Thousands of people search for ‘inflatable SUP’ on Google every day. Many of you are probably looking for advice on the best inflatable SUP to buy. Some common google queries are: What size SUP do you need? Should you get an inflatable SUP or a hard SUP? What are the best inflatable SUP brands? What’s the best SUP for beginners? What’s the best SUP shop?
When you search for these terms, most of the first page of results are review sites, which, at first glance appear authoritative and independent. And there are many more sponsored links on google that are also review sites.
The big question is can you trust online reviews?
Here are the top three tricks websites use to trick and influence you. Hopefully armed with the knowledge in this article you won’t spend lots of money on a stinker. Or even worse, a sinker!
1. They’re only there to promote the target board.
There are a number of sites like this, whose sole purpose is to promote a single inflatable SUP board. They can be well written, seem authoritative, and because they review the target board against a number of different well-known brands and makes, seem genuine. The modus operandi is to surround the target board with high quality well known brands (decoys). The target board gets glowing reviews, much better than the decoys. And because the decoys are selected from the higher end of the price bracket, the target board appears to be much better value.
How to spot them: Any SUP review website that concludes with an unknown brand as the star buy, surrounded by lots of well known SUP names is likely to fall into this category. Although since we first published this article in January 2017, a number of sites like this now also include a number of additional small no name brands to counter this claim. Often they’re sponsored ads rather than appearing in the organic search results. But they do often make it into the organic search results because the content seems authoritative and is well written.
Also, check who the author is. If they don’t tell you who they are and what their credentials are, then treat them with caution. In one example, the domain is registered to an address which has over 500 registered companies operating from it. Nothing dodgy about that is there?
2. They’re paid for clicks or sales by the retailer.
There are a number of review websites that only exist to attract you to their site based on their ‘impartial reviews’, and then direct you to the seller’s site. Amazon, for example, pay review websites handsomely for directing potential buyers to their site. In the Amazon example, these sites will only review inflatable paddleboards sold on Amazon.com, and are therefore not selecting which boards to review on performance or quality, but based on what’s for sale on Amazon. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this if it’s declared up front, and if the review is declared as a review of boards available on Amazon. Sadly, our experience is that most don’t declare the conflict of interest.
These sites typically use ‘scrape and spin’ techniques to scrape the content for their review from the product webpage, and then respin them so that they’re not identical to the original text (which is viewed negatively by google and so affects whether they appear in google searches). This is normally an automated process, or carried out by cheap labour in Asia, and can often be identified by the bad writing.
Hot to spot them: Are all reviewed products available for sale on the same website? Are they badly written?
And the other way you can spot them, is if they are being open about the fact that the review site makes money from referrals. The text below is taken from one such example. But not all review sites are this honest!
3. Magazine reviews with strings attached
You would think you can trust a magazine review right? Well, maybe. Some mags prioritise kit from the brands that advertise with them. Again, it’s all about money. The brands that spend the most money on advertising get the most reviews in some magazines, and also get editorial or advertorial content on how good their kit is. At McConks we’ve had numerous contacts from magazines offering reviews for our iSUP and SUP paddles to be reviewed in ‘free, independent review articles’. The only catch? We must take out advertising with the magazine ‘to be fair to those brands who do pay for advertising’. Now we’re not claiming that the review articles themselves are not objective when they’re published – they might be. But they are incomplete. If the article only reviews boards from big brands who can afford many thousands of pounds in advertising over a year, they are not a review of the best boards available.
One SUP magazine we can guarantee that does not do this is standup paddle mag uk. We’re not saying they’re the only one, but SUP mag uk contacted McConks when we were just starting out, and wanted to try our kit for a truly independent review. All the other magazines that have contacted McConks, or that we have contacted asking for a review, have only offered reviews as part of an advertising package.
Standup paddle boarding is the fastest growing sport in the world right now, and there are many people trying to cash in and make a quick buck on the back of dodgy tactics. We don’t think that’s right, and like to call it out when we see it.
Hopefully now that you’ve read this article you’ll be a little less likely to fall for the dirty tricks used by some.
If you want a truly independent review you can trust, head over to the review section of Stand up paddle mag UK: https://standuppaddlemag.co.uk/category/sup-kit-reviews/
SUPhubUK did a facebook poll of its more than 3,000 group members to find out what SUP Boards they wished they had bought when they were beginners just starting out. You can find the results here, but very satisfyingly for us, McConks came in the top three!
And if you want to get paddlers views on their favourite boards then head over to the facebook paddleboard community on https://facebook.com/groups/suphacks