Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Marketing FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt at Google, Bing, and Yelp

Today's marketing word is FUD, or Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. According to Wikipedia, it was coined in 1975 by Gene Amdahl, a former IBM employee turned entrepreneur. So FUD has an illustrious history, and deep tech roots. Let's investigate some recent FUD examples in Internet marketing.

FUD and Google, Bing, and Yelp



FUD: Fear Uncertainty and Doubt in Marketing
Enter Google, Bing, and Yelp. As marketers today we often depend on one, or all, of these companies to interact with customers and generally "get the word out." All three have a free platform (e.g., SEO on Google and Bing, free listings on Yelp), and a paid platform, a.k.a. advertising. 

And all three worry a lot about people "gaming" the system to get better free positions, and all three would really rather have us all just give up and advertise. FUD's first letter, "F," could also stand for FOLLOW the money.

Recently, Google, Bing, and Yelp have all engaged in a little FUD: sowing fear, uncertainty, and doubt among marketers about tactics that they disapprove of:


  • Matt Cutts of Google has attacked the concept of "Guest Blogging," and sowed some FUD that this tactic is dangerous, could get you in trouble, etc. etc. Read his post, here.
  • Duane Forrester of Bing has attacked the concept the keyword-heavy domains help websites rank better on Google.  Read his post, here.
  • Yelp has been in "attack mode" on fake review. Read about an example, here.

FUD and Reality


Now the question for us marketers is how much of this FUD is real, and how much is hype? Where is the line? Where is the reality? Do we all really have to be Goody Two-shoes when it comes to a little Internet marketing?

Carpool Diamond Lanes and FUD

Let's think about driving down a a California highway in the "diamond" or "carpool" lane. Now, we're all good citizens, but sometimes we are really in a hurry, so we might slip into the carpool lane even though we do not have the required number of passengers. Sometimes we might even get a life-size Barbie and put her int he back seat, so that we appear "as if" we are a car pool.

(Not that I've ever done that...)

The car pool violation fine is upwards of $300 in California. $300! Why? To get your attention... and because it's hard for the police to detect, so they rail against it with big fines, flashing lights, and a campaign of guilt... sowing FUD that one cannot (and should not) illegally use the car pool lane. 

But sometimes we still do it.

How do carpool lanes relate to recent FUDs from Google, Bing, and Yahoo?

SEO, fake reviews on Yelp, greasing the wheels to get to the top... Those are tactics used by many in Internet marketing. And the FUD initiatives by Google, Bing, and Yelp, show not only that these tactics might be dangerous, but also that these tactics are difficult for the engines to detect.

The opposite of FUD is the reality that some of these tactics work (if you are smart, if you are undetected). So when you see FUD, look beneath the surface and ask yourselves why the power-that-be is complaining so loudly about a tactic.


FUD and Strategy

Now, I am NOT suggesting that you go off and do obnoxious guest postings, buy keyword-heavy domains, or buy reviews on Yelp. That's not the point. The point is to help you, and your team, be critical readers of Matt Cutts, Duane Forrester, and Yelp... and "read between the lines."

What they say is not always what they mean. Sometimes you can slip into the carpool lane and get there a little faster... Sometimes you can speed (just a little) and do better.  And sometimes you get caught.

No risk / no reward.

Happy FUD!