In this guide, I’ll be showing you how to make $1,000,000 in one week if you just purchase my $1,000 course…sound familiar?
Well in this guide, we’ll actually be diving into everything you need to know about fake gurus (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):
What is a Fake Guru?
A fake guru is someone, usually in the online space, who promises a certain outcome based on the prerequisites of completing a paid course, coaching service, book purchase, etc.
It’s essentially, “I will show you how to achieve this desired result, but first, you have to do this.”
The desired results they promote are often played off of our emotional and psychological wants such as money, freedom, status, wealth, prosperity, etc.
And in order to promote a false sense of credibility on their topic, they flaunt their wealth and material possessions such as a mansion, sports car, fake profit numbers on a screen, etc.
Fake gurus are basically modern-day snake oil salesmen.
And in case you don’t know what is meant by that, it is referring to the deceptive marketers and scammers back in the day who used to promote that their snake oil could cure and fix a myriad of issues that the consumer was facing.
They would deceive people in order to get money from them.
Why Fake Gurus are Bad
In this digital age, information is disseminated at a lightning-fast pace. Something could happen across the world, and in a matter of seconds, the whole world could know about it.
While this is good and the spread of information can lead to positive results such as enhanced learning and new opportunities, it also has its negative side — enter the fake gurus.
When information is spread, it only has two possibilities — true or false.
What lies in between is the grey area where you can believe it to be true, when in reality it is false. This grey area is a dangerous area and it can lead to harm both physically and psychologically.
Here are some examples of this grey area, with some not being related to “fake guruism” (yes I just made that up):
- Woman meeting up with a person from a dating app who ends up not being the real person she thought it was
- People believe in a cause or theory that is false, but is promoted by a person of authority — giving that cause or theory a false sense of credibility
- A single mother hard at work wanting to make a better life for her family paying for an overpriced course by a fake guru promising her riches after the course completion
While each of these examples is a cause for concern and needs to be examined, for the sake of this article, we will be paying attention to that third example, as that relates to the problem with fake gurus.
How to Spot a Fake Guru?
Now that we know what a fake guru is. How do you go about spotting a fake guru?
To someone who does not work in the digital marketing space or is not that familiar, it can be hard to spot the signs of a fake guru.
Well working as an enterprise digital marketing consultant, I’ve found some telltale signs that give away the fake guru.
1. Get Rich Quick
There is an old saying that says you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
What this means is that everyone will go down their own path with the knowledge that they acquire. Think of schooling for example.
Let’s say you took an art class in school. The teacher did not promise you that you will become a great artist if you take these certain art classes. No, instead they promote the idea that the art classes will serve as essential building blocks for your career as an artist.
It is up to you what you do with the information you learn.
Using the example of the horse, good education leads the horse to water, but it is still up to the horse whether it will want to drink or not.
On the other hand, fake gurus claim they can lead all the horses to water and make them drink.
Getting away from the analogy, fake gurus claim that they can make you rich by taking their course, paying for a coaching service, or buying their book.
It is in the claim that separates a fake guru from a regular credible individual (which we’ll touch on more later).
They claim they can make you rich and try to provide social proof by showing off a mansion, a sports car, etc. with no actual background success in the topic they are claiming to promote.
It is with this strong claim that they can get away with providing an overly-priced course.
A get-rich-quick scheme.
2. Offers a Course With an Ugly Landing Page
The second biggest way you can spot a fake guru is by their ugly-looking landing page.
What is a landing page you may ask?
Landing pages are the crucial conversion pages you use to push users “down the funnel” to make a conversion. The conversion can be either a product purchase, a subscription to something, an email newsletter signup, etc.
On the landing page, you will often find the main headline that lists a 1-2 statement on the benefit you will get out of making the conversion. Oftentimes you will also see a social proof statement to provide credibility to the purchase.
Now, I’m not saying all landing pages mean the user is a fake guru. Landing pages are common practice among digital marketers and are used by every company with a website.
The difference is when the landing page looks simple, ugly, and just looks spammy overall.
I’m so surprised when I land on a fake guru landing page and how little time they take into creating their landing page.
Here is an example of a good landing page following user experience design practices and social proof examples. This is the landing page of a company that provides ad APIs:
This is a common landing page that you will see by a “regular” enterprise company offering a product or service.
Now contrast this with a “fake guru” landing page that is some really long page with big font, looks like it was made in a minute, has no user experience best practice in mind, and provides social proof by way of Facebook message or post:
Just take a look at some normal landing pages here from “regular” companies who employ user experience best practices to increase conversions and design principles:
Now contrast these landing pages with what you often see from fake gurus. Once you see the norm of how they should look, it’s now very easy to spot a landing page made by a fake guru.
The way I look at it, is if you really know your stuff, then shouldn’t you know how to make a landing page too since you are a marketing expert? This is digital marketing basics 101.
3. Not Transparent on How They Make Money
The second biggest way you can spot a fake guru is by their ugly-looking landing page.
The 3rd biggest way you can spot a fake guru is that they are not transparent on how they make money, what they did to actually acquire the mansion, the sports car, etc.
For example, did they start a business that was acquired by another business and make a ton of money? Are they successful eCommerce business that provides the top products in their niche?
None of the fake gurus actually provide their success. You just know that they have money. But where did they get it from? What is their track record?
Nowadays, it’s so easy to do research on the individual.
4. If They Don’t Sell a Product, You Are the Product
The 4th way to spot a fake guru, ties into the last point I was making in #3.
If you Google them and find that you can’t find any history on the actual businesses that they started and they are just called “entrepreneurs,” then they don’t sell products/services, you are the product or service.
They make money off the people buying and believing that they are a successful entrepreneur.
It’s a weird circle.
Technically they are an entrepreneur for their own “personal brand,” but they became successful by having other people pay them — believing they were a successful entrepreneur that can teach them valuable information to make them millions.
I’ll admit, they are great salesmen, but they take advantage, which is what irks me.
What Separates a Real Guru from a Fake Guru
So what separates a real guru from a fake guru?
Well pretty much, if the individual does not follow the 4 things listed above, then they are most likely a legit professional in their field who can teach you something valuable.
The biggest thing that separates a real guru from a fake guru is that they don’t promote the claim, they promote the work.
They promote that they can lead the horse to water, not that they can make it drink.
Fake Guru Quotes
I’ve put together some common phrases and quotes that fake gurus often use in person and on their landing pages that you can start to notice as red flags:
- “24 hours only”
- “Limited capacity”
- “Enrollment closing soon”
- “Made over XX dollars in a single day”
- “Live the dream life”
- “XX dollar value for ONLY XX”
Fake YouTube Gurus
In this section, I was going to list out some names of common fake gurus. But for the name sake of that individual, I did not want to call them out.
The “fake gurus” have families to feed as well and if that’s how they are making their sole income I would not want to do that to them.
I just want this article to be an eye-opener for the digital world and to call for awareness for those who are being scammed by the system, spending their hard-earned money on false promises.
I started Imaginated.com to provide the highest-quality information for digital-age creatives. I want this site to put an end to fake gurus.
Everyone deserves success and happiness, it’s just important to know that it takes hard work and consistency to achieve it.
We hope you enjoyed this guide on fake gurus. Be on the lookout.
How do online gurus make money?
Online gurus make money through a variety of ways such as selling digital products, affiliate marketing, sponsorships, coaching, membership sites, and by hosting live events.
Why do some people become fake gurus?
Some people become fake gurus to make money by selling false promises or ineffective products or services to people who are seeking guidance and advice. They may use manipulation, fear tactics, and other unethical practices to gain followers and build their business.
Nate Torres is an entrepreneur, growth marketer, and photographer and writes mostly on those topics. Nate runs his own professional photography business and photography blog called Nate Torres Photography. Nate enjoys learning about new digital marketing strategy and new ways to think creatively. He is also a photography speaker and author on Photofocus.