Ten Lessons Learned from Flogs & ReBill Offers
Every couple of years there is a new marketing craze that just takes over, and is marketed every where. Years ago it was banner ads with games, to make the user click. Then it was email submits… now it’s the flog craze. A “flog” is a fake blog that is created to sell a product (usually CPA), and provides fake testimonials to entice the visitor to purchase the product. The flog craze is happening all over, because it is working so well. Affiliate marketers are building convincing sites, buying mass traffic on CPM/CPV, and making hefty ROI with commissions in the $40+ range. Whether you are personally promoting these types of offers or not, there are plenty of lessons to be learned… here are ten of them.
1.) You Can Get Away with Murder… but for how long?
Who would have thought you could promote a product endorsed by Oprah, Rachel Ray and Dr. Oz, without them ever knowing, granting permission or even having to pay for their picture use? It’s amazing, but it’s been going on strong for well over a year now on the flog scene. It all started with Oprah and Dr. Oz talking about the benefits of Acai on the Oprah show. Now clips and snippets from the show appear on blogs, making it look like these mentions actually endorse the products. To bring things to an even higher extreme, celebrities have actually been used in the ad copy for pushing these products. The result? Killer click through rates and conversions! The question is, how long will this last, and will action ever be taken? The value behind using these celebrities pictures and “fake” endorsements is priceless, and has played a big part in the massive growth and conversions on these offers.
2.) CPM & CPV Gets a Boost
Buying advertisement space on a pay per view basis has been around forever, but now that affiliates have created flogs which target to almost everyone, traffic can be purchased on a mass scale and will actually convert. There is a reason why you are seeing a million banner ads across nearly every ad serving site, they are making money! The media company is selling a massive amount of traffic/views, and the affiliates are cashing in. With the high conversions ans ROI affiliates are seeing from flogs, they can continually pay for a lot of traffic in advance, and in most cases, pay more than other advertisers.
3.) Everyone Loves a Success Story
You may ask why flogs are doing as well as they are. Simply put, everyone loves a success story and wishes they could experience the same. Flogs are mainly for weight loss and biz opp offers. Everyone wants to lose weight and make more money. Once a visitor comes across a convincing blog which tells how a single mom with 4 kids was able to lose 30 lbs in just a few months, just by taking some magic acai pills… who wouldn’t want that same success. Once everyone realized the weight loss flogs worked, the change to biz opp offers took place, and with perfect timing as well. Biz opp flogs are doing better than ever because we are in a tough economic time and everyone is looking to make some new money.
4.) Credit Card Rebills & Trust
With thousands of people signing up for grants, weight loss and biz opp offers daily, it’s just a reminder of how much people want to attain their dream (whatever the landing page is pushing). Even more though, is how willing customers are to use their credit cards online as well. There are two sides to customers now using a credit card online for a flog targeted purchase. First, with all of the news now covering flogs and the rebills, it’s potentially scaring people to use their CC online again (though I think it’s a very small amount). On a positive note, this has also taught us how willingly customers will purchase (or try) your product by submitting their credit card. If you can create a legitimate and wanted business product/model, you know the system works.
5.) Are Affiliate Protected by Networks
The flog business is a sleazy one, and every one knows that. It’s not just about the flogs being fake, but it’s also because of the nasty re-bills and how hard it is to cancel these payment subscriptions from your cards. With the nasty taste these offers leave in the customer’s mouth, it leads to complaints and more attention by the FTC and state attorney generals. But who is to blame? Is it the advertiser’s fault, the affiliate network, or the affiliate? In almost all cases, the testimonials, content and pictures are fake…. which are usually put together by the affiliate. On the other side, you have many networks turning their heads and not looking at how leads are being generated (but they really know). As long as the affiliates are protected by the affiliate network, the flog game will be around for a while. Affiliates use affiliate networks not only as a middle man, but also a security blanket for payments and direct contact.
6.) State Attorney Generals & the FTC
The FTC and attorney generals from multiple states are starting to crack down on flogs and going after the people who are running them. In most cases, the affiliate network will protect their affiliates, until it becomes a legal matter or are subpoenaed. However, in recent news, a few affiliates that were promoting acai related offers through flogs have been subpoenaed. With the FTC and state attorney generals coming into the pictures, and affiliates directly being contacted… it’s getting quite serious.
7.) Obama Grants
Action can be taken fast, when it’s important enough. Remember how a billion “Obama / Stimulus / Government Grants” offers quickly flooded the internet and were shown everywhere (especially on Facebook). These were the most convincing and attention grabbing of all. Obama was just placed into office, and everyone wanted part of their stimulus check. Unfortunately for them, it was just another flog/re-bill offer. The White House quickly got involved and we no longer see the Obama creatives and offers that we did. Will we ever see the same type of enforcement for Oprah and Rachel Ray?
8.) The Nasty Side of ReBill Offers
I’m sure there is are only a handful of affiliates that run flogs, that have actually went through the signup process, and tried to cancel their billing subscription. Luckily for us, we don’t have to. We have enough customer complaint stories to see how customers are billed just after a few days of requesting their free trials, and the complexity (impossible?) of canceling these re-occurring charges. If these re-bills weren’t so hard to cancel, we might not be seeing the extreme action which is starting to take place against these types of offers… but, if that was the case, they would also not be paying $40+ per signup. The advertiser knows they can make money on almost every signup after the $1.95 shipping charge for the free trial payment.
9.) Flog Monetization
Probably one of the most beneficial aspects of the flogging craze, is to see how everyone has been marketing them and how they evolve. The first few flogs were simple pages with a short story and a picture. Now flogs are loaded up with fake testimonials, comments with more fake pictures, fake endorsements from Oprah and Dr. Oz, and now some even with the person talking when you get to the site, telling you their full story. The transition is being made again from personal flogs, to news flogs. The more convincing the flog, the better the conversions. If you continually visit the flogs being advertised all over, you will be amazed at how much they are continually being monetized and improved. Weight loss blogs focus on weight loss stories and pictures, while biz opp flogs focus on check photos, and how the program has worked for other and show their checks in the comments section. (screenshots by DM)
10.) Are Flogs Ethical?
The last lessons learned isn’t so much a lesson, but how you look at the whole flog situation. The majority of people don’t like the idea behind flogs, and think they are misleading the buyer and giving affiliate marketing a bad name. Of course they are misleading, but on the same note, it falls upon the customer to do their research on what they are ordering (t&c). Are flogs any more misleading and unethical than late night infomercials that push get rich quick schemes, weight loss pills and government money programs? The internet is still the wild west, and no matter how legit or unethical a process is, people are still going to find new ways to make money. Ethical or not, the flog and rebill business is the latest web explosion.
Whar are your thoughts on the flogging scene? Will there ever be regulation, how many affiliates will be subpoened, and will any networks release their affiliates information on this matter? Only time will tell… but that time seems to be getting closer daily.
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