Just another Rant! CPA Marketing: Is it ethical and should you consider doing it?

Author: Len Thurmond

The latest craze to hit the internet marketing crowd is the marketing of CPA (also Known as PPA) offers.

This is not to be confused with CPC marketing which is the other side of the coin and is about people clicking on an ad you are publishing on your site.

No, this is the practice of promoting Corporate offers in a variety of ways and getting paid for a specific action their prospects take after clicking on your ad. The most common way to promote these is through Pay Per Click Advertising such as Google Adwords or Yahoo Marketing Solutions.

And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should have noticed by now that just about every well known marketer in the world is falling all over themselves to jump on the bandwagon and get THEIR piece of this tremendous pie, by creating their own CPA Networks or teaching their techniques (for a Hefty price) to anyone who wants to learn.

Now on the surface, one would think there is nothing wrong with this type of marketing, and there is ‘DAMN’ sure a lot of money to be made with it!

But if you take a closer look, you might have second thoughts about participating in what I believe is just the latest Scam designed to dupe the public out of more money through a new advertising media!

Now…To be fair, there ARE some legitimate offers within the CPA venue, as the networks involved ALSO promote what we USED to just call “Affiliate Products”.

In those cases you would get paid when a prospect actually purchases a product they found through searching for something they were already genuinely interested in. And I have no problem with that (even though the payouts are generally MUCH less than what we as old timers in the Affiliate product marketing business are used to).

But those unfortunately are not the ones that MOST people are teaching you to focus on, as they are much harder to get paid on, and require much work and “Marketing Ability”!

No, the ones that we’re being taught to focus on are the ones that require a simple action by the consumer, such as an email submit (where the prospect is only required to submit their email address for you to get paid), or even just a Zip code submit!

These types of CPA offers typically only generate around a dollar per submission, but as you might expect, they are fairly easy to generate.

One only has to target people who are interested in the specific subject that the offer pertains to, and then create a scenario that makes them want to ask for more info!

The companies that operate these types of CPA offers have meticulously run their metrics and KNOW without a doubt that they can generate x number of dollars for every dollar they spend and therefore just want us to send them as much traffic as we can. And because they know the value of each person who visits their site, they can afford to pay that dollar (sometimes more, sometimes less) for each visitor.

And I guess about now, you’re saying “So What’s Wrong with THAT?”.

To answer that, you have to look more closely at the kind of offers that are being made “AFTER” you get paid!

Have you heard of the ‘Government Grant” scams that have proliferated the web in the last few years? You know the ones that tell you there are millions of dollars that the government is just GIVING AWAY, and that they’ll show you how to get it!

What you get is a list of stuff you could find for free in Google if you spent a little time searching for it, and a monthly membership to a site that is supposed to let you know when anything else comes up. (In fact, one site I know of ACTUALLY just sends you directly to the FREE site for a fee, that you could have found on your own!)

Now it only costs a couple bucks to get that information, but buried in the fine print is that you just signed up for a LARGE monthly fee, and that they are going to start charging your bank account around $100 every 30 days if you don’t cancel in the next week to 30 days (depending on the program).

They know that MANY people will not read all the fine print and that they will get at least ONE payment out of a large majority of the people who just wanted the list! And even worse, once you have been “Signed Up” and realize those payments are showing up on your bank statements, it’s damn near impossible to find out how to cancel!

Or how about the Credit Report Scams that are everywhere? Same scenario as above!

They give you a free Credit report to suck you in. But when you get there, there’s a lot of information missing, most notably your Credit Score, that you need to pay for to get.

And at the same time, as in the last example, they sign you up for a monthly membership that lets you get your report whenever you want (but honestly, how often do you REALLY need your credit report!). And again, they make it INCREDIBLY difficult to cancel, and most people don’t even realize they had even JOINED anything or are paying monthly for a long time!

The difference between the previous example with the Government Grants and this one, is that the Credit programs usually charge under $10. So most people who are not fanatical about checking their accounts every day, don’t even realize it for months, if not years!

OR how about all the DIET programs that are out there giving away free samples for just the cost of shipping (they have to get your credit card number somehow), but you find out later that you’ve been scammed by “Forced Continuity” and are paying LARGE sums every month for programs you never even knew you joined!

And the banks are no help!

Oh, they’ll help you find out who’s taking your money and in some cases even contact them for you to help you stop the monthly payments. But they can do NOTHING about the money you’ve already paid out. Once you’ve checked that “Electronic Signature” box that they all use, you’re out of luck!

Then there’s the Coupon programs that pay YOU for sending anyone to their site with the promise of $50, $75, $200, $500, $1500, or more in coupons, for filling out a survey, or giving them a little consumer information, or even just an email address or Zip code.

You’ll get paid anywhere from $1 to around $2.50 for each lead. But when the unsuspecting prospect jumps through all the hoops and gets to the final page expecting to collect their coupons (After you’ve already been paid), they find that they have to participate in one or more of a list of programs, such as taking out a Columbia House membership,  or joining Netflicks,  or getting a Discover card, or joining blockbuster or …

Well, you get the idea!

And enough people get sucked into these offers that the companies know exactly how much they can afford to pay YOU to send them hungry, unsuspecting “Marks”!

Or how about the Coffee Sample Programs…

Or the Makeup Sample Programs…

Or the Dating Programs…

Or… The list goes on an on!

And while you may say that it’s the CONSUMER’S problem not yours, and that it’s THEIR responsibility to do their own due diligence before falling for such marketing ploys…

Don’t you think that MAYBE it is OUR responsibility as Honest, Responsible marketers NOT to promote such programs in the first place … just to make a buck?

As I said, there is a LOT of money to be made in this industry, but there are a lot of people getting hurt too.

Hell … There is a LOT of money to be made in the “Online Hardcore Sex” industry too! But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to do it!  At least, not if you have a conscience!

But you also need to think of it this way as well…

By participating in those kind of marketing practices, you’re bringing down the legitimate marketers with you, as you debase and erode the consumer confidence, that is making us ALL our livings!

The FTC is already up in arms about this as they continue to get more and more complaints from flim-flammed customers, and they’re starting to get ugly about it!

And Google, MSN, and Yahoo are starting to crack down on the types of programs they will let you promote through their agencies as well. Even THEY realize the end is in site, and THEY don’t want to get caught in the cross hairs of “Big Brother’s Gun”!

Unfortunately, the types of Rules and Regulations the FTC is creating to curtail these unscrupulous practices, tremendously effects the Legitimate Marketer too. Which is why I am on my soapbox preaching “Self Regulation” and “Abstinence”.

If we refuse to play, the industry will be forced to change the game to something that works without tricking the public!

I predict this CPA frenzy will be short lived, and that the “Gurus” will move on to the “Next Big Thing” shortly. The FTC has just released some new guidelines (with more to come) that will make it far more difficult to do “Business As Usual” in this way.

So trust me … “The changes, they are a comin”!

But the more WE refuse to participate, the less regulation ‘Big Brother’ will feel the need to impose on us!

CPA will not go away, nor do I want to see it do so! But the Forced Continuity scams, the misleading promises, and the practices of creating False Sites to dupe the public NEEDS to end!

CPA is a legitimate marketing technique when used properly, and I for one will ALWYS participate in the honest campaigns that it offers.

That is of course … if the Snake Oil Salesmen don’t manage to KILL it before the industry can Suss itself out!



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Len Thurmond has been marketing on the Internet since 1995, and is one of the best known authors and newsletter publishers in the Internet World Today.

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This entry was posted on Monday, October 12th, 2009 at 9:49 am and is filed under Article Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Comments so far


  1. DeeDee on October 12, 2009 2:18 pm

    Thanks SO much for writing this. As I have been looking into the CPA marketing, trying to find out why it is so popular at the moment, I have come to many of the same conclusions that you have.

    On the side of the consumer, there is too much “hidden” stuff going on when they fill in these forms with their customer information. I didn’t know all the details but felt there had to be something fishy going on for all those fees to be paid to marketers.

    On the markerters side, I think it is like chasing your tail. The offers that marketers promote are often short term and that means the websites they are on have to be constantly changed (as would their adwords campaigns).

    It is a shame all the gurus are so fired up about this – when there ssems to be little value to any of it in the long run (except for that “fast money”).

    The problem is those gurus have not built a business, except for selling whatever the latest and greatest scheme is for making money. I have lost total respect for those that don’t create their own products to sell (and that are just on the bandwagon selling everyone else’s stuff).

    I am trying hard not to follow in their footsteps and your “rant” has helped me to go back and focus on giving value to my customers.

  2. Howard "OutSourcerer" Tiano on October 12, 2009 2:33 pm

    It’s about time someone called the networks out on this! As a consumer, I can’t stand those never ending offers.

    Once I thought I’d follow through to the end, just to see if they delivered on their promise…never reached the end!

    Kudos to you, Len!

    P.S. Is there any Un-official Len Thurmond blogs floating about? 🙂

  3. Chris Raine on October 16, 2009 2:34 pm

    Hi Len

    Great post! It seems to me that there are two sides to everything where the internet is concerned.

    There are many stories of riches and on other side many a thing that can trip you up and lose you money.

    It would appear that the world of CPA marketing is no different.

    For those who are looking to discover more about this subject without spending the $67, $97 and more I have a Free Report on the subject of CPA marketing that can be found here: CPA Marketing Revealed

  4. Thong on October 19, 2009 5:42 am

    Hi Len,

    I tried to contact you on AutoWebLaw.com with no success.
    I bought your product not long ago and now have some questions about the new FTC rules.

    Please let me know another way to reach you.

    Thanks a lot,
    Thong

  5. Len on October 19, 2009 3:58 pm

    Hi Thong,

    You or anyone else can always get me through the Support desk at http://lenthurmond.com/espport

    My staff will always alert me to any issues I need to handle personally

    Len

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