A friend of mine markets nutritional supplements on the Internet. He’s a genius at using keywords, landing pages, blogs, review sites and other visibility tactics. Even amid the crush of products in hot areas like “resveratrol,” his product names always appear at the top of search rankings.
But the other day, I wanted to go to his corporate site, not to the different landing pages for his products. I wasn’t sure of the exact URL so I entered his company name and was astounded at the link that came up. It was a complaint posted at the website of a state consumer affairs agency. The company name appeared so often in the complaint no wonder it topped the search rankings.
What was unsettling was the issue cited in the complaint: “The company offers a trial of its supplements but then requires you to cancel. If you don’t cancel, your credit card is charged.” Well yeah! What marketer hasn’t used that offer?
The “complaint” was so odd that I wondered if it was phony and had been posted by a competitor. I searched the name of another company in the same market space. Unbelievably, the exact same complaint came up for that company — and I mean the same, right down to wording, typos, and punctuation. I searched a third company (the third major player in the market space) and no complaint came up. But when I did a little prowling around that company’s site, I discovered that they used the same cancel-or-get-charged offer as the other two competitors. Hmmm.
Now I don’t want to point any fingers, and I know that nutritional supplements are the Wild West of Internet Marketing. But this so-called complaint should concern every marketer. Here’s why: The complaint was POSTED, not filed. That means that there’s nothing official about it. But a customer may never drill down enough to discover that. Instead, they simply perceive that a complaint was “filed” about the company with an official state agency. Yikes! Think about the implications of phony postings all over today’s Web 2.0 world.
When I write about marketing challenges, I usually try to offer solutions. But other than actively Googling yourself, I’m not sure what to do about phony complaints or phony reviews and ratings posted by competitors. If you’ve got any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!