Internet marketing can be swayed by pseudo-science

Go to any business meeting these days and you are sure to find at least one of the speakers suggesting some kind of psychological backing for their claims. For instance, you may often hear that 55% of our communication is “body language”; it’s an oft-repeated claim in business circles. The problem is, there is no evidence for this – and what “evidence” is provided we know was actually made up. Yet the claim is still widely circulated.

Then you may hear that if you “mirror” the behaviour of the people you are speaking with they will like you and trust you more. That’s advice often given to sales staff, suggesting that if you adopt the same posture as your prospect, they’ll like you more and will therefore buy from you. Sounds nice in theory, but again, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim.

Several scientific-sounding claims are also made in the world of personal development. For instance, there are “gurus” who suggest that online “brain training” programmes can help your memory at work, or make you a better thinker. There are nutritional advisers who will tell you that certain vitamins will boost your brain power in the office. And there are self-styled experts who claim that daily meditation will make you calmer and boost your career as a result. All very interesting, but these claims have no real scientific backing.

We get sucked in to what appears like common sense; we like to think there is a magic “cure” to help us think better or behave in more appropriate ways to achieve success in sales for instance. However, the scientific evidence often shows that there is little backing for many of the claims made.

A famous one, for instance, is the “walking over hot coals” scenario. Here you get “whooped up” into a frenzy of excitement on some personal development day. You are then invited outside where a line of red-hot coal embers lay in the ground. Then you are supposed to use the “mind techniques” provided in the day to show to yourself that you can achieve whatever you want to – including walking on hot coals. Whoopee! What these gurus fail to tell you is that the thickness of your hard skin on the soles of your feet, combined with a paucity of pain-sensor nerve endings in that region of your body means anyone can walk over hot coals. They just make you think it’s difficult and then when you can do it they use that as “proof” that their mind techniques work. Tosh.

So what has all this got to do with Internet marketing? Well, similar pseudo-science abounds. There are all sorts of gurus telling you that this technique works, or that they have “evidence” that another method is superior. Don’t believe them; much of the SEO information you read is pure nonsense. Vast amounts of so-called backing for particular Internet marketing methods is actually made up. There is little evidence for many of the claims made about Internet marketing.

In the same way that many personal development gurus “back up” their suggestions with what sounds like science – yet isn’t – many Internet marketing experts use similar techniques. They make it all sound real, good and convincing. But you owe it to yourself to ask whether the claims really are true.

Take everything you read about Internet marketing with a huge pinch of salt. And if you want evidence – test things yourself. Too few companies online have a “testing” culture. Instead they appear to accept the advice from some guru or another and wonder why they fail to achieve.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
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