How big of a scam is it? 3 tips to tell

As I continue this discussion of the new Google Suggestions and “Google Instant” functionality, particularly as it relates to its rubber-necking tendency to reward controversial searches like “scam”  (see the previous  post for a refresher), it presents an opportunity to remind new customers investigating online business that all too often, the perception is worse than the reality.  A high number of “scam” results in Google  may not mean what it implies.  For instance, in many cases, the Google Search results may simply be locating questions from consumers about whether or not a business is a scam.   The answers may be to the contrary, and yet Google still displays the page, which in turn causes an undeserved negative perception. 

Along the same lines, in the case of Outskirts Press, for instance,  some of the books we have published have various scams as their subject matter; so those books appear in the results, yet it takes additional investigation on the part of the Google searcher to separate those realities from the perceptions.

So a customer/consumer/client must first determine, really… how big of a “scam” is it, based upon the Google results.

That said, here are 3 things a consumer/customer/client can do when investigating an online business to truly determine the relevancy/accuracy of any such “scam” claims that they may run across thanks to Google’s new search functionality.

1)  Determine the source of the controversial or negative websites/blogs.

More often than not, the source is not reliable. Outskirts Press, for instance, is a part of a fiercely competitive industry without much regulation or policies.  As a result, the competitive environment is ruthless, savvy, sometimes unethical, and even downright nasty.   The same can be said for many other industries.  So if you, as a potential customer are looking up a business on the Internet and  run into a blog posting or a website claiming Business XYZ is a “scam” or in some other way not on the up-and-up, then it is up to you to determine if the source of that information is truly impartial, or whether they have ulterior motives.   You’d be surprised how many businesses post inaccurate, unsavory, or maliciously libelous statements about their competitors behind the anonymity of  blogs or in the name of journalism.  Due diligence is essential.

2) Look at the date of the information

Information posted on the Internet is available for a loooong time… and yet it is easy to assume everything you read on the Internet is timely. Don’t be fooled. You may be looking at information that is 3, 4, 5 or more years old.  It may no longer be relevant or even accurate (if it ever was).  Always look at the date information was initially posted to make a better assessment of its relevancy to your search.  

And speaking of being fooled, be extra cautious of information posted on April 1.  “April Fool’s Day” has earned its namesake in the Internet age, with desperate marketers using the date as justification for posting false, fraudulent, and libelous claims.  A competitor of Outskirts Press, for example, once distributed a press release on April Fool’s Day claiming that the Library of Congress needed to add another wing to accommodate the vast quantity of books being published by said competitor.  Another company in our industry (this one not so much a competitor of Outskirts Press) claimed to have reached a deal with J.K. Rowling for the ebook rights to Harry Potter.   Were both these press releases clever?  Of course they were.  But they muddy the waters in an already misunderstood industry and ultimately confuse the end customer/consumer/client (or author in this case), who may not realize that such a press release is a “joke.”     Separating the facts from the falsities is hard enough on the Internet; companies don’t have to make it even harder one day out of the year.

3) Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet

With a 99% satisfaction rate,  all of us at Outskirts Press take great pride in our services and our books.  But when you publish 150 books a month, that leaves 1.5 authors, on average, who are less than satisfied.   That’s incredible in an industry with so much emotion and “artistic fervor” at stake, yet we constantly add additional procedures to improve our satisfaction rate even further. For instance, I am now personally touching base with every new Outskirts Press author who starts publishing with us, just to see how things are going and if there is anything I need to do to make their publishing process more enjoyable.  One such correspondence I had recently with an author touched specifically on the subject of not believing everything you read on the Internet, and it seems appropriate to share that correspondence in its entirety, and I’ll do that next time…

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