How to tell if your Online Marketing Guru is the Real Deal

I was reading an article on iMedia Connection last week called 5 Signs that your Social Media Guru is a Quack and it got me thinking about gurus in online and affiliate marketing. If you have been in the affiliate marketing business for more than five minutes, you have probably run across the names or websites of at least a few gurus who offer courses or programs to help you on your road to internet riches. Many of these experts are legitimate super-affiliates with a tremendous amount of knowledge that really can help you get started in this industry and make money. However, there are also plenty of so-called gurus out there whose only real online marketing expertise is in getting people to buy their e-books and online courses. So, how can you tell the difference? Here are a few quick tips to help you weed out the real experts from the snake oil salesmen.

Does the guru's site and program look professional? This doesn't mean the site has to be incredibly pretty or a great example of web design expertise. Many successful online marketers know that sometimes an ‘ugly' design just works better at converting visitors into customers. (It happens in offline marketing, too.) So, just because the site doesn't have a bunch of bells and whistles doesn't necessarily mean that the guru isn't a serious super-affiliate. But, if a guru is claiming to be a web design expert and they have a poorly functioning site or if they promise to teach you how to write amazing ad copy, but they have lots of typos or incomplete sentences on their site, then you should be leery of their claims.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I've written about this before, but if a guru promises that you can make your internet millions working a couple of hours a week, with no effort or investment beyond the cost of their program, you should be very skeptical. There is a huge audience of potential online entrepreneurs out there who are really only drawn to the whole make money online industry, because they hear it's easy. It seems to be part of human nature to look for a no-effort solution to a challenge. The make money online industry is a lot like the diet products market. Plenty of people are overweight, but don't want to actually eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. They just want a supplement they can take that will let them burn calories while sitting on the couch. Not surprisingly, plenty of marketers have come out with diet products that promise the results people want with no effort – but rarely do they deliver much of anything. Online marketing gurus who promise prospective students overnight success and easy money are just capitalizing on that same desire for results with no effort. So, just remember that if a guru's sales pitch makes it sound like a trained monkey could make money online using their secret process, you should probably avoid it.

Check out the guru online. Seems pretty obvious, but before you shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars to a guru, you should definitely run a search his or her name on Google. When you do this, you may run into a bunch of sites that are really just selling the guru's program (since many of them utilize affiliate marketing to sell their products), but if you dig a little deeper you can generally find sites with actual unsolicited reviews of the programs they have for sale. See what some of these reviews have to say – positive and negative. Finding a negative review or two doesn't necessarily mean that a guru's program is a waste of time. Just as a consumer might post a negative review of a book or restaurant because they personally don't like it or had a bad experience, many others might have had a great experience but not bothered to post about it. So, take each review with a grain of salt, but if you see an overwhelming number of bad comments and few, if any good ones than this should raise a big red flag about the program.

Ask around. Along with doing an online search, you can also try to get info on a guru by asking others in the affiliate marketing industry about them. If you happen to know a few people with a little experience in the industry they can really help here – as they may also have recommendations on some good training programs to consider. If you attend any conferences, trade shows, or even local networking events with other affiliates, use the opportunity to get their opinions. If you already belong to an affiliate network or two, definitely ask your affiliate managers about the different gurus or affiliate training programs. They should be able to give you some good advice on ones to check out or potentially avoid.

Make sure the program is the right fit for you. Even if a program is completely legitimate and really can help teach people to make money online, it may not be the right program for you. If a program is focused on teaching bloggers how to drive more revenue from their sites, but you don't even have a blog and actually hate the idea of having to write posts every day, than you probably aren't going to be successful with that program. Conversely, if you are a dedicated blogger who wants to find new ways to monetize your site, a program that teaches you about building dozens of niche affiliate sites may not be quite what you are looking for. I know that a lot of people just getting into the business may not know what kind of program would be a good fit, but if you already have a little understanding of the industry, then try to find a program that seems to be a good fit for your talents and interests.

None of these tips is a guarantee that the guru you follow or program you purchase will work for you. But, it can help you avoid ones that are most likely to be a waste of your time and money.

Tom Wozniak is the director of marketing for Media Breakaway, LLC and writes the official blog for affiliate.com. He has been in marketing and advertising for over 25 years with over 10 years of experience in the online world.

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