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Google Trojan Horse — Brad Callen

Wow. I just finished looking at a couple of amazing videos from Brad Callen. This is going to cause a firestorm of controversy.

Brad has constructed a viral tool that manipulates Google rankings on computers on which it is installed.

That’s right, this is basically a viral trojan horse turned into a legitimate product. Unfortunately, you have to sign up to see the controversial part.

I am not even sure what I think about this tool. I’ll have a followup post soon with my thoughts.

If you check out the videos, let me know what you think.

Regards,
Mark

(Note that the above link was an affiliate link for a few minutes, but I pulled it). I am not sure that I want to support a product like this. Still thinking about it.

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20 comments
Aron
Aron

It's ugly, and genius at the same time.

He's even replacing some affiliate promoted products from clickbank in adwords with his OWN affiliate link ( bryxen15 ) Meaning not only replacing the link but stealing the sale AND letting the adwords advertiser pay for it.

Almost illegal. And... very clever.

Mark Sierra at MeAndMyDrum.com
Mark Sierra at MeAndMyDrum.com

I finally decided to see what this was about. A very clever idea, but I'm going to turn it down. Too much at risk.

Anthony Wakefield
Anthony Wakefield

Good to see someone's questioning this.

Here's what i don't get.

This plugin helps people who work in PPC, SEO and internet marketing.

SO why would they then click on other people's affilate links? Wouldn't they sign up for the affilate program themselves.

Also... Brad Callen says this thing is exponential, as in a MLM structure. But if someone buys the plugin, then it starts over with their affilate information, so how does that multiply?

Manipulating the search engine results has to be wrong in a way, but the people who install this plugin will all know of it's function, and thus probably NOT click on those links. So, with it's main fuctionality apart from that being able to see PPC data, which is randomized, where is the real power in this product?

The answer: It relies on Hype, which people will jump on and buy the product without thinking about it. Thus, it services Brad Callens Pocket, and this is the main reason it's been released.

A.

James Mangosteen Dean
James Mangosteen Dean

I was appalled when I saw the videos. I thought Brad Callen was way beyond that.

James Mangosteen Dean

Sunshine
Sunshine

Just had another thought about this product.

It reminds me of a method called "cookie stuffing".

Ebay currently has a major lawsuit against a group of individuals who used cookie stuffing on the computers of people who innocently visited digitalpoint forums.

I'm sure this product will sell well but at what price to the rest of us. I can only hope google won't ban affiliate links from clickbank, amazon and others as a result of this.

Bob
Bob

Mark,

Just another trick that may get you in trouble. I treat Google like I treat my wife. We have a saying in our house. "If Mamas happy, everybodys happy". Just give Google lots of good content and leave the tricks for someone else. You do not want to be on the bad side of Google.

Michelle Adams
Michelle Adams

Thanks for the heads up Mark...and to think only yesterday I sent my list to a tip that Callen has on SEO! I won't be sending anyone his way any longer.

I've watched the videos and I gather that if I 'sign up' I understand that my search results are forever more 'changed' as would the next person who I try to get to 'sign up'...I might be wrong but I've interpreted that to mean that we would 'know' our search results would change if we join so it is like opting in to being manipulated if you like...saying 'yes that's ok, I'm happy to have my search results manipulated'. But even if I sign up knowing that doesn't mean I like it, in fact it feels as though I'm at ransom to this manipulation if I want the product. It stinks and this is yet another Brad that has lost me. I wasn't the least bit surprised to see Mike Filsaime right there at the top of the testimonials...oh gosh where does it end?!

Christine
Christine

I had concerns and questions about how it worked, especially along the lines of what you are already discussing so dropped a line directly to Matt but never heard back.

I think I have to agree that the free part is interesting as far as seeing key word results, random or not, but the premium version left me feeling a bit cold and uneasy or as Mark says "dirty".

I think I will be avoiding the premium version.

CD Rates Blog
CD Rates Blog

Mark,

There is more than enough "iffy" stuff. I think offering a product that manipulates peoples data is wrong.

Allyn
Allyn

I have caught this same thing but as an actual virus/mal-ware. I had some sort of mal-ware on my machine that manipulated the search results big time. I had to have a guy clean it off. If you Google "google search results manipulated" you will see this mal-ware discussed in forums.

are these things related maybe? like it was tested out on some of us?

AL

Alex at Net-Entrepreneur.com
Alex at Net-Entrepreneur.com

So, for example, if I head up there right now, d/l and install the plugin my Google results would be altered? Or do I have to use your affiliate link in order for this to take effect?

Because if I become the sucker only by downloading this "free" tool - it is bad news. And If I become the sucker after using your affiliate link, then hmmm, this is worse news because I trusted you and went for it. Imagine if I already had this tool via reference of another blogger, and now I'm reading your post... This other blogger would've lost every single good point he ever had in my charts.

So, only those upgrading to the premium version are let in to the "deal"? Man, this is so iffy...

alice
alice

mark,

The one thing that i can see from this software that is useful is the keyword. As long as you use his "free" version, it gives you the idea what keywords you should be targeting.

that is my take on this!

Mark Mason
Mark Mason

Hey Alex;

Well, when you download the plugin, you register on their site. When you register with a premium version, you can give your clickbank and paydotcom (and amazon affiliate ID).

Some time later, another user registers for the Callen product at some later time using your affiliate ID.

When that affiliate installs and activates the plugin, it works as normal. ADDITIONALLY, it also takes over the google results for the new user. When the user googles for something, it inserts extra search results using the your affiliate links above.

As far as I can see, you cannot tell that the results have been altered.

It is a multi-level payout. So, the more people you refer, and the more they refer, the more times your affiliate link gets used.

Make sense?

Alex at Net-Entrepreneur.com
Alex at Net-Entrepreneur.com

Hi Mark,

Well, the product itself looks cool... very much like another ppc spy product I recently bought. I might as well check this one out and get a refund for the other one. hehe.

As to the trojan aspect. You'll have to tell me like I'm 2 year old, what does it do exactly? Is it only when you try to pitch it to others that it becomes unethical? How so? As I said.. 2year old, please

Cheers,

Alex

Patrik Berggren
Patrik Berggren

WoHo!

Seems more like a crappy MLM-pyramid-scam, or the "pyramid" is one of the sales-pitch. Don't get me wrong, I'm usally MLM-friendly IF the compensationplan and products are "top-notch"

AND! manipulating the search-results don't seem to be ethical at all.

Wouldn't promote this product at all ...

Vicki Flaugher
Vicki Flaugher

Mark,

Thank you for your clarification. I feel the affiliate marketing of the product, no matter how good the actual product is on its own, is part and parcel of the entire product package. Brad created that affiliate marketing, so it reflects his approach.

Although you can say, perhaps rightfully, that I was "distracted" by my assumption of being tricked to not get the real message, ultimately, isn't THAT the real message - that the whole thing felt so dishonest to me that I reacted the way I did? To put more plain words on my answer to your original question: What Brad is doing is wrong. It's a short sighted attempt to make a few bucks while destroying long term credibility. I intend to unsubscribe from every list that promotes his product. I hope that's clear enough.

Vicki

Mark Mason
Mark Mason

Hey Vicki;

Thanks for the feedback.

Just to be clear, the Callen product is not "crap." It is a really innovative smart viral marketing campaign. The underlying product is solid -- the plugin really does give useful information, and Brad is a pretty good guy from what I know about him.

The problem is that the incentive for affiliates to promote the product is that you can get your affiliate links jammed into Google results of the people that download the software with your affiliate link. The fact that the results have been manipulated is not clear by looking at the Google results screen. That is the part that bugs me. I suspect that it will bug a lot of others as well.

I'm still not really sure how I feel about this software. If you install software on your machine, you should have some responsibility to understand what it does. Brad is deploying a valuable tool for free -- and he needs to pay for it.

Still, I think the monetization method is questionable at best.

This is why I made the post --- to see what people thought about the software. You assumed that I was trying to trick you, which distracted you from answering the question that I asked (do you think what Brad is doing is OK?)

As for my use of the affiliate link -- actually, I agree with you. I had already pulled the affiliate link this morning, but I agree that it should not have been there in the first place.

I am not sure, but you may have seen a cached copy (I use the wp-super-cache plugin). Based on your message, I went in and flushed the cache. Hopefully, that will correct the problem for future visitors.

In any case, I appreciate the feedback.

Have a great day,

Mark

Vicki Flaugher
Vicki Flaugher

Mark,

If you have sincere doubt about the legitimacy of this product, rather than sending me to the link and encouraging me to get involved at all, just pull it. Internet marketing has enough crap in it already to be anywhere near kicking the line. You're a better business man than that, with more integrity than to be doing questionable things. Or, was this post just part of your affiliate marketing push? At this point, I'm not sure, and whereas you got me to click through to the post (but not the videos), this didn't lift your trust level with me. I'm sorry, as I really like you, but it doesn't work to tell me to go somewhere your own sense of professional pride says is iffy, if in fact that is how you authentically feel. Just my opinion...

Vicki Flaugher

follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/smartwoman

Mark Mason
Mark Mason

I guess that I need to install the tool and see how obvious it is that rankings are being manipulated. I could definately see Google doing something to break this tool. I had not considered the idea that Google might target affiliates of the tool. Interesting.

On the other hand, people are voluntarily installing the tool.

On the other other hand, I am not sure that you are notified that the rankings get manipulated if you happen to skip the second video.

It's all very interesting...

Regards,

Mark

Sunshine
Sunshine

Wow,

I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one with major mixed feelings about this.

At first I thought it would be great then I began to think about possible fallout from Google on this one.

Normally, I'm an optimist and believe creativity should take it's course.

That is, as long as it does no harm to others.

Could you imagine possibly having all of your Clickbank and Amazon affiliate links banned permanently by Google? Or worse, not being able to see your own affiliate landing pages on the first page for YOUR internet searches.

Those were some of the things that came to mind when I pondered the possible side effects.

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