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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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