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Thursday, February 24, 2011

How to spot paid/affiliate reviews

In view that paid reviews and affiliates are the origin of so many lies and scams nowadays, in this article I pretend to show you how to know if a product or service review is being written by an affiliate or not. Now, I'm not implying that all paid or affiliate reviews are fakes, I just think you should read them very warily and always being aware of its nature.

One of the problems with these reviews is that authors rarely ever disclaim it. I mean they are not forced by law to say they are doing the review because they are an affiliate. Since they are not forced to,...of course they don't say it, because that automatically diminishes the value of the review in your eyes.

Always, always question affiliate reviews! I mean, some of them might come from individuals who actually tried the product/service and are convinced of the quality of what they promote, but most of the time that's not the case, let alone on such an impersonal environment like the Internet.

The key is the "Query String"

If after going to the Wikipedia you still don't know what the hell a query string is, don't worry. Things are simpler in Henrik's world.

Let's say you have a website called http://www.samplefakewebsite.com. You can navigate to the website by hitting its home page, which you usually get as a response to visiting the original url.

Now if you append something at the end of that url you can still visit that page for example

http://www.samplefakewebsite.com?affiliate=henrik.

You can still visit the website and visualize exactly the same content, but the subtle difference is that now, the back end code has the ability to grab a variable named "affiliate" whose value equals "henrik".

From that point on, all your activity inside samplefakewebsite can be attributed to an affiliate called "henrik". If samplefakewebsite makes a sell to you, it will be able to track the fact that it was an affiliate who brought you here, and that way it is possible to later on calculate how much to pay to each affiliate for their "efforts".

Of course affiliate=henrik is pretty obvious and even the dumbest person can spot that, so they make it less obvious, example

www.samplefakewebsite.com?dr=73yt6.

It is the same thing: one variable being passed to the website along with a value assigned to it. I mean, why dont they let you navigate to a clean url? of course those extra parameters have a purpose.

Other url schemes are more elegant

Some other sites don't use the standard ?variable=value format, but a more elegant schema instead:

www.samplefakewebsite.com/affiliateid/123.

Again this pattern is very similar and it can be confused with the standard navigation schema of every website, by separating sub paths with the "/" character. And again the word affiliateid here is self explanatory but it can be something camouflaged like

www.samplefakewebsite.com/abc/123.

In any case, if you are able to remove /abc/123 and still visualize the exact same page, that means, those parameters were not for navigation purposes but for referral tracking purposes.

How to spot on the fly without having to go from the reviewing site to the reviewed one?

Simply hover your mouse over the link you are reading, and look at the bottom of your browser, it will reflect the path to which you will be redirected if you click on it.

Right from there, without going away from the review, you can analyze the pattern of the url suggested.

There is even a third one and more clever way. When you hover over the proposed link, you see at the bottom of your browser the url you are going to navigate to is inside the reviewer's site? what the fuck?!?!?

(Click on image to enlarge)

But after you click on the link you are redirected to another website (the reviewed one). Notice how a querystring is appended in the final url you are landing in.

(Click on Image to enlarge)


And that is a conclusive evidence.
By the way I chose a page about ForexMegadroid robot. I don't know if the product actually works or not. Again, this technique doesn't tell you if the product is good or not, only if the review is by an affiliate. At least for me, that automatically reduces to zero the value of the review I just read. No matter how authentic it looks. Always look for confirmation, always. Get feed from other sources, other authentic real reviews.

I mean, even the books I promote here!!!! LoL
You go to AMAZON because of me! I am not saying don't do it, I am only saying, look for others' opinion. Try to spot the authenticity of your sources all the time.

Don't be naive. Hope at least I helped one person with this one.
Happy trading folks! And thank God it is almost Friday!


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