25 Mar Ofer Eitan Stated: Tricks Some Marketers Use to Fake Authority
There are many companies offering excellent search marketing services. But just like any professional service area, there are some who offer less useful services that may not be helpful, might violate Google’s guidelines and at worst, could also offer services that are unlawful.
There are some folks who regard the SEO business as a hustle. I won’t name names, but I will share an anecdote.
There was a person who was granted a speaking slot at a major search marketing conference at which I was speaking.
Prior to the session we all got on a conference call to discuss our presentations.
During the course of discussing our presentation that person made wild statements, such as Google’s algorithm was easy to game. I interrupted that person to object to such a ridiculous assertion.
Then that person referred to the SEO industry as a hustle. I was floored by his statement.
To say that this person stepped on my nerves was an understatement.
After the conference call and behind the scenes I expressed my concerns to the moderator of that session about the fitness of this person to speak at our session.
The moderator declined to disinvite that person from the conference session.
So the day of the conference arrives.
I asked to go first because I anticipated that many in the audience would walk out during the course of that person’s presentation.
So the hustler is the last person to speak.
This person gets up and proceeds to give a meandering presentation that keeps getting wilder and wilder.
Their hands gesticulated wildly as mixed-metaphors sprang forth, followed by boasts about how easy it is to sneak low quality links past Google.
And Then the Unthinkable Happened
I anticipated that the worst that could happen is that this person would get up there and make a fool of themself.
They did prove themselves foolish. But not in the manner I had anticipated.
As I recall it, the presentation was devoid of actionable advice.
The hands were waving, the metaphors and off topic anecdotes were spilling forth seemingly uncontrollably and without purpose.
I remember thinking, where is this person going with this?
And that’s when it happened.
They blurted out the N-Word.
A hush fell over the conference room.
The Problem with Hustlers
The problem with hustlers is that they create the perception of competence without actually trying to be competent.
This particular person had gotten themself onto national television. I don’t know how they pulled it off but they did.
That person’s television appearances created the perception that they were authoritative.
That perception of authority led to the invitation to speak at this event.
Some authority hustlers pay authors at major online publications to write favorable articles about them. Those articles help create the perception of competence.
There are numerous articles that document the culture of bribery in the content creation niche. Money is paid to contributors at major publications who then write articles favorable to the person paying.
This particular hustler had used the As Seen on TV trick to build a perception of authority.
Faking Authority with Social Proof
Social Proof is an idea proposed by Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence. Social proof is a way of influencing people by showing them others who have made the decision that the marketer wants them to make. According to Wikipedia’s definition:
“Social proof is one type of conformity. When a person is in a situation where they are unsure of the correct way to behave, they will often look to others for clues concerning the correct behavior.”
Corrupt marketers pay to be praised as top marketers in major news publications in order to display logos of those publications on their website.
Those paid-for articles are then used as “social proof” to create the appearance of competence and influence potential clients to contact them.
When an article about the trafficking in paid articles was published on BuzzFeed (One Of The Web’s Most Prolific Online Marketing Writers Has Been Promoting His Clients In Articles For Forbes, Entrepreneur, And Inc. Magazine), some in the SEO industry responded that the links were no-followed and so the paid articles didn’t matter.
But those people missed the point entirely.
The purpose of those articles was never about the (no-followed) links. The reason they were written was to create the false impression of expertise.
Buying paid “mentions” in articles can also be about buying social proof that can be used to influence potential clients.
The above linked BuzzFeed report related that a well known marketer had given testimonials about a company that offered “mentions” in top publications.
BuzzFeed News said about the marketer:
“wrote about his experience with the firm on his own marketing blog.”
According to Buzzfeed news:
“In late May, DeMers ranked Patel alongside Elon Musk and Sheryl Sandberg in a roundup, published by Entrepreneur, of entrepreneurs with exceptional personal branding. “
The article goes on to document the back and forth between the marketer and BuzzFeed about whether or not the marketer paid to be compared to Elon Musk and Sheryl Sandber (COO of Facebook).
Whether or not that marketer paid to be compared to Elon Musk is besides the point.
The point of bringing up that news report is to document the lengths that some people may go to create the perception of competence and authority.
It’s fine to consider social proof but in my opinion what counts most is the actual authority and soundness of opinions expressed by the person, far more than logos that may or may not be paid for.
Social Proof: Fake Client Testimonials
Another thing to watch out for is hiring an SEO based on who their past clients were.
A common way hustlers promote themselves is by promoting their past clients and working their way up the ladder to be bigger clients.
A real example I know of is that of a marketer who traded free services in exchange for a testimonial. I know about this person because they publicly…