Are You Considered a Scammer if You Use a Pen Name for Articles - Questionable Marketing Practice?

38 replies
Okay so here's the deal for all you die-hard SEO kill Google and Dominate Warriors - This is a Bit of an Ethical Debate. For the weak and humble I suggest you hit the back button on this one.

We as marketers consistently distribute content around the web to promote our video, link, site, CPA site, whatever it is, in order to gain links and rank in that coveted Numero Uno spot in Google (and then Yahoo - Bing doesn't count as a search engine yet lol).

Often times we go to the same site, will create multiple accounts and will post different content under different accounts and Pen Names.

Is it just me or do people who find people who use Pen Names to promote products or services as unethical?

Is it a bad thing that we as aggressive marketers wanting to make money online (and here's the disclaimer so that I know you know it's not all about the money - we're here to provide value to people's lives) to use Pen Names or pseudonym?

Recently I did a promotion and now it's being slammed as a questionable marketing practice and unethical. If you'd like the full scoop send me a PM. I don't lie, cheat, or deceive people. I'm an Eagle Scout, I can't lie : ).

I did this promotion knowing full well I wanted to get the particular site I was going after to that first page of Google. All I did was write some articles, used a distribution platform to get the articles out there and used pen names. You've got to appreciate social media for this - now a blogger has picked it up and the story has been picked up by several other people as well.

So what's your spin>
#articles #considered #marketing #pen #practice #questionable #scammer
  • Profile picture of the author Marhelper
    No. It happens all the time in the real world. Many famous authors go by pseudonyms ... Stephen King, etc..
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    • Profile picture of the author K L Smithurst
      Originally Posted by Marhelper View Post

      No. It happens all the time in the real world. Many famous authors go by pseudonyms ... Stephen King, etc..
      Right on the money, its perfectly ethical.
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      • Profile picture of the author Dean Shainin
        Originally Posted by K L Smithurst View Post

        Right on the money, its perfectly ethical.
        I use my real name Dean Shainin in the IM arena because one want's to build their reputation over time. However, in most all other niches I simply do not want other IM to so easily see exactly every aspect of my marketing unless I'm coaching them in one way or another. Most all top IM use pen names for non IM related niches probably for the same reasons.

        Cheers,
        Dean
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        • Profile picture of the author cma01
          It sounds like this isn't a pen name issue, but a PR issue.

          Did the blogger get ticked over what was said or who was posting it?

          It's hard to give advice without knowing the exact particulars and what was said, but I think that a personal contact with the blogger with an apology and and explanation that it wasn't your intent to insult or disparage would be a good place to start.

          If you can sooth the source of the negative attention, it will be much easier to do damage control with the posts already out there.
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          • Profile picture of the author MattSanti
            Originally Posted by cma01 View Post

            It sounds like this isn't a pen name issue, but a PR issue.

            Did the blogger get ticked over what was said or who was posting it?

            It's hard to give advice without knowing the exact particulars and what was said, but I think that a personal contact with the blogger with an apology and and explanation that it wasn't your intent to insult or disparage would be a good place to start.

            If you can sooth the source of the negative attention, it will be much easier to do damage control with the posts already out there.
            The blogger got mad because I made a very broad generatlization about a particular group within a certain professional services industry and never flat out said an individual sucked.

            After reviewing what he said in his blog post and referencing the one paragraph I wrote that apparently was an attack on all, I could see his argument, but to label someone as a d-bag and using unconventional marketing practices is just out of line.
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            • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
              Originally Posted by MattSanti View Post

              The blogger got mad because I made a very broad generatlization about a particular group within a certain professional services industry and never flat out said an individual sucked.

              After reviewing what he said in his blog post and referencing the one paragraph I wrote that apparently was an attack on all, I could see his argument, but to label someone as a d-bag and using unconventional marketing practices is just out of line.
              Matt, no offense, and this has nothing to do with pen names as they are
              fine in and of themselves, but when you use negative marketing tactics,
              such as hard hitting reviews of products, etc. expect to get burned.

              I've been blasting products now for over 3 years. I fully expect to get
              whatever backlash is coming.

              If you can't stand the heat...stay out of the kitchen.
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              • Profile picture of the author cma01
                Matt,

                There is a difference between saying that there are losers in a particular industry and warning against them and saying that all people in that industry are that way.

                For example,

                Lawyers are . . .
                Realtors are . . .
                Plumbers are . . .

                When you do that, you are perpetuating a misconception and disrespecting the people in that industry who are conscientious about their work.

                I sold real estate for 10 years and I got very tired of all the negative statements made about the industry, particularly because they were usually made by people that I knew would try to screw me out of getting paid for the work I had done if given half a chance.

                Maybe the blogger just doesn't understand internet marketing in the new millenium. After you've eaten crow, offer to give him a few tips.
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              • Profile picture of the author MattSanti
                Originally Posted by Steven Wagenheim View Post

                Matt, no offense, and this has nothing to do with pen names as they are
                fine in and of themselves, but when you use negative marketing tactics,
                such as hard hitting reviews of products, etc. expect to get burned.

                I've been blasting products now for over 3 years. I fully expect to get
                whatever backlash is coming.

                If you can't stand the heat...stay out of the kitchen.
                Point well taken Steven. Actually that sheds some light on the whole situation now. Would this all just be part of growing pains - I mean after all I am only 24 and still learning about life...haha.
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                • Profile picture of the author Kay King
                  I didn't understand the thoughts/the conversations going inside this industry's minds if you will.
                  That's a great point to make. We're so often told we can work in any niche - but that does mean learning what is important to those in the niche, what issues affect them and how they see things. It's not easy to learn that - but clearly can make a difference.

                  I doubt the fallout from this is as damaging as you fear or that it will be as widely seen by others as you think.

                  kay
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        • Profile picture of the author reapr
          Originally Posted by Dean Shainin View Post

          I use my real name Dean Shainin in the IM arena because one want's to build their reputation over time. However, in most all other niches I simply do not want other IM to so easily see exactly every aspect of my marketing unless I'm coaching them in one way or another. Most all top IM use pen names for non IM related niches probably for the same reasons.

          Cheers,
          Dean
          That is the only case I have used my real name is on a personal IM blog for branding reasons.
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  • Profile picture of the author jamiedolan
    Originally Posted by MattSanti View Post

    Is it just me or do people who find people who use Pen Names to promote products or services as unethical?

    Is it a bad thing that we as aggressive marketers wanting to make money online (and here's the disclaimer so that I know you know it's not all about the money - we're here to provide value to people's lives) to use Pen Names or pseudonym?
    How would this be any different than owning / managing multiple companies that each have separate identities and are separate brands?

    Many, many corporations own multiple brands and market each one separately, but I know that many of the corporations use the same marketing firm to handle all the brands.

    Am I missing something here? I don't see what part of this practice is at all shady or deceptive.

    Regards;
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark_w
    If you name is very common and someone else has taken it on EZA then you have no choice but to use a pen name.
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  • Profile picture of the author Heuristic
    I think you'll find that many marketers use a pen name(s). I have for a few years now. The main reason is that I don't want some clever person to reverse engineer my entire internet business and all my niches. Well, that and branding purposes. If that upsets someone, then I am willing to risk the tarnish to my rep.

    Look at Eban Pagan with his David Deangelo character. Seems to work, even though many people know it is the same guy.
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    • Profile picture of the author Rod Cortez
      Unethical? Not even close. It's what you do with the pen name that has potential for unethical behavior, not the use of the pen name itself. I use a variety of pen names for different reasons and my products and content are of very high quality. Some of the biggest names in entertainment, publishing, and business use pen names / identities / alter egos. Actually, I find this an amusing question to be brought up in the first place.
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  • Profile picture of the author Goatboy
    I see no ethical problem in using a pen name if all you are doing is writing articles and submitting them.

    If you are using your various identities to enable you to double or triple your efforts that might be different. As an example, if you have seven pen names at Digg so that you can Digg your own article and then vote for it, that might be an ethical breach.

    But, if all you are doing is carrying seven pen names at eZineArticles and using one to promote each different website, that probably isn't a problem. Many fiction writers will have several pen names, especially when working between different genres. Someone who is an expert in divorce law might not be believable when giving information on cancer research. So, you might want to write under two different identities.
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  • Profile picture of the author Sandeep Shah
    Just make sure that you are not deceiving people using pen names. If your heart tells you it is OK, then it is OK.

    Perceived value is more important than actual value. In fact there is no such thing as actual value. People will not perceive you as an expert if you stamp the same name in body building niche and weight loss niche... but you may be an expert actually.

    Think about this:

    IM Niche - Eben Pagan
    Dating Niche - David DeAngelo

    He has created more value through info products than anyone else (IMHO).

    This is not a question that you ask in a forum. It is a question that you ask to the "man in the mirror".
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    • Profile picture of the author AdamDev
      I see nothing wrong with doing it providing the pen name is your own and you are not using another persons name to piggy back on their good reputation.
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    • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
      The only thing that is unethical is selling something that doesn't provide
      value to the person buying it.

      Selling it under John Doe or Superman does not make you unethical.

      This is the most bogus argument I have yet to hear in the IM world that
      IF you use a pen name, you are a scammer.

      For the love of Pete...can these people get a f*****g life and buy a
      f*****g clue.

      Sorry, but this stuff really pisses me off.
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      • Profile picture of the author MattSanti
        Originally Posted by Steven Wagenheim View Post

        The only thing that is unethical is selling something that doesn't provide
        value to the person buying it.

        Selling it under John Doe or Superman does not make you unethical.

        This is the most bogus argument I have yet to hear in the IM world that
        IF you use a pen name, you are a scammer.

        For the love of Pete...can these people get a f*****g life and buy a
        f*****g clue.

        Sorry, but this stuff really pisses me off.
        And this is my biggest frustration right now. I hear you, so this is why I'm either rationalizing to make myself feel better - sigh.

        Here's a little more background information. I was doing this for a client of mine. I used the article distribution platform to send out the articles under various pen names.

        Now I think the biggest mistake I made was sending the article resource box with the link all back to the same URL. But still, even if I used the article distribution service to send links back to a secondary set of (say blogs for example on xanga, live journal, etc) all it'd take is any person with half a brain to click on that link - so either way this clieint of mine would be found and now is beign lambasted for deceoptive marketing practices.

        I'm working on damage control as best I can but this as sort of gone viral in the blogosphere.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kay King
        Whoa - I think the thread is not quite what people are assuming.

        Often times we go to the same site, will create multiple accounts and will post different content under different accounts and Pen Names.
        If you are creating multiple forum accounts or something similar so that it seems to be "several people" promoting your one site or product - Yes, I think there's a problem there.

        The answers in the thread seem to focus on "is it OK to use pen names" - and of course it is. You start a new niche and create a pen name to suit the niche and market articles under that name, etc.

        That is not the same thing as creating multiple accounts to promote one product, service or site. For example, if you use EZA you can write under more than one name on the same account by creating pen names there.

        Maybe the OP could explain a bit further about HOW these pen names are being used and where they are being used.

        kay
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        • Profile picture of the author MattSanti
          Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

          Whoa - I think the thread is not quite what people are assuming.

          If you are creating multiple forum accounts or something similar so that it seems to be "several people" promoting your one site or product - Yes, I think there's a problem there.

          The answers in the thread seem to focus on "is it OK to use pen names" - and of course it is. You start a new niche and create a pen name to suit the niche and market articles under that name, etc.

          That is not the same thing as creating multiple accounts to promote one product, service or site. For example, if you use EZA you can write under more than one name on the same account by creating pen names there.

          Maybe the OP could explain a bit further about HOW these pen names are being used and where they are being used.

          kay
          Okay so here is what happened. I wrote some articles, I sent them out under 3 different pennames all promoting the same website. I was using an article distribution service to do so that has a pretty fair reach in cyberland here... It wasn't my intent to scam, mislead or deceit anyone for that matter. Being scammed sucks - okay so we got that point out of the way.

          Part of the issue lies in the fact I unknowningly made what could be interepeted as an attack on a particular group. - Unintentional with huge mistakes. This blogger picked up on one of the articles that happens to be posted on a free web 2.0 site where you can put up your own content - that post was under a pen name, and then the link on that post went to another post on another site under a different penname - kind of like the link wheel approach - and then finally to my client's website.

          The disgruntled blogger now what is essentially slamming my client and I'm trying to figure out how to at least bury this nonsense. I know a press release is one fast way so we're working on that route, but any other ideas and suggestions to avoid this kind of mess in the future. This is a valuable lesson for any one new venturing into the offline consulting world as well.
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        • Profile picture of the author Troy_Phillips
          There is a big difference in doing business under a pen name and creating several accounts on a forum to raise perceived personal value or added buzz to a product .

          I have a lot of articles ... very few under my real name .

          This is not the same as posting a wso under one name and having five more accounts ( if that is even possible) to praise the product to high heaven.

          Not saying that is what the op was saying ... but it was mentioned .


          Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

          Whoa - I think the thread is not quite what people are assuming.



          If you are creating multiple forum accounts or something similar so that it seems to be "several people" promoting your one site or product - Yes, I think there's a problem there.

          The answers in the thread seem to focus on "is it OK to use pen names" - and of course it is. You start a new niche and create a pen name to suit the niche and market articles under that name, etc.

          That is not the same thing as creating multiple accounts to promote one product, service or site. For example, if you use EZA you can write under more than one name on the same account by creating pen names there.

          Maybe the OP could explain a bit further about HOW these pen names are being used and where they are being used.

          kay
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      • Profile picture of the author reapr
        How is it unethical unless you are outright deceiving people into thinking your are a famous person and using that persons name to generate a sale.

        I have 3 core names I use and about a dozen others and they are all used for tracking related purposes and as one person stated reverse engineering reasons.
        Just as example for a golf niche I may use or use different names to different sites relating to the same niche.
        Golf
        Peter Green or Mike Club
        Fishing site
        David Gill or Mike Salmon
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      • In my opinion it depends on the intent. If you're using a pen name, as others have said, to protect your business model and stop reverse engineering then I think it's perfectly acceptable. People in the brick and mortar world do it all the time. So do some very famous authors.

        However if the intent is to scam someone then the answer is obvious.
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  • Profile picture of the author marksinclair
    There's nothing wrong with a pen name. Of course, maybe 'pen-name' was just coined because 'alter-ego' or 'phony' were too harsh.
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  • Profile picture of the author Louise Green
    It's actually smart to use pen names when working in different niches.

    The last thing you want is someone with a bigger budget or more experience searching for your name, seeing your entire business structure and entering each of your niches as a competitor.
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    The things some people complain about ... it's beyond my comprehension. Of course using pen names is NOT unethical. Can't imagine why anyone would think it is.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      The ethics of using pen names isn't the issue in this thread. Neither is using different names for different niches. This is about using multiple names to promote one site.

      To the OP -

      One person interpreting an "attack" is one person's opinion. Unless the blogger is very high profile, I'd ignore it and let it die off. I would limit article to ONE pen name for ONE site. It doesn't help you to must several names for one product or site - and can cause problems when noticed. What is meant counts less than how it is perceived.

      In this case, it provided ammunition for a blogger who saw something you wrote as offensive. Some people want to be offended and one person's opinion on it isn't a big deal. Without argument or comebacks to feed his rhetoric, the blogger will move on to something else. Yes, others will spread it for a short while because people love to pile it on. Those people aren't your target market anyway - right?

      You can't un-ring a bell -but hard to imagine an unintentional statement in an article that would be a major attack against any group. A mistake - yes - but is it really that big a deal to the "group"? More like something for the blogger to say. Arguing can turn it into a cause for him (to get more attention) and may give his comment more weight than they deserve.

      kay
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  • Profile picture of the author BloggerDownUnder
    I 100% agree with the above. It's ok (and often makes perfect sense) to use a pen name. For example: If the IMer is a doctor promoting medical products, I'll assume that they wouldn't want to use their real name if they later decide to expand their empire to on-line dating, debt management, etc niches.
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  • Profile picture of the author MattSanti
    The last two posts are some rock solid advice. Thank you Kay and CMA01.

    The biggest take away lesson from one is limiting one pen name to one site/industry. That makes sense - because that was part of them problem to begin with - one pen name fueled by another penname.

    The other lesson is I need to be more aware of what is said and how things are felt if I don't understand or have first hand experience of the language that is spoken in a particular industry. I didn't understand the thoughts/the conversations going inside this industry's minds if you will.
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  • Profile picture of the author snyder7
    I don't think it is spamming. Ezine articles for example gives you a chance to have i believe up to 5 different pen names
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  • Profile picture of the author Jay Jennings
    You mention only one pen name per niche, but I don't think there's anything wrong with multiple personas in the same niche. It's not the number of names you have, it's what you do that says ethical or unethical.

    Jay Jennings
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      There's another factor here which hasn't come up. Matt said he did all this for a client, and now the client is getting bashed.

      While your intentions may have been honorable, Matt, your tactics went beyond 'aggressive marketing' and bordered on deceptive. Several large companies have gotten into hot water when personas they created turned out to be fictitious.

      Look at the WalMart deal - there was supposedly a couple so in love with WalMart that they were traveling the country in a big RV in an attempt to visit every single store in the country. It was getting some nice buzz, until people found out the couple were actually actors hired by WalMart's marketing company.

      You, my friend, just stepped into the same type of poo pile.

      If you really want to make things right for your client, use that press release to man up and admit your mistakes. Don't let your client take the heat for your screw up.

      EDIT: Matt posted the verdict while I was typing my answer, so I'm going to change my advice...

      Matt, send the blogger who started the brouhaha an email letting him know that you were the one responsible for the mess, not the former client. Eat some humble pie, and it will blow over a lot faster. Plus, you'll get to keep your credibility.
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  • Profile picture of the author MattSanti
    Well the news is in - I was fired by the client. Hard lesson learned but if you do offline consulting for people in the real business world, make sure they approve of all content going out before you even think of hitting that submit button as repercussions could be quite intense.
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  • Profile picture of the author KristiDaniels
    That Sam Clemens guy sure was a scammer. He used the pen name Mark Twain.

    Can't trust those pen name people.

    I have always been worried that I might accidentally get famous while using a pen name though. That would really disappoint my mom, so I always use the name she gave me.
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  • Profile picture of the author HayleyWriter
    While pennames are ethical to use, I think there are limits. If you create six pennames or personas to give "testimonials" about your own product, that is unethical and will be damaging to your reputation when it is discovered that all the testimonials are fake. Sometimes, the use of penname or persona is wise when dealing with the web, but keep it limited. Only write under the penname what you would be happy showing anyone (including your grandparents) under your real name. If you use a penname to belittle people because you are too scared to voice your own opinion as yourself, you are using the penname in a wrong manner.
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