internet Marketing.” Learned something new there, and no, I wasn’t lying when I spoke about this on VergeCast.

    I’ve been to those forums occasionally, mainly if I’ve clicked on a link to a thread about something SEO-related. Guess what — this hasn’t come up in those threads, quite logically because they’re about some SEO thing.

    I also didn’t suggest this was new. If you calm down, go back and listen to what I said, I said the concept of these crappy type of programs is pretty old. What was new to me was hearing them billed as “Internet Marketing,” and that when I was last looking as particular searches on that topic, I didn’t recall seeing these types of programs coming up. And I asked myself if they’d been using this name for very long, and no one seemed that certain.

  • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

    @dannysullivan:disqus  I think you’re doing a disservice to the people accused by characterizing their programs as “crappy” unless you’ve actually purchased them or evaluated them in some editorial capacity. Since you’ve never heard of them prior to The Verge article, you are presenting yourself as no better than the author of the Scamworld article, which I don’t think is your intent.

    While I have never purchased anything from Frank Kern, who was the primary target of the article, I have products from Yanik Silver, Eben Pagan, and Jeff Walker. All three of them are part of the “Syndicate” and appear in the Scamworld video. I didn’t get rich from any of them, nor did I expect to. I did great education on specific aspects of marketing and content development. In short, it was money well spent from my point of view.

    None of my purchases resulted in being contacted by “boiler room” pitchmen. At one point I had a monthly subscription to an interview series Eben Pagan offered. When I opted to cancel, the process was far easier than any of my customer service dealings with Comcast, T-Mobile, or AT&T have ever been, which I mention only as a point of comparison against what most reasonable people would consider “legitimate” companies.

    I have also attended the Underground conference in the past, which was part of the source material for the Scamworld article. Much like conferences in the search space, the material varied from novice to expert. Also, much like conferences in the search space, I got more value out of the hallway conversations than I did in the actual sessions.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I’ve seen these types of programs touted under a different name. They’ve looked pretty crappy to me. But fair enough — if some of them are helpful to people, great for those people who’ve knowingly understood what they are buying and haven’t had problems.

  • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

    The same could be said of SEO. ;)

  • thetanktheory

    And there we have it. You’ve just made an attempt to legitimize the scam artists.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ilia-Kuriyaki/1378358593 Ilia Kuriyaki

    Oh really is not a Scam… then Check this internet marketer fellow down here:

    Looks like “Scammer Shane Natan” got rid of the pictures that
    exposed him as a scammer and bogus seller, nevermind. Here is the same
    post with “new links” just for you, Shane:

    This is “how to get
    rid of the scammer Shane Natan” when he tries to sell you crappy fiverr
    clones that “could make millions” OMG! :

    Step1: Recieve the offer
    http://i54.tinypic.com/bfrztl.jpg

    Step2: trick him and make him think you actually believe he is a great guru and stuff like that
    http://i51.tinypic.com/1zcl1r7.jpg
    http://i51.tinypic.com/n1sagy.jpg
    http://i54.tinypic.com/2qaid7o.jpg

    Step3: When he tries to get your credit card number through the gmail chat tell him to f*ck off.
    http://i51.tinypic.com/2nqbndx.jpg

    Rinse and repeat with the next WSOs seller, guru etc.

    Just in case you wanna see a copy paste of the chat between the scammer Shane Natan and me go to:

    http://saltydroid.info/the-greatest-douche-in-the-world/

    In
    the comments section you will easily find it along with some discusions
    between Shane Natan the Scammer himself and some posters of Salty
    Droids blog. BTW: Shane Natan Scammer, thanks for digging you own grave
    by using such ridiculous answers.

    See it for yourself:

    http://saltydroid.info/the-greatest-douche-in-the-world/

    Here is the scammer´s website:

    http://shanenatan.info/

    By the way  Hey! Shane Natan SCAMMER … if you happen to be reading this…
    FUCK YOU SCAMMER!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/FreshFaya FreshFire

    the industry actually DOES self-neutralise/self-regulate itself and calls out scammers…anyone who’s been 2mins in this industry has heard of high refund rates for terrible products on Warrior Forum.

    We might still be a young industry experiencing growing pains, but u gotta admit that was pretty LAZY journalism on The Verge’s part

  • Pratik Patel

    Hey  @dannysullivan:disqus I was watching the VergeCast live when you called in and I read the article right then. I remember a specific line that was pissing them off. You called them the All Things TechCrunch. I’m happy you got rid of that line but you should have at least made a footnote claiming you made this edit. Otherwise I feel like you’re just backtracking to make it look like you were being less of a (sorry for being so blatant but) jerk.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I dropped the line, and edited the headline, about 5 minutes after I posted. It’s pretty common I’ll post an article, give it another run through and make some additional edits. In this case, I looked at it and though hmm, that’s probably being too mean.

    My original lead was:

    “Hey, The Verge. Can I just call you Verge? We’ve got a little problem. Apparently you’ve grown past your gadget roots in your quest to be the new All Things TechCrunch. In doing so, you’ve stumbled into just labeling a wide swath of legitimate marketers as scammers. By the way, in doing so, you’ve made yourself out as well.”

    The last paragraph was:

    Please fix this error. Because it is an error. With those boatloads of writers you’ve hired, this is a pretty dumb mistake that shouldn’t have been allowed.

    The line boatloads of writers linked to this:
    http://www.techmeme.com/120501/p45#a120501p45

    Which was a cluster of stories about new hires, linked to a Business Insider story called: “The Verge Just Hired A Boatload Of Writers To Take On TechCrunch And All Things D.”

    That’s where the “All Things TechCrunch” reference in my lead came from. It was strong in my mind, because I’d just remembered hearing about this big expansion. Then I see this story that really isn’t tech, certainly isn’t gadgets (sorry, but that’s what I’ve thought of The Verge being about” and thought wow, maybe they shouldn’t write areas beyond their core strength if they’re going to make big mistakes like I felt they did.

    That’s also why the original headline was also:

    “Internet Marketing” Isn’t A Scam; Perhaps The Verge Should Stick To Gadgets”

    Like I said, I made these changes about soon after posting. Eight minutes after originally posting, I see now as I look at the revision times. Like I said, I thought maybe that was being too harsh. I was looking at a publication I’d respected make a huge mistake. I wanted to raise the issue but not have it turn into a stupid war between two blogs, so I hoped the changes helped. 

    That’s also why the headline added “Please” as you see there, and I added a line about loving The Verge at the end.

    There were probably some typos and maybe minor other slight changes made to the copy on my second read, but nothing substantial.

    You really shouldn’t have seen the original changes by the time I was on the called. I’d already made them before going on. In fact, if you listen to the call, I mentioned that I’d made that change, had changed the headline, and I’m pretty sure I said I was sorry about that or something similar. 

    It wasn’t some type of attempt to hide anything. It was just meant to soften the tone quickly, so we didn’t have an even worse back-and-forth, an unproductive one, that happened.

    The story over on The Verge, by the way, still doesn’t have any type of clarification as was discussed on the show. That wasn’t promised, but I kind of thought they all saw it as reasonable.

  • http://jeffmcneill.com/blog/ Jeff McNeill

    TheVerge sucks, they are indeed the All Things TechCruch and it shows. Let’s go back to ignoring them.

  • http://twitter.com/MirandaM_EComm Miranda Miller

    That’s a bit more than a stretch there, cowboy.  Not sure how you could have read anything like that into his comment unless that’s what you came here hell-bent to find.

  • http://twitter.com/RyanBurnsworth Ryan Burnsworth

    I think the real fakes in the IM world are the ones that promote IM classes or training.
    Not all of these are scams, but for the most part they are. They target complete novices and display lots of money or wealth to drive them in, but a real IM can see from their website that they know nothing of internet marketing.
     
    Ever see those ‘Internet Marketing Gurus’ with a mile-long landing page and tons of 20min videos? Most haven’t even the slightest knowledge of SEO, no Adwords/Adcenter accreditation, and are often clueless on how to market to half-way intelligent people.

    Sorry for the rant. I despise these people alot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Rempel/725440457 Chris Rempel

    The article is obviously a linkbait, and it worked gloriously.

    Clearly, the Verge has no idea what they’re talking about, or how the “industry” really works. They’re also painting the entire marketing industry with a broad brush.

    Perhaps these nerds don’t realize that they have jobs directly because “internet marketers” hire them?

    Yes, there are scam-artists and low-quality products out there.

    WELCOME TO EARTH.

    Show me a single industry where that doesn’t exist.

    -Chris

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doug-Macdonald/100000497338872 Doug Macdonald

    With the good comes the bad.  If it were easy everybody would be doing it.  That is part of the price.  Siffting through the coal to find the diamond.   http://www.melbournemarketinginternetsolutions.com

  • http://ciarannorris.co.uk Ciaran

    “It’s called The verge – the 21st Century yellow journalism.”

    The fact that they feel Danny has to have an opinion on some scammer is as ridiculous as me expecting these guys to answer to The Leverson Inquiry.

    No surprise here: Danny is one of the few bloggers who actually has a right to call himself a journalist. It’s almost like these guys are trying to give me reasons not to read them. Shameless plug coming up http://ciarannorris.co.uk/2012/05/10/the-paucity-of-tech-comment/

  • http://ciarannorris.co.uk Ciaran

    Bloody hell. Someone buy these guy a thesaurus. They don’t define marketing as marketing. I wonder who they think placed those ads all over their site.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marc.saxe Marc Saxe

    Everyone is getting their panties in a twist over the use of the term “internet marketing” on the Verge.  Back off.  They were right to point out these handful of manipulators trying to cream the internet marketing information hunters.  We all know they are doing it.  And yes, Danny is correct to try to expand the definition of “internet marketing” beyond the article.  There are certainly more professionals involved in real SEO and SEM than those teaching marginally phony methods using high urgency and high pressure sales tactics.  I don’t think anyone reading the article on the Verge lumped Danny, Hubspot, SEOMOZ or any of the professionals in with them. 

    I read the article fairly closely and think that much of Danny’s criticism is not justified.  He’s just being overly sensitive about the use of the term.  And yes, Verge would have been better off using the the phrase “internet marketing information scams”.  They didn’t.  But that was obviously what they were targeting.  Who do you think is reading it?  I think most of the readers and commentators know the difference and who is who.  

    I personally appreciated them reporting that those they mentioned were in a coordinated campaign to increase each others’ credibility beyond what their products and launches warrant.  There are great products out there for internet marketers and a lot of really bad ones.  When people tell the marketplace they are experts, and are only experts in their own, self-fulfilling, circle, people need to know who is endorsing who.  Verge did a service by pointing out who is the tip of the iceberg.  But we all know, that even within the ranks of pros, there are those that are mutually enhancing each others’ reputations and using high urgency closing tools to get deals.  The difference being the quality of their information and methods.  The article was a bit heavy handed, but it was reasonably accurate and points out both the “most wanted list” and reminds us to watch out for these methods among professionals.

  • http://www.netmagellan.com/ Ash Nallawalla

    Didn’t the article refer to Information Marketing and gave examples as eBooks, DVDs and webinars? 

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