One important way in which men and women find our site, and other social sites, is through search engines including Google and Bing. Thousands of men and women worldwide search for resources using hundreds of keywords combinations that are related to sites like ours. A few typical examples: “find Filipina women seeking marriage” or “sincere asian personals” or “marry asian lady” When consumers search for these or similar terms, the search engines list non-paid (“organic”) and paid results.
Here is a set of current results from both Google and Bing for the search phrase “best dating site”.
If you look carefully, you can see that Google’s and Bing’s results include both unpaid and paid results. In both cases, the paid results (usually on top and to the right) are marked, although it can often be confusing to be sure which results are paid versus unpaid. Anytime a consumer clicks one of the paid results, it costs the advertising website anywhere from a few cents to $10 or more. Based on our experience, the ads related to dating and social sites tend to cost around $1-$10 for searches. We advertise in these paid sections for a variety of keywords, and we are happy to do so. Thousands of men and women have found our site by searching and clicking on ads we have paid for. Like many businesses, advertising is a major cost for us, particularly because we have only been in operation for four years and our name recognition is still growing. We are comfortable with this expense in general, but we have seen some trends in other sites that are competing for the same advertising real-estate and thereby both increasing the cost of advertising while reducing the number of visitors who arrive at our site from search engines.
We researched some of the sites that are advertising on the keyword “foreign wife asia”, which we believe is a valuable keyword for sites like ours.
We found four major groups of sites that are clearly spending huge amounts on a variety of keywords like this:
- Many interrelated sites are owned by Cupid Media with a mix of positive and negative internet reviews which (like ours) have affordable monthly fees. (This business model, which we share at Christian Filipina, differs from those of the following sites, which are based on per-message charges.)
- Many interrelated sites apparently owned by “Anastasia” including Anastasia.Com, AsianBeauties.Com and AmoLatina.Com as well as apparently www.svadba.com (aside from a few seemingly paid reviews, these sites had universally bad reviews such as here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.) According to the reviews, there is considerable suspicion that the sites are fraudulent. Could this be true? The sites in English all charge men per-message fees to send and receive messages to and from women, but according to the reviews, the letters “from” women are often not actually written by women supposedly being contacted, but actually by office workers representing or impersonating the women. According to one site, the “Svadba” Russian-language site advertises giving women a chance to win a car if they can get men to correspond repeatedly with them. We did not see a mention of this on the English-language sites.
- Many interrelated sites, apparently owned by “A Foreign Affair”, based at 7227 North 16th Street, Suite 240, Phoenix, AZ 85020, (602) 553-8178. This seems to include ForeignLadies.com, Loveme.Com, Asianbridesonline.com, Latinwomenonline.com, AsianSingles.Com and probably many more. Likewise these sites seemed to charge per-message fees. We also found a huge number of negative reviews, such as here, here, here, here, here, and here in some cases accusing the sites of being fraudulent or looking the other way with fraud transpiring on their site in order to earn more per-message fees. Could this be true?
- China Love (chnlove.com), Ocean-Visa.com, charmingdate.com, asiamatch.com, and idateasia.com (in the qpidnetwork.com family) which had many negative reviews including here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. These sister sites seemed to differ somewhat in their approach to the scam reports: rather than creating or buying additional look-alike domains as the previous sister-companies, these have created hundreds of SPAM-pages on the internet to attempt to outrank the negative reviews. All the SPAM-pages written apparently in a very Chinese style and describing elaborate anti-scam and anti-fraud procedures. These sites also charge per-message fees to send and receive messages. Could the reports we found be true? According to this link, CHNlove now has also begin registering other domain names just as the other two examples, including chinesewomendate.com and chinese-lady.com.
We don’t claim that all websites listed of these last 3 groups are fake, even though that is what is claimed by dozens of people on the internet. We don’t claim they are legitimate either. We don’t know for certain. It does seem suspicious that these 3 site families all charge per-message fees, and seem to be accused of the kinds of fraud that would tend to maximize the amount of per-message fees they are collecting. However, we aim to bring this up as a hypothetical because we don’t have all the facts. What if fraudulent sites do exist? Maybe it is actually some other sites which are fraudulent? Whose job is it to uncover the fraud? Who is accountable?
As a legitimate site offering a genuine service, we have to compete against other advertisers and services. If those sites have a business model that enables them to get more revenue from their members, they can outbid us in advertising services such as Bing and Google and force us to pay higher advertising costs. This results in higher costs that we need to pass on to our members, as well as less funds we have available to improve our services. And if those services are actually low quality for their members, it is a disservice to them (even if the business model seems to reward a questionable business practice in the short term). Of course, if the other businesses are offering legitimate services and are able to get more revenue by providing superior services, more power to them: it is the consumer’s choice to choose a service provider that gives them the best value.
So then, what if there are dishonest or outright fraudulent businesses competing for space in the paid and unpaid search results? Is it the responsibility of a search engine to investigate this?
Google’s adwords terms of service prohibit Adword’s advertisers from “(c) advertise anything illegal or engage in any illegal or fraudulent business practice.”
So if in fact the advertiser were doing illegal business, then presumably it would be prohibited from advertising in Adwords. (Still that leaves the question open who is responsible for making the decision – is Google responsible for reviewing its ads? Or is it the responsibility of the government to issue legal action to force google to cease sending visitors to fraudulent businesses? Or should consumers report an individual ad or a site to Google?) And what about the case where the actual advertiser paying for Google Adwords ads is in fact an independent affiliate or advertising agency? They could presumably claim they are only advertising and not knowingly engaging in any fraud.
What if these website businesses are actually not fraudulent? What if they are doing their best to prevent fraud? What if they simply have unscrupulous ladies on their site who get a kick out of fooling men or are really trying to meet men but are not actually compensated for it? What if they contract out the letter-answering to legally independent entities, thus enabling them to claim they are not engaging in fraud (can the paid independent contractor sending fake emails on behalf of these sites be left with all the moral responsibility?)
If some sites are turning their head the other way and ignoring fraud, even if they are not perpetuating it, is that illegal? Is it unethical?
We learned in our research that in August 2011 Google “forfeited” $500 Million generated by online ads related to illegal overseas pharmacies: Read the US Department of Justice announcement. That may be good for everyone going forward: In Google’s statement quoted by USA Today, they state, ”We take responsibility for our actions. With hindsight, we shouldn’t have allowed these ads on Google in the first place.” (See here.)
We don’t have the answers to all these questions. We believe the consumers are best served by high quality unpaid and paid search results that do not direct them to sites engaging in unethical, fraudulent, or illegal business practices. Our job is to build the best site and community, and this is what we continue to do rather than attempt to run the government or Google.
But somebody does run the government agencies, and somebody does run Google and Bing. Google instructs any person who has “ripped you off” (their words) to report it to Google, as well as the US FTC, the IC3, as well at http://www.econsumer.gov for companies from foreign countries.
If you ever have found yourself the victim of fraud on the internet, we encourage you to post your experiences at any of the dozens of sites where scams and fraud are exposed, to help educate others. We also encourage you to follow Google’s advice and report it to the appropriate regulatory authorities. In addition to the links above, here is additional contact information for the US Federal Trade Commission.
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
(202) 326-2222 – 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); –
In Australia, look up http://www.scamwatch.gov.au
In Canada, https://www.recol.ca/ (at time of publication, this site had a security certificate problem)
Please let us know if you aware of other agencies from other countries for fraud reporting, and we will add it here.