The best lies are always at least partially true

Internet Marketing Sins: Beware of the Subtle Lies

The best lies are always at least partially true

We’re living in a world of gross hype. So you may ask me why bother about subtle lies?

“Don’t know anything? Join us and make millions within weeks” will affect only idiots without common sense. However, from a certain point of view, subtle lies are more dangerous… They affect more people. Not only stupid people but also average normal guys and even more than that.

One of the most common subtle lies I noticed these days in internet marketing occurs on “watch over my shoulder” articles, ebooks or videos.

What are those “watch over my shoulder” things? Basically the marketer explains step-by-step or more briefly how she or he achieved a certain good result. Nothing wrong so far but…

There are 2 ways of sharing such experience. Using fair headlines and sales letters or using misleading ones…

What do you think about this headline?… “How to Increase Blog Email Subscribers by 128% in 3 Months

It’s a recent title of an article published by a very known inbound marketing company. The article describes how that company made a small change to some of their pages and then their blog subscribers have increased by 128% in 3 months.

Well, now that you know what the article was about, what do you think about the headline? It looks fair enough, right? But it isn’t! It’s a subtle lie, it’s only partially true…

Now pay attention please:

How We Increased Blog Email Subscribers by 128% in 3 Months” is a slightly different headline. Read it once again: “How WE increased…” It promises a story. And the article delivers what was promised. Nothing suggests that you can get yourself an increase by 128% in 3 months.

What about the original headline?

It suggests that by reading that article you can learn how to increase the blog subscribers by 128% in 3 months. There’s very much different, don’t you think?

Let me tell you the truth: even if the author applies exactly the same techniques to another blog, she will not get an increase by 128%. She’ll get 50% or 127% or maybe 200%. But not 128% – that’s very unlikely.

Such figures depend on other people actions (visitors’ actions) and mood. You know very well that each of us is different. The final results will be different because they’re influenced by other persons, different than the ones who visited the original blog.

In order to show exact figures, you have to make a reasonable number of tests repeating the same procedure. And the final figure will be an average figure anyway. That’s how statistics work. Or you can use such exact figures when you tell a story about what happened ONCE under some circumstances (How we increased…). Otherwise… you’re just telling lies. Subtle lies. But still lies.

If a man will deliberately cheat to the amount of a single cent, give him opportunity and he would cheat to any amount. E.H. CHAPIN quote You may ask why is that so important? Why is it a sin?

Well, when it comes to a free article posted on a blog, a misleading headline won’t affect the readers too much. If the readers apply the tips from that article, most probably they’ll get an increase of their blog email subscribers. Not an increase by 128% but still an increase.

(Actually another fair headline would be “How to Increase Blog Email Subscribers”)

Moving on… When it comes to paid content such as ebooks, there’s indeed a big problem… Look at this headline:

“Do You Want To Pocket $17231.10 in 7 Days Like The Big Guys?”

By paying for such product, you don’t pay for learning how to make SOME money, do you? You pay for finding out how to pocket $17231.10 in 7 days. Well… Pay for that product, follow the tips exactly and I guarantee you that you won’t pocket $17231.10 in 7 days. It was a lie, wasn’t it?

Such lies aren’t innocent lies. Without showing amazing figures and without suggesting that the reader can do it too… the marketers know that the number of sales won’t be the same ;-)

This is effective copywriting indeed. But… if it’s deceptive, is it good? What’s your take?

To Your Success!
Adrian Jock

P.S. Want to discover another subtle lie pattern used by many internet marketers? Read Internet Marketing: The Secret Behind the Earning Claims

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10 thoughts on “Internet Marketing Sins: Beware of the Subtle Lies

  1. Unfortunately, tactics like these seem to be par for the course BECAUSE they work. People are emotional creatures, and not everyone was born with a healthy dose of skepticism. People are much more likely to click things that resonate with them emotionally and get those dollars signs flashing in their eyes. I can’t blame them, I’ve been in that situation more than once.

    I don’t have any good answers – just criticism – lol. I really try to be as honest as possible with visitors to my site (I’m in the niche marketing niche), but sometimes I think it would just be easier to tell them “Hey, you can make a million dollars if you just click this link”.

    I haven’t proven myself right yet, but I’m hoping that straightforwardness and honesty is going to be a better long term strategy for my business than sensationalism.

    BTW, awesome quotes on lying and deception.

  2. Hi Nathaniell, thank you very much for your comment. The truth is that sometimes I ask myself, “Is it good to be honest?” It’s really sad when you have to ask yourself such question…

    You know, many times a simple truth such as “You can’t make tons of money without doing anything and without knowing anything” gets a simple “No way, go away”.

    In the same time, “follow me and you’ll get tons of money without doing anything and without knowing anything” gets a… “Great, this is what I was expecting!”

    So many people expect unrealistic things. If you tell them the truth, they don’t like it and they move on until they find someone who tells them a stupid but nice lie. That’s so sad!

  3. Interesting article, Adrian. You make a good point.

    I agree with Nathaniell that sincerity is the best practice.

    The moment I see a $ amount in a headline, I tend to tune out. I’ve learned long ago that because someone else made a certain amount of money, or traffic, that does not mean that I will do the same, because at the end of the day it is what action I take that matters.

    Who would I rather have in my affiliate business – someone who fell for a lie, even a subtle one, or someone who accepted the cold hard truth and signed up anyway. In my experience, going for long term gain and good relationships always works out better.

    ~ Jude

  4. Hi Jude,

    Thank you for the comment and for resharing the article. I agree with you that long term gain and good relationships work out better :)

  5. Hi Adrian.

    I’m so pleased that you posted this article. I’m fed up every day with seeing the sensational headlines that most people don’t read and analyse properly.

    I agree that “how we” or “how I” etc. is the correct way to go.

    Thanks for sharing.


  6. Hi Nathan,

    Welcome to my blog and thank you for sharing the article on Twitter.

    Yep, there’s a subtle still huge difference between a real how-to article and a false how-to article that is actually a “how we” article.

    Unfortunately so many marketers disregard this difference, willingly or unwillingly.

  7. Hi Adrian,

    I’ve fallen for most of these lies – subtle and not so subtle – in the past. They’ve left me sadder, poorer and wiser.

    Unfortunately many of the “courses” I have been on encourage students to do exactly this because they know it works. I have one or two old banners of that type floating around because that was what I was supplied with, but I’m not comfortable with them and remove them when I bump into them again. They haven’t worked anyway!

    I wrote a $9.95 ebook and was strongly encouraged to use a similar title (NOT that outlandish because I toned it down myself) but I was so uncomfortable with it I barely promoted it and then just gave it away so that no-one could complain.

    I much prefer to stick with the truth, even though it’s less attractive. When tempted I always imagine myself refunding some $9.95 product to an unhappy customer who didn’t make $17231.10 :-)

    Perhaps if more people (like me) complained and asked for refunds this wouldn’t go on so much. In fact Clickbank did get much more picky – presumably because they had so many complaints.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Joy. If you don’t like the banners you were provided with or you’re not comfortable with them, then there’s a simple solution: go to Canva and design your own banners. I’m sure that you already know this solution :)

  8. Hi Adrian

    I like the fact that you speak about an issue that is gaining trend. These innocent lies have made people believe that making money online is unrealistic. Thanks for sharing. Have a wonderful week.

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