At this point, it might be common knowledge that every click online is being tracked. Companies are among the first to know your preferences and browsing habits. This makes privacy one of the biggest gray areas in marketing which is a worrisome concern for many.
Here are two ways you might be getting scammed by the gray areas in online advertising.
Fraudulent companies can easily create a click farm.
Click farms are a group of people who frequently click on ads or scams to boost their ratings. They are often paid a low rate per click. One of the main problems with click farms is that they are technically legal. It is not “wrong” to click on ads repeatedly, but it creates a gray area for the ethics of online advertising because these clicks are not organic. Consequently, this means that there are not actually that many people interested in a product.
That being said, two things are happening. Advertisers are being charged a lot of money (for the traffic that ads are gaining for them), but they are not seeing a proportionate increase in sales due to the clicks being purely for the sake of clicking and generating profit. Second, what are supposed to be “organic” search engine rankings are actually carefully doctored for profit. This means you are no longer receiving the best possible result, but instead, the most profitable.
A growing problem in online shopping is not having the ability to verify that you will get what you pay for. Unlike in a physical store location, you cannot prove that the product you are purchasing online is accurate to the description or picture that might have been posted with it. For this reason, many consumers rely on online reviews from supposedly “real people” to ensure that their products are not fraudulent.
However, according to the review monitoring website Fakespot, nearly 42% of Amazon reviews are fraudulent. An item with plenty of fake 5-star reviews could make its way to the top of the listing, encouraging buyers to purchase it. We know… it’s a bummer! Here are some red flags to look out for when browsing reviews:
- Vague comments and reviews
- Reviews that mention competing products
- An unusual percentage of positive and negative reviews
The root cause comes from little to no human oversight in online rankings. Most of what makes its way to your feed or the top of the Google search, is the product of algorithms. Most people don’t have time to comb through pages of search results. They rely on Google’s algorithm to get them the best possible result.
However, if an algorithm is strictly taking in numerical data, it loses the uniquely human touch of being able to spot human fraudulence in the system. Humans have always found a way to cheat the system. In order to prevent that, either algorithm need to be updated to account for that, or there needs to be a set of watchful eyes on what’s actually soaring in the rankings.
To watch out for some of these things, look for reviews with photographs, and purchase from reputable online retailers. Be sure to also research an online retailer before granting them access to your financial information. With some key diligence, you can not only protect your own finances but help others do the same by not allowing scam companies to profit off of high search engine rankings.