Of course, this blog post comes years after I nearly lost thousands in a scam - so anyone coming out with the same-old, same-old gets a raised eyebrow. (Yes, I got all my money back and so did everyone who listened to my advice, but that's not any reason to continue reading...)
I study everything like an editor these days. Most formatting and all ads are designed to interrupt your attention and get you to do something. And I dislike being advertised to - intensely. But I do appreciate good data that I can use.
When I found myself doing this today, I thought you might appreciate some shortcuts you can use to get good data, but avoid the unnecessary sales pitches.
A Few Steps to Avoid Scams and Get Good Data
1. Convert your "free download" to simple text you can import into a word processor or text editor.
My first response is often to take the appealing content I just read (after I clicked on it, usually giving one of my emails in exchange) - and then convert it to plain text. Sometimes I have to go back and work it over as they put titles and navigation in as graphics.
I'll usually strip down all the styling in order to get it down to basics. Like being able to import it into a word-processor. (There's lots of ways to do this, like opening it with Calibre and then using that program to convert it into something like straight text, or an ebook, or simple HTML. Get one of my books on self-publishing if you want more data on that point. Now - back to our story...)
2. Restore any missing headings and navigation through the document.
If it's poorly built, all the headings will disappear. Maybe not. Doesn't matter. You want to be able to see what you have simply, including the steps they lay out.
When you've done this, you can tell right away whether they are really offering anything of value, or are just blowing smoke.
Actually, even having to do these two steps usually means they have something to offer. The one I'm working on as I write this was a 177-page PDF ebook which was also offered as a free Kindle version - which is a nice touch.
3. Start deleting anything which is simply an Influence point.
Remember Robert Cialdini and his "Influence" books? Get a copy if you don't have one.
In that book, he laid out how marketers get you to buy things. In short, his points are just a few:
a. Reciprocity (free samples - like these ebooks)
b. Commitment and Consistency (downloading a free book helps ensure you'll click on something later.)
c. Social Proof (examples of people "just like you" who have successfully used the product they are pitching. All testimonials and dollar-figures are part of this.)
d. Authority (some Big Name - or several - telling how they used and/or recommend this product.)
e. Liking (its written and presented in a format you like, and try to tell you they are just like you.)
f. Scarcity (telling you that there is a limited time offer, or just a few left, or you have to sign up for a special one-time event.)
What you leave is the real nuts and bolts of "this is how the system works."
Some other points:
g. Anything that sounds/smells like "get rich quick". This includes income on automatic-pilot or anything where you don't have to work at anything and the money just rolls in. (Sure, and I have a great offer on the Brooklyn Bridge you should seriously take a look at...) While you don't have to work hard, and you do need to work smart, there are no free rides/beer/lunches. There is passive income, but you usually work to get the data to set it up.
And that is the point you are looking for:
Can this person actually help you improve your life with some new understanding of how life really works?
The whole point of this exercise is to accumulate useful tools.
h. Look out for "done for you" services they are offering. Yes, that might be good, but it's another version of "we think you are lazy enough, and can pay enough to have someone do it for you." No, you're not lazy at all. But some marketers preach this, based on the sheer repeating statistics that around 90-99 percent of all course buyers don't complete all the material or lessons.
The point of this is to see if they are giving real value. Yes, you can do this on your own. The trick is to find out if they are offering anything worth investing your time. Money can be replaced, but not the time it may cost you as well.
4. As you are deleting, you'll start seeing the "special names and terms" they are using to market their stuff.This is more education for you.
Everytime you run into their pat phrase, simply replace it with a generic one, like "The Product" or "The System" - and yes, you can do a search and replace to make this easier. (This also goes for repeating terms like certain dollar amounts which are only buttons
Here's a fun example from this book I'm editing as we go through this:
You absolutely can and will turn your passion into [big sum goes here]—just not overnight and not without implementing every step in "The System".
Much easier to spot the hype, eh?
Again, whenever the author says "Trust me..." or refers to himself, start deleting that sentence - it's probably a pitch (see Liking point above.) You can search/replace every "I" or "me" with "you", and "my" with "your" - and it will be easier to read in most cases. Exceptions (few) are when they actually give a test case they did and the results they found.
Note1: leave a space before and after on your search/replace, otherwise, "time" becomes "tiyou", "It" becomes "yout".
If that phrase becomes untrue with changing "I" to "you", then go ahead and delete it. You're looking for truly useful stuff.
Note2: Preserve your navigation as you go.
Use regular outline format:
This is so you can find your way simply and see if this content is really going to be useful.
As noted, I started this with a 177-page ebook. And it's holding up so far. Many of these ebooks won't. They weren't written to give you usable data, just a pitch. They'll have no outline except of bunch of chapters following each other. That's when you simply delete the file and get back to whatever it was you were doing (usually your email) before you were interrupted.
5. Look out for stuff you've heard before and already know to be false.
Delete away. If you've tested it and know this approach doesn't work for you, then it still won't work for you now.
At this point, you may start finding headings which have no content beneath them (like "It's Time to Take Action") because this is simply an advertisement effort to get you to (again) click through for their course or offer.
6. Look it over to see if you've heard all this before.
Here's where it starts taking shape - but do this only when you've finished your deleting above. Yes, you'll be reading along as you go, but keep your editing job separate from your "digestion and evaluation" job. Finish your editing first, then you can digest and evaluate what you've uncovered.
You can tell as you go whether it's worth your time to keep deleting, or simply delete the file and get back to what you intended to do today.
If you did learn something, and there is perhaps a service you could take which would re-pay you well for the time you invest, now you can go into this with eyes wide open.
Otherwise, you can file it with the other also-rans you've filed for a nice review project. And you can always just delete it and save cheap hard-drive space.
7. Now look over the original for ideas in marketing.Obviously, you clicked on this for some reason. It was probably free, so you aren't missing anything if you decide not to use it. But very often, the design is nice and has elements you can use (not simply plagiarize, but learn from and adapt.)
Our results today...This 177 page PDF and Kindle ebook was nicely laid out. It's an intro to "making money from a home business." It's also for newbies who don't know better - and that is usually about 90% or more of the audience for any given niche, according to experts and their studies.
That book boiled down to around 91 pages of useful data. Unfortunately, he's not offering anything you can't find online for free.
(And shortly, I'll be off to Amazon to leave them a review...)
Meanwhile, you got a chance to look at how to not have to deal with a scammy marketing piece every time you turn around. And how to learn from someone else's hype - as well as how to present straight data people can use. People like to get straight-up and useful data. They don't like hype.
Treat people like you'd like to be treated - and everyone wins.
PS. There's more of this with "Get Your Self Scam Free" - available at that link and all major online ebook distributors.