The danger of some consumer websites – watch out

I mentioned last week that I would be reviewing the many new Irish focused consumer websites that have popped up in the last 6-9 months.

In even my initial review of a couple of sites, one particularly worrying aspect of some of these sites has revealed itself.

This is the problem associated with “affiliate advertising”.

Affiliate marketing is an Internet-based marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s marketing efforts.

In my opinion, the main danger of a number of the websites that I’ve looked at is that because of this type of money making model, you’re really only getting half the story when it comes to recommendations or tips on where to shop or where offers are available.

This is because you’ll only be given links to companies where the website you’re reading will make money if you click on the link, rather than all the possible companies that should be discussed.

What’s the problem?

So, for example, if you’re reading an article about the different spread betting providers that you could use if you’re based in Ireland, you would expect to see reviews of the following companies:

  • World Spreads
  • Delta Index
  • Paddy Power
  • CMC Markets Ireland
  • Betfair Tradefair
  • TD Waterhouse

Also potentially to be included in this listing would be the normal Irish stock brokers such as Davy, Goodbody, Dolmen and so on who may offer spread betting/trading facilities to their clients also.

If however, you’re reading a review of financial spread betting providers on a website that starts off it’s review saying “Where can you do online Spread Betting in Ireland?”, but you’re only provided two alternatives, then you should be wary and suspicious.

If the website was truly aiming to provide you with the best possible information, then you’d expect to see all the companies above mentioned.

On the otherhand, if the website concerned was only really, deep down, interested in making money, then you’ll only see a review of the two companies that advertise through affiliate networks.

So, ask yourself, why do you only ever see special offers advertised by many website for Dell Computers and no other computer seller or manufacturer? Or why is it that coupons and offers from Tesco are normally the only grocery offers presented on a number of websites? Or why is it that Eircom is normally (until recently anyway) the only company promoted when it comes to line rental?

It’s because these companies pay money for clicks through affiliate networks – not because they’re the best value, or the best companies in their market segment.

How can you tell?

So how can you tell if a link on a site is going to earn money for the website owner, or if it’s a genuine link purely in the interests of the consumer?

If I were to provide a link here on ValueIreland.com for example, it would look something like this:

  • http://www.paddypower.com

Whereas if someone was linking to another website in order to make money from an affiliate association, the link would contain loads of more extra text – the information needed in order to track payments and work out who’s to get paid what by the company doing the advertising. So, the link would look something like this:

  • http://www.paddypower.com/bet?action=cmp&cid=42&AFF_ID=79933&CRTID=SB5&GID=SB

Another giveaway is the inclusion of affiliate network company names (the intermediary between the advertiser and the website owner) in the link – such as TradeDoubler.

Watch out

So, remember, if you’re reading reviews and checking out special offers on websites, try to check to see if you’re getting all the information, or if you’re only getting the information that suits the website owner because they’re looking to make money from you rather than give you the full story.

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4 Responses to The danger of some consumer websites – watch out

  1. Maureen O Halloran December 5, 2009 at 03:49 #

    Hi there,
    Thank you for following us so closely on Twitter I dont think i have ever had someone follow me so closely and intently as you have, however I am happy you have done so. What pussels me is that in the begining when you knew asolutly nothing about us and did not even consider contacting us to ask us what we were doing you decided to put up a ver egocentric opinion about shopin and class us as just another ordanary directory, (forgive the spelling)as a qualified social scientist & Cultural Antripologist, two year psychology dip and a Fashion Designer who has worked in the consumer industry both in Ireland and Europe I felt that it was time to create not only a directory for the businesses but a business directory that put the business in charge. If you had done your research into shopin.ie you would have realised that it was so much more than just a business directory where a business paid a subscription and got nothing back but to be named on a directory that was not even advertised, At shopin.ie we created a Business directory that enabled the business to advertise them selves in so many ways, shopin.ie were the first to introduce video advertising as part of the directory, first to promote business cards of business cards format to fromt end,first to write articles on front end and first to allow businesses to have a full blogging system on the directory, since our launch other directories have tried to copy us but the fact remains that we are commited to give businesses their own space to advertise and we dont keep thier subscription, 85% of the subscription goes back into advertising, bot on radio and paper advertising, we have started our magazine advertising in two national magazines RSVP magazine and Kean Business which is a free magazine that goes out to 60,000 businesses all over Ireland, we also network all the businesses behind the directory with vouchers, business of the week, emails of suggested businesses to other businesses, three social and businesses networking Forums and there are loads more promotional ideas to be launched over the next few months to suppot businesses and communities all over Ireland,
    as you are following us and commenting on us would it not be better to find out where we are coming from and going to before you decide to print so much negativity about a business you have not even bothered to contact or research? even journalists envestigate before the go to print.
    I am available to answer any of the questions you may have at any time.
    Warmest Regards
    Maureen O Halloran
    http://www.shopin.ie
    http://www.anuimageconsultants.ie
    Md of shopin.ie and Anu Image Consultants. Radio Presenter,Tv & business support consultant, maureen@shopin.ie 0877958335 please do call anytime

  2. Maureen O Halloran December 5, 2009 at 03:57 #

    If my spelling is off in my last reply it may not be a good idea to latch onto that fact as I am dyslexia, however I am intellegent enough to know what is going on in my brain and it is one hell of a brain for supporting and promoting others. xx

  3. valueireland December 5, 2009 at 06:37 #

    Hi Maureen,

    I was not referring to your business in the above post.

    Regards,

    Diarmuid

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