Hi, my name is Sam, and I’m not trying to scam you. Believe it or not, this isn’t always the norm. Are you falling for any blogging scams? If you’re not sure or you just want to be an informed citizien of the internet, it’s time to take a seat and read this post.
Blogging scams are everywhere, and I mean everywhere. They’re on Instagram. They’re on Pinterest. They’re on your aunt’s Facebook page and on that linked you clicked from that helpful new blogger.
They’re so prominent that I’ve been tearing my hair out for years and questioned whether I should even write this post. I’ve already traveled down this road before with my controversial blogging opinions. Now, I’ve decided these opinions are more common-sense than controversial, so I’m turning it up a notch.
If you’re in an MLM, shill your host/affiliate program/money making scheme, or sell redundant courses, this post will be offensive to you.
I feel compelled to publish this not only out of the goodness of my heart but out of my guilt over releasing my own blogger course. I’d be lying if I’m not trying to justify how mine is “different,” but hopefully this post will bring you over to my side of this never-ending war.
1. Multi-Level Marketing
First, let’s debunk one of the most prominent “money making opportunities” on the internet. Multi-level marketing is a type of selling that involves direct sales from “networking,” though most of the money making is from recruiting people to sell under you.
I want you to get out a pen and paper right now to visualize this with me. You’ve got the CEO on the top. You’ve got investors and executives below them. Down lower, you’ve got the top uplink who started by recruiting mass numbers of people. Below, their downline, their downline’s downline, and so on. What are we looking at now? Oh right. A pyramid.
But pyramid schemes are illegal, right? Eh, kind of. These MLM CEOs are a powerful bunch, and they’ve fought lawsuit after lawsuit to keep their “legitimate” practice alive and well. What you really need to know is that these MLM schemes DO. NOT. WORK.
- 50% of representatives drop out in the first year and 90% drop out in five years (source)
- 99% of all distributors in 11 MLMs including Airbonne, Herbalife, Amway, and way more earn an average of less than $13 a WEEK (source)
- Most MLM representatives make less than 70 cents per hour in sales before deducting expenses (source)
Frankly, if someone is making “good” money in an MLM they’re either 1) lying or 2) recruiting a lot of people in their downline. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to make money by
manipulating encouraging people to join my “business opportunity.”
So how do you spot a pyramid scheme? First, familiarize yourself with the most common MLM schemes. Some of these are household names, but that doesn’t make them any less scammy.
There’s nothing wrong with promoting small businesses from your friends and families. If you want to purchase an MLM product from your cousin, that’s up to you. I’d really urge you to know what you’re getting into before you signup for one of these scams, however. Here’s how to spot MLM recruitment in the wild:
- “Friendly” Pitch – Someone sends you a DM, usually on Instagram or Facebook, about their amazing work-from-home opportunity. You can join now for just $20/$40/$200, isn’t that a great deal? If they’re asking you to pay money upfront, it’s most definitely an MLM scam. No matter how much your new “friend” claims to make, do your own research.
- “Opportunity” Posts – You’ll often see Facebook, Instagram, or even job postings offering a money-making opportunity by “networking” with your friends and family. They’ll use terms like “earn money from your phone” or offer some amazing income opportunities. Once again, if you need to pay money or buy products upfront, this is an MLM scam.
Finally, I urge you to check out these anti-MLM resources. There’s a huge anti-MLM movement right now, especially with the recent lawsuits against many of these companies.
- Sounds Like MLM But Okay on Facebook or Reddit
- Elle Beau’s MLM story and warning
- Why MLM doesn’t work Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
2. Hosting & Blogging Tool Recommendations
This is when my post starts to sound hypocritical. I blog about blogging. I frequently give advice (like this post) for new and experienced bloggers. However, I’ve been around the block before. I didn’t start blogging about blogging until several years into my blogging journey, and I’ve successfully started several blogs.
Yet, I see so many new bloggers jump right into affiliate links and recommendations within weeks of starting their blogs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for supporting new bloggers and encouraging monetization. But that doesn’t mean a line needs to be drawn somewhere.
Let’s get things clear: nothing in life is free.
If you accept newbie blogging advice, sign up for their recommended host, and buy all the tools they recommend, don’t be surprised if you’re stuck with the short end of the stick.
Bloggers are legally required to be upfront with paid links and affiliate ads. This means the blogger gets a percentage of the sale or a commission if you buy through them. While many bloggers are upfront, that doesn’t mean these links aren’t still misleading.
When a new blogger recommends a host, they likely have no experience with said host. They’ve used it for a few weeks or months. They only have hosted one website with it. They’ve never used anything else.
The biggest example of this is Bluehost. I’ve personally used Bluehost, and I can attest to how garbage it is. Yet, it’s the biggest affiliate program for new bloggers. The blogger behind Smart Passive Income (I’m not linking them because I don’t support this) reports making over $20k a month on Bluehost referrals alone.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with referring visitors to products and tools you love and support. I personally am a Hostgator affiliate. Yet, I didn’t start being an affiliate until I’d used them for over a year, hosted several websites through them, and had enough info to conclude they’re a great option for newbie bloggers. In short, I’ve done my research and stand by my recommendation.
When you find a recommendation from a blogger, especially a new blogger, you can’t blindly trust them. The same is true for big-name review sites which actually recommend products/services based on commission. (Sorry to tell you that credit card you opened on that blog post recommendation was actually paid for from an ad!)
Ask these questions before clicking on ANY affiliate link:
- Has this blogger/service used any other services? For instance, if they’re promoting a host, do they have actual experience using other hosts for comparison? More importantly, do they actually use this service themselves?
- Are there other, unbiased reviews you can find for these products/services?
- How reputable is this blogger/media source? Do they have experience or credentials? If they only have a handful of other posts, odds are they’re not experienced enough to make these suggestions.
In conclusion, I’m most definitely saying you should never use affiliate links or sponsored posts. Go for it, even if you’re new. However, be upfront about your experience level, and don’t mislead your readers. And don’t forget to CLEARLY disclose your affiliate links.
3. Bogus “How to Blog” Courses
I talked about this in my previous post on controversial blogging opinions, but I’m back to preach the good word yet again. I’ve been aghast at the range of “How to Blog” courses again and again. Some of them range from painful common sense from complete newbie bloggers to encouraging other bloggers to make money by creating their own how to blog courses.
Before the pitchforks come out, I have a course on how to start a blog. This is a 5-day e-course and it’s completely free. Of course I don’t think all paid courses are a scam. Quite the opposite, actually. I’m taking an online webcourse right now on web development and it’s amazingly comprehensive.
Unfortunately, many of these “free” or even paid courses are just a way to 1) shill affiliate links (see above), 2) spout out the most obvious advice, or 3) shill affiliate links for the course, thus repeating the cycle.
Let’s be clear: Making courses about how to make money blogging by making courses about how to make money blogging is a misstep away from a pyramid scheme in itself. There is a time and place for blogging courses, but they need to be either for complete newbies or come from a place of actual expertise.
I see many online courses that seem to focus around “community” and “motivation.” There’s nothing wrong with these things. They’re necessary and beneficial. But are they worth 4 easy payments of $299? Probably not. I recognize that these courses, in many ways, are the bloggers primary source of income. If they have something of value to offer built on their legitimate experience, that’s amazing.
Yet, too many of these seem to be based around very redundant, simplified courses that have no real value other than acting as a virtual cheerleader.
Once again, I’ll give you my personal checklist for deciding if a course is legit or just trying to sell you a get-rich-quick scheme or magic formula:
- How did you discover the course? Did a blog post shout loud about how amazing it is? Is this blog post using an affiliate link? If you discover the course organically or from unpaid testimonials, this is a much better sign.
- Does the blogger/professional have experience? Anyone can go online and claim to be anything they want. That pro blogger might only have a few months of experience under her belt. That freelancing guru might have just freelanced for a few months before creating a “master course.” Do your research.
- What’s the course outline? Does the outline focus on vague goals like “find your passion” and “identify your why?” There can be value in these things, but they should hardly be the entire point.
- How does the blogger/professional make money? Is this course the blogger/professional’s primary source of income? If she’s selling a course about how to make money with sponsored posts, for instance, has she actually landed successful sponsored posts in the past? There’s nothing wrong with changing the direction of your career, but a major switch from doing “the thing” to “selling courses about the thing is a red flag. “
Say NO to Blogging Scams
I recently stumbled upon a quote that really spoke to me. As I said before, I’m currently creating my own course on some blogging topics that are really important to me. The quote went:
“A lot of people will try to sell you the magic trick to making money. If you could do it for money, why would they be selling the trick in the first place?”
It’s true. If that MLM really was a way to make the big bucks, all of those hun-bots wouldn’t be recruiting people left and right trying to build their downline. If that course about making money as a freelance writer really was so powerful, why did the creator quit freelancing within a year to teach the course to newbies?
Everywhere I look, I see bloggers and people desparate for work-at-home opportunities falling over themselves for these “opportunities.” This is me shouting from the heavens that these are blogging scams.
There’s no such thing as a get-rich-quick scheme. I’ll be the first to tell you that building a blog is hard work. So is building a business. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something for 4 easy payments of $2000 and your first born child.
Let’s start saying no to these blogging scams. We’re smart, savvy cyber people. We know what it means to freelance, work remotely, and blog for a living. We don’t need the “tricks” and gimmicks because our work is so good it speaks for itself. Thomas Edison said it best.
The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.– Thomas A. Edison
Hold tight to your hard work and common sense. We need it now more than ever, Are you going to join me in saying no to the blogging scams once and for all?