His name is Dave, sometimes he goes by Billy and he wants to help you make a lot of money.
His face is plastered online. He’s usually smiling in his photo and ready to tell how he made “thousands of dollars working for Google” (Stock Quote: GOOG) from the comforts of home.
A click later and you’re taken to Dave (or Billy’s) web site, where he explains how he was able to pay his rent, buy a new big-screen TV and go on vacation with money he made off Google ads. He offers to let you in on his secrets, for a fee. Two hundred dollars will buy you a “kit” that supposedly teaches you how to “get a job with Google” and start earning money immediately.
Sounds great right? There’s only one problem: You aren’t really working for Google and the instructions about how to make money off Google ads are available elsewhere for free.
Scheme v. Scam
Make no mistake, Google does run a program that allows users to make money from advertisements on their web site. It’s called AdSense and pays users based on click-through links. You allow advertisements on your blog or web site, and make money each time a visitor clicks on an ad. The ads come from Google's partnership with advertisers, who pay to have their materials exposed to the demographic of their choice.
But hold off on your plans for your Google employee stock options. Though Google sponsors the program, you don’t work for them directly. And despite the misleading claims of the “work for Google” kits, in no way do you become a Google employee.
A spokesperson for Google stresses that the company is not affiliated with these work from home kits, and says all the information about using Google ads to make money can be found for free on the company’s web site. He also stressed that sign-up and participation in the AdSense program is free, and any parties charging money for it are simply making a profit by misusing the Google name.
Similarly, experts say you don’t need to buy any kits or books to learn how to use AdSense. “The kits are definitely a scheme,” says Nihir Morzaria, founder of Toronto-based Internet consulting firm Square Zero. “I'm not sure if you could call it a scam, only because they are probably selling you legitimate techniques, but those techniques are also freely available on the Internet or even through Google itself.”
Morzaria says the kits usually include a web site template, an e-book with basic tips and more advertising to other products sold by the company.
“They are like any other ‘make money from home’ kits,” he says. “They show a few examples of successful web sites, but fail to mention that in order to be successful, you have to have a great idea. The kits are a waste of money in my opinion simply because you have to have a web site people want to come to before you can make money off of it.”
Nashville resident Rick Pecoraro runs a television recap blog and says he was enticed by the work from home kits, although he soon realized the “hundreds of dollars” promised wouldn’t apply to his site. “My site, in its heyday, was getting 500 unique visitors a day, and if I was extremely lucky one of those people would click a link,” he says. “That got me two cents or something, maybe 50 cents a month. Now, if you're clocking hundreds of thousands of hits a day you could generate some actual cash.”
In the end, says Pecoraro, all the tips and tricks won’t help if you don’t have an attractive web site that’s drawing a large amount of visitors.
Google has issued a warning to people thinking about purchasing a work from home kit. In a statement to MainStreet, the company says, “We recommend that users exercise the same amount of caution they would when evaluating other types of get rich quick claims. Our legal team reviews them and takes appropriate action if necessary.”
Morzaria, the Internet consultant, adds, “I consider these kits to be like diets. Will someone succeed by using this method? Maybe. But the vast majority of people are better off eating right and exercising than trying to have a quick fix.”
In this case, it means putting your wallet away and doing your research for free online, rather than spending hundreds on an arbitrary program that may not live up to its hype.