WARNING: PLEASE DON’T GET PISSED OFF IF I USE A LINK THAT YOU MAY HAVE POSTED AS AN EXAMPLE OF GREENWASHING. It is not a dig or an insult, in fact, you are doing what multi-million dollar marketing firms predict you will do with focus tested key words and headlines designed to get you to click on their sites. As a person that likes to balance natural living with science, I have fallen for this many times myself.
This is the beginning of a 4 part series to teach you how to spot a Greenwasher. Why am I so passionate about this that I wanted to take the time to go through this? Because I believe that there are natural answers to personal care and health and wellness – but companies looking to make tons of money are jumping in on the game and clouding the industry with false claims, semi-truths and outright lies. This hurts the ENTIRE movement and no matter how much you want to believe in something if you want the movement to be strong and able to carry the test of time, you have to be vigilant and weed out the bad apples (even if they are just over-anxious hopeful people that are taking a claim a few steps to far….they hurt what we are trying to accomplish).
Learning to use Whois.com will become an addicting pastime – you get to play detective.
Immediately when I see a site name like healthytalk.com or naturalwellnessonline.com, I start putting my detective hat on and search out the source. The natural care business has been booming for the last decade and advertising firms want in on the action. Businesses that want to advertise, want to do so on sites that have high traffic. And you if want a lot of people clicking to your website, create a headline that entices people to click and read more…and your advertising dollars will start pouring in. The problem is, the articles do not need to be even partially true - and many times the lies are buried in semi-truths to make the article more believable.
So how does one find out if it is a true natural site or if it is a fake website designed to sell advertising…Enter whois.com.
Step 1: Go to your web browser and type in whois.com
Step 2: Click on the WHOIS link
Step 3: Type in the full website
Step 4: Look through the registration information to see who runs the site
The example above is one of the easier ones to point out. But sometimes you have to go a couple of steps deeper
Sometimes you run into someone who buries things a little deeper, website on top of website:
Let's try the website naturalwellness.com
Searching the site, we see something that is really common … an attempt to bury the owners with a private registration. It is wise to be really suspect of people that register to make their domain private. It costs extra and the question needs to be asked, why do they need to hide their identity? In this case though, we see another clue that may lead us to the site’s owner – see below that the server is on naturalwellnessonline.com .
So now, we’ll search that site:
Searching that we find the domain registration in Panama….Which is one of the three countries that many bait and click sites are registered because of their loose laws on internet content. Look also for Macedonia and Pakistan.
Also watch for companies that use sites like these to pose as someone else to sell their products. While some may argue that it is just another advertising method, to me it seems deceptive. You will usually see the name of the company right away on the whois directory, for example, there was a wellness blog that extoled the virtues of switching to a natural soap for her and her family. When I searched it out, the blog itself was owned by the soap company. So I can only imagine that the women in the blog was probably just an employee and I wondered if she even had three kids ;)
Stay tuned for How to Spot a Greenwasher Part 2: “They Are Probably Never Going to Look It Up”