Recently, I’ve picked up a whole legion of new fans of my blog.
Now, I know that neither my writing nor my life has got any more interesting, so I was puzzled over how I’d suddenly doubled my audience. Call me cynical, but my first thought was SPAM or scam.
So I had a little peek at my new followers’ profiles. And I found that they all had something in common. Not only were they now part of my flock, but they were also followers of A.W.O.L.
AWOL stands for Another Way of Life. It is part of the Empower Network, which claims to give people the tools and insider knowledge to be able to make money from blogging.
According to the blog of one of my new follower, Anna Linnehan’s, under the heading:
Most people don’t realize it. But there are an abundance of opportunities to create an income online ANYWHERE. An income that can completely pay for whatever lifestyle you choose, …
That all sounds very lovely. And very “empowering”. But c’mon people. Let’s get something straight here.
Online income vs an online business
Anyone (in theory) can create an online income. Whack up a basic website, scrape some generic, attention-grabbing, utter dross content (Lose 5lb of belly fat in 5 minutes with Amazing New Hollywood Diet), stick on some affiliate marketing buttons and a load of Google AdSense adverts…
And hey presto. Watch those pennies roll in. Very slowly. If you’re lucky, you might make a few quid a month. That’s an online income. Not sure what lifestyle it is that you’ll be choosing off the back of this income, but I guess your buddies at AWOL will help you figure it out.
An online business, however, requires a bit more than that. Trust me. I’m on it like a car bonnet, but it’s a tough one to crack.
So what’s the deal?
I did a quick Google search under “Empower Network Scam” (lucky guess) and learned that it’s run by a couple of Dave’s, who, allegedly, have taken their own advice and gone totally AWOL – living in the kind of jurisdiction that Edward Snowdon’s looking for.
Ancient Egypt has nothing on these guys. For anyone who hasn’t sussed it yet. This is a Ponzi. With a capital Ponz.
It’s actually pretty clever. You see, what they claim to be selling is access to a blogging platform and combined internet marketing clout. Higher rankings in search engines. Increased traffic to your blog. Easy ways to monetize. Em-Po-Wer.
money for nothing…
What they are actually selling is nothing. Well, nearly nothing. For upwards of $25/month ($100/month for the “Inner Circle”), you get your very own EN affiliated blog, hosted on their platform. It’s called empower-network-something-or-other. The significance of this will become clearer.
What’s less clear is why anyone would pay $25/month for a blog when the rest of the world is blogging for free on WordPress or Tumblr or the like. But each to their own.
Now here’s the clever bit. Pay attention. When you join Empower Network, you are let into the secret that the way to make money from the internet is by…wait for it…promoting and reselling Empower Network. Hold the fanfare.
If you look at the content of member blogs, you’ll notice a couple of things. Firstly, there’s very little in the way of content. A few pages. All with titles like “Make Money Online!”, “Flog Your Blog!” and “Just Give Me Some Money!”.
Secondly, all of the content is about A.W.O.L. and Empower Network. All links are effectively affiliate buttons. They take you to the EN sign-up page. And if you, too, become Empowered, the owner of the blog that referred you gets paid a commission.
So, as a newly Empowered blogger, if you want to make money, you need to sign up as many wannabe empowerees as you can. And the way to do that? By visiting as many blogs as you can, “following” and “liking” and spreading the EN gospel. So it’s an endless viral blogging go-round. Work, work, work. Sell, sell, sell. Because, remember, you’re paying a minimum of $25/month for this, so you’d better be recruiting new followers to cover your subs.
This is also the “secret” behind the claims that EN can get your blog higher up the search engine rankings. Not quite true. What happens is that all this recycled content, the constant pingbacks to A.W.O.L. or EN, confuse the searchbots. It means that Empower Network, the brand, ranks top in Google. If you’re searching for “Empower Network”, that is.
But since EN is all you have to sell, ain’t it grand that it ranks so highly on Google?
There is something quite beautiful about its simplicity. You buy into a scheme to make money online. Turns out that the product you need to sell to make that money is the scheme itself. You’re paying money to a company to promote their brand, which makes them a lot of money. If you do enough promotion and make enough sales, you might make a little bit of money. Maybe I’ve missed something, but it looks awfully to me like the only ones making real money from this are sitting high and dry atop their pyramid.
The best bit about it? By writing about EN, I’ve probably pushed them even higher up the search rankings and helped them peddle their snake oil to some poor schmuck.
Do me a favour will you? Don’t Google them, don’t click on any comments, follows or likes that they send you, and definitely do not fall for their scamming ways.
Just like naughty children or dogs, the best thing we can all do is just ignore them till they go away.