Sketchy testimonials

This is kinda fun. In our last post, we saw software that was being sold without even modifying an HTML template. Let’s play with that some more. Do an exact search for ["then delete this pink text"]. You can find lots of software packages where no one has bothered to update a template:

Someone is spitting out all sorts of software. Here’s one to teach you how to blog and ping:

Learn to blog and ping!

But my favorite has to be all those testimonials. Are they real? Here’s one with testimonials “for example purposes only”:

Supply your own testimonials!

These testimonials are for “example purposes only,” but are they real? I have no idea. But here’s a web page where the same people wax enthusiastic about a different product:

Your stuff is the bomb!

Humph. David Crow apparently thinks everything is a killer ap [sic]. He probably looks at faucets and goes “Amazing! I turn this thing, and water flows out! This is an absolute, killer ap!” Weird, wild stuff. Okay, now let’s take a completely different example. Here’s one where the testimonial is left blank except for a default of “Monterey, CA”:

Empty testimonial

Now let’s find that software package template on other sites. Hey, there’s a couple! Testimonial #1:

Testimonial #1

And now here’s testimonial #2:

Testimonial #2

Wow, what a coincidence that the empty template has a default of Monterey, CA, and both Ryan Smith and Ross Obrian also live in Monterey, CA! Did Ryan really double his money in 48 hours, and just happen to live in Monterey? Maybe, but I’m skeptical.

My point is that you should always use your critical thinking skills, whether you’re evaluating an e-book, a magazine article, an informercial, or what some random person is saying in a blog post. Librarians have been thinking about this stuff for a good long time; here’s a page with advice about evaluating web pages.

57 Responses to Sketchy testimonials (Leave a comment)

  1. I’m suddenly reminded of iKobo.

    Seriously, Matt, you gotta stop this. I’m crying from laughing so hard at your examples and I really should be getting some sleep.

    Damn you. You’re an evil, evil man. :)

    Another trick you may want to recommend to people is to look up the names of the people making the testimonials using exact quotes.

    I did this once on Google to look up a dodora.net testimonial (before the FTC shut them down) and apparently the person that made it was a Nigerian dictator that had been dead for over 3 years at the time the dodora.net domain name was registered. Apparently, the dead can register domain names and talk about the experience!

  2. andrew

    bloggerbusiness.com got called out on digg for a similar lack of honesty (and creativity): using pictures obviously taken in the same office for (delighted) customers who were supposedly thousands of miles away from each other. They also repeated idiosyncratic misspellings, etc.

    http://digg.com/links/Bloggerbusiness.com_is_a_SHAM_

    (the longest loading page on the Interweb, at the moment. Digg needs to learn about the magic of page caching!)

    I’m sure the FTC has better things to do with their time, but it bothers me that scam artists, selling non-products, *and openly lying about them*, can still make money off of ignorant people. Nothing new under the sun, I suppose.

  3. BP

    Matt -

    This is the greatest blog ever!

    Sincerely,
    David Crow of Santa Barbara, CA

  4. Chris_Y

    Hey Matt

    Just for once I think you are barking up the wrong tree.

    Instead of looking at someone who is producing lots of crummy software you need to look at the MARKETING being employed.

    The people using these cut and paste sales letters aren’t interested in SE results, although any extra icing on the cake is always welcome. They are more intersted in buying resale rights to ebook and software packages and marketing them to Internet Marketing wannabees via mailing lists, blog sites, joint ventures etc. A lot of them are spammers but not SE spammers. They work on the principle that the more often the ad is seen, the more chance there is that some sucker will buy it.

    It’s the pro copywriters/marketers such as Yanik Silver and Joe Vitale that are more than likely to have created the original copy and sold the template many thousands of times.

  5. Hehe Matt, if those are real people and they really did say those things, they must be pretty boring… not being able to think of new things to say about two different pieces of software.

  6. Just posting my free PageRank comment. A PR4 PR5 or PR6 link automatically using Blog Submitter Pro! Join the insider club today. Download the #1 top best…hehehe

    You gotta work on the page text there Matt.

    You need a lot more stuff like blog and ping, splog generator, automated instant wealth software, affiliate members only insiders club early bird secret sale, and download rss announcer system.

    And for people shopping around you have to remember testimonials, review, scam, and reviews.

  7. Aaron Pratt

    “He probably looks at faucets and goes “Amazing! I turn this thing, and water flows out! This is an absolute, killer ap!” Weird, wild stuff”.

    LOL!!! ;-)

    I will send the this post to my wife, she is a librarian and will appreciate it, thanks.

    Own the free world in 10 easy steps!!!

  8. To me this is funny, reminds me of Don Lepre on TV. Make a million dollares with your little tiny classified ads. Or Darren Rowse of problogger. Make a 6 figure income with a blog. But never mind the undue attention I give to my google ads.

  9. Matt,

    You know studies suggest that those who hold master degrees and Ph.D’s are more likely to be taken for a ride by these “get rich quick” scams and these “buy cheap and make life easier” schemes. Don’t spend all your Google dollars in one place! :-)

  10. Where do you get time to find this stuff? You weren’t looking to purchase the software yourself were you?

  11. ^ Aahaha I had the same thoughts and Pinyo =)

  12. Notice also the Ross Obrian testimonial uses two similar but subtly different fonts — what I like to think is an “I made this page with Microsoft Word” marker…

  13. Brilliant!

    When I create my fake testimonials I at least have the intelligence to use different names and locations every time. Using the same testimonial text for different products is the sure sign of a rank amateur. One of us should come up with a testimonial generator script which cranks out testimonials attributed to random names and places. You insert the name of your product, and wham — you get 5 – 5000 new fake testimonials.

  14. btw, I want my 10 minutes back..

  15. ROFL – that is too funny.

    I have the same question as Pinyo though…er…were you looking for some blog spamming software on the side there Mr. Cutts?

  16. Hi Matt,

    It was nice meeting you in the Pubcon in Las Vegas.

    I mentioned to you about Nigeria scam…

    Each year, millions of dollars are lost … craigslist created a warning page such as http://www.craigslist.org/about/scams.html to warn people regarding possible scams.

    Would Google consider doing the same in some of the google’s products?

    Samuel Chong

  17. Matt, did you delete the post with my testimonial generator?

  18. that’s wierd. my earlier comment shows up in FF, but not in IE.

    /me is confused.

  19. Dan Kramer,

    You might also want to gain the intelligence enough not to tell people that you’re creating fake testimonials, too. :D

    (Sorry, but that just made me spit pop out from laughing at it.)

  20. Ralf

    Thanks to Analytics I’m pleased to see regularly visitors on our site from the GOOGLE network – United States – California – Mountain View

    Good sign? Bad Sign?

    I’m going to watch your blog very close! You never know!

  21. Kelly Jones

    I’m going to throw in something slightly off-topic (since we can’t start our own topics ;-)

    Wanna see some spammy results? Google this:
    “american heritage cabinets”

    Men’s Bulges? Yokohama Super Digger? Billabong Board Shorts? Teenage Anxiety?

    I’m looking for cabinets, not bulges (LOL!)

    KJ

  22. Tremendous! Absolutely wonderful post, Matt. Thanks. Much much better read than that Bacon Polenta stuff.

  23. haha, i have adsense running on that page that I did the testimonial generator on, and some of the pages that use that template come up in the adsene ads. Specifically the blog submitter.

    That’s classic.

  24. Harith

    Hi Pinyo,

    “Where do you get time to find this stuff? You weren’t looking to purchase the software yourself were you?”

    In fact Matt makes a living of chasing spams of all kinds and cleaning Google index of such garbage. If Matt hasn’t mentioned it yet, he is the [b]Head of Google WebSPam Team[/b].

    Right Matt :-)

  25. It’s really interesting how you use images for content that you do not want it duplicated on the index. Would you say this is a “best practice”?

    Saludos,

    Nacho Hernandez

  26. AnneJ

    Wow, thanks for the link to how to evaluate a webpage. It’s a great way to see what a quality site should contain for webmasters as well as for surfers.

    BTW in the process of looking at this I found the Way Back Machine and saw what my site was like in 1996. Oh my Gawd! Site building has come a long way since then.

    I am assuming that Google doesn’t consider ‘way back’ pages as duplicate copy. I hope anyway.

  27. agreed AnneJ, sadly most businesses and web developers design their sites for themselves, not their visitors.

    They design based on what’s pretty to them, not what’s functional to the user. In fact, I know one firm that designs solely based on what will rank higher in the SERPs. I’ve even seen them put navigation in the bottom right of a page, such that you had to scroll to even see it, so that their keywords could be higher toward the top.

    Makes me glad I got out of web design and switched to software engineering. Everything I do now is designed around ease of use first.

  28. >You might also want to gain the intelligence enough not to tell people that you’re creating fake testimonials, too.

    Too funny! I don’t use them! It was just a joke.

  29. Matt Great Post,

    It was a pleasure meeting with you at Pubcon 10, as for this template I find it very funny to find stuff like this. It’s amazing to see what new things people will come up with to get more traffic to their sites in the wrong ways. I think a clean quality site can live much longer and gain more traffic that risking a business from being banned from a search engine.

    Question: Will Google soon be developing a filters to block this kind of site?

    Thanks for the constant updates its great to hear all of the crazy things someone will try to rank. LOL

  30. Keith Gilbert

    Ha, that’s hilarious! Props for finding it.

  31. I like testimonials for SEO consultants. You check out the client’s website, then search for them on a search engine (guess which one I check :-) ). Invariably, the client’s website does not place well for the keywords that seem to be the target. That’s the real test, not what the client says about the results.

  32. Unbelieveable. On the one hand the webpage seller is prepared to support some kind of fraud – and on the other the reseller is just stupid and dishonest. And they still catch us from time to time.

  33. I’m really surprised by the fact that testimonials still work. Do people verify them? NO
    Unless a friend of you is the testimonial telling you about a service … don’t pay attention.

  34. >Thanks to Analytics I’m pleased to see regularly visitors on our site from the >GOOGLE network – United States – California – Mountain View
    >Good sign? Bad Sign?
    Ralf, that’s not Matt and coworkers approving spam reports. Most of those hits are from Google Web Accelerator users. Navigate to US/CA/Mountain View and check the Cross Segment Performance reports. I doubt Google employees really search for ASP 301 redirect syntax to prevent Googloebot from indexing dupes in chinese language referred by an organic Yahoo SERP [horrible search term BTW] using IE on an outdated Windows version with a screen resolution of 640*480 …

  35. You are the man Sebastian, you better watch out with your advice, someone will try to hire ya! ;)

  36. Bryce

    Nice job, your #1 for “then delete this pink text” :)

  37. If something is too good to be true, it usually is. Suckers (and yes, they’re suckers) who fall for scams usually have no one to blame but themselves. Like those people who fall for the Nigerian scam. Its purely greed driven. Sure, the crooks are the bad guys, but sometimes people just don’t learn until they’ve been ripped off a few times.

  38. Talking about scams, fakes and Mr. Don Lepre? Have you visited the poorjerk.net site. It slams all of these gimmicky gurus. Weird site but funny. No ads, no sign ups, no adsense, no selling. It goes above and beyond the boundaries to prove a point.

  39. Sebastian – Yes I do, I really needed to find out who this guy was who was spamming google groups…hehe

    Looks like I was also right about who the owner of seoblackhat was as well, damn i’m good, I am working to figure out a few others this week, you can not hide and YOU WILL be interviewed!!! :D

    (sorry, i will refrain from spamming matts blog any further tonight)

  40. This is why I would advise people to COMPLETELY IGNORE any kind of review or testimonial of any product when it appears on their website.

    If you want to find unbiased testimonials look for a trusted website that contains some negative comments – and then read all the good ones too. I should mean you get a balanced view.

    I guess the software companies aren’t explicitly telling their affiliates to make testimonials up, but how else do they think they’ll find any?

  41. My friend bought software primarily because Google wanted to have a partnership with the company that made the software. The company had a email that said it was from Google, on their website, saying they [Google] wanted to meet to talk about a partnership because they loved their software so much.

  42. That is the funniest article I have ever read!
    But really, every time I visit an SEO website I cringe. The claims to fame and the amazing riches that the company has brought to their visitors. It kind of makes me glad that my mother taught me not to be gullible.

  43. Eh, its nothing new. There’s always going to be crappy marketing, and there’s always going to be people who fall for it.

  44. Booyaa

    What sucks about bogus testimonials is that it makes it hard for legit ones to stand out. Ever hear about Trusted Testimonials? I met 2 guys from that company at Pubcon in Boston. Seems like they are out to fight the crappy testimonials. It’s about time!

    Oh well…back to responding to emails :(

  45. Matt, thanks a million for the laughs… but also for the astute marketing lessons. I’d personally rather not have any testimonials on my pages than put up the canned fake ones. It’s just part of honest marketing (which could explain why I don’t make $5000 a day online like so many gooroos brag about) :-P

    It’s still a dream though… I refuse to give up. :-) Thanks again for making me and a lot of others smile! :-D

  46. I’ve been a long time reader and but first time poster. I just gotta say I am really sick of this kinda junk clogging all my “tubes”, “everytime I send an internet”. Peoples understanding and comprehension is amazing. As funny as it is, I just get sick of sifting through it all.

    Shaylor Murray, Monterey, CA
    LOL

  47. Another great post. I am particularly interested in the blog and ping method. It got my attention straight away and would not look out of place on a blog column.

  48. To the above poster. I think you will find, that this testimonial issue happened over 2 years ago, and an apology was made immediatley to the party concerned.

    Thank You

  49. Haa haa – I love this post!!

    And I love that software this is too funny.

    I’m sooo gullible and trusting it never occurred to me people would make up testimonials. Would explain a lot though now that I think about some of my online purchases :-)

  50. One of the most hilarious blog posts I’ve read in years.

    I noticed one of those products in the search was a 20 minute sales letter creator.

    Seems to me that would be pretty cool but unlikely the guy selling it would have much luck with this “killer ap” if he can’t manage to delete the pink text.

    Kindest regards,
    Andrew Cavanagh

    P.S. Oh what I meant to say was…

    “Dude your stuff is the bomb! Matt Couts blog is the absolute killer ap! My friends are so jealous they think I’m doing something illegal. I just laugh and cash the checks. You guys rock!!”

    P.P.S. I forgot to mention I live in Santa Barbara CA and my friends call me David. David Crow.

  51. Re Larry B’s comment and Dropship’s reply…

    Larry’s comment pertains to the fact that one of my blog readers alerted me to a picture of myself – stolen from one of my sites – being used on a testimonial for a service I knew nothing about – and had therefore never used. Fortunately, my name wasn’t used in the testimonial.

    Apologies notwithstanding – as you can see here, using bogus testimonials is an excellent way to wreck your reputation as an honest online business and put you in damage control mode for years to come.

    Cheers,
    Ros

  52. That is the funniest article I have ever read!

  53. Matt, fantastic. Sorry I just came up on this. Hillarious. It never fails to amaze me just how often people who do things like this are so completely sloppy about it. I mean… REALLY… this is utterly and completely ridiculous. And, the fact that people fall for this…. I am baffled.

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