Lis Sowerbutts’ BOGUS SBI! Scam Review

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It was with a great deal of annoyance that I read through Lis Sowerbutts’ “review” of the “SBI! (Site Build It!) scam.” For someone who maintains to be interested in presenting her visitors with balanced, fair and informative material, her argument is, in non-politically correct parlance, retarded.

Case in point; if you want to talk authoritatively about a product or system, it helps to have some first hand experience with it. If you do not – and to my knowledge Lis Sowerbutts is not, nor has even been a Site Build It! owner, it’s a bit difficult to allot a ton of credibility to anything the author says.

It’s also a little annoying for marketers like myself who go out of their way to be informed before opening a discussion with an audience about a certain product or service (I recently reviewed Adam Short’s Niche Profit Classroom; I paid the $67/month subscription fee, learned the system and wrote about its Pros and Cons. It took many hours of work to do so).

It’s too bad Lis couldn’t be bothered to conduct a real review of SBI!. She’d have a lot more credibility if she did. Because as things stand, she appears to be little more than an ill-informed, lazy, malicious twit with a “bone to pick.”

Nonetheless, targeting the word “scam” along with “SBI!” and “Site Build It!” is a smart keyword targeting strategy, no doubt about it. If you are researching a product or service and are tired of reading glowing testimonials, nothing brings the comments of the disgruntled to the surface faster than a trip to your local search engine and a search for the “name of relevant product/service” plus the word “scam”.

But marketers aren’t shy about targeting these keywords either. In this case, a search for SBI! scam isn’t bringing up the genuine comments of unhappy customers,  but a seriously unflattering discussion of SBI!, written by an individual who knows next to nothing about it.

Before I continue with this discussion, let me digress for a moment…

First, unlike Lis, I consider myself well-qualified to discuss SBI! in detail. I worked full time for SiteSell.com in numerous capacities for 6 years, finishing up as Site Build It! Product Manager in December 2006 (a cancer diagnosis ended my term at SiteSell, and I work for them only in a very limited capacity now). I’m also a well-established, successful Internet Marketer who makes his living online and has done so for many years (see more about me).

I know what you’re thinking…

… here comes a PRO-SBI! rant from someone who’s as biased as Lis.

Not so.

Obviously I feel strongly about SBI!, but I’ve always been honest about who is best suited for this tool.

In my opinion, not everybody needs it.

Advanced marketers may not, especially if their requirements are minimal. You’ll notice that this site, for example, is not an SBI! site. It’s based on the Word Press Platform. As a marketer, I have an innate curiousity about everything web-based. Thus, I thought I’d give Word Press a try. No biggie.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because this site isn’t based on the SBI! platform, its value is diminished in some way.  I simply do not need the advanced functionality afforded by this tool here. For those who do however (my girlfriend Marilyn uses SBI! for her flower arrangement and information site, as does my friend and bandmate from The Big Bang, Ian Kurz, with his Everything About Camping site), it is invaluable.

Anyhow, let’s get back to the “SBI! Scam.”

Before I begin debunking some of Lis’ comments, let’s define the word “scam.”

Scam: A fraudulent business scheme; a swindle.

If you are familiar with SBI!, you’ll know a couple of things…

  • It is taught at over 30 colleges and universities, including Penn State and the University of Arizona.
  • Potential customers are clearly informed that SBI! is not a “get rich quick” (GRQ) scheme. In other words, don’t buy Site Build It! expecting to get rich quick. It ain’t gonna happen.
  • Potential customers are informed – on the order page no less – that they need to bring BAM (brain, attitude, and motivation) to the table to succeed. Or, to put it another way… don’t expect a push-button solution to generating revenue. The system works, but YOU have to work it, and you will need to do plenty of  THINKING along the way.

I don’t know about you, but to me, this message isn’t consistent with a “scam” of any sort.  To me, it sounds a lot like a warning: if you think you can sleepwalk through this process, pressing a few buttons here and there and then expect to be living on a beachfront somewhere within a few weeks, sipping daiquiris while your chauffeur polishes the Bentley, you’re very much mistaken.

And it’s inconceivable to think that the SiteSell brass managed to hoodwink the administrators of 30 respected education institutions into using SBI! as a teaching tool.

Obviously then, SBI! is no scam.

So let’s address some of Lis’ arguments against SBI!…

1) You don’t own your domain: Initially, Lis insisted that you don’t own your own SBI! domain, based on the fact that Anguilla-Beaches.com was registered in Ken Evoy’s name (I’ll explain why it is in a moment). Then she updated her comments with the truth (that you do), but then insisted that this is still “disingenuous marketing.”

Interesting. You see, there’s nothing “disingenuous” about owning a domain name. You either own it, or you do not. Since you do own your SBI! domain name, as advertised, Lis’ inability to offer a full retraction on this statement is evidence of a strong anti-SBI! bias.

Posting this in the first place is also evidence of something I said earlier; Lis is too lazy to do any real investigating into SBI!. If she would have spent 5 minutes on Anguilla-Beaches.com, she would have realized the site belongs to Nori Evoy (Ken’s daughter). Since Nori started the site when she was 13, it makes sense to be registered in Ken’s name.

Then she could have performed a Better-Whois on any of the zillion sites featured on the SiteSell results pages to discover that yes, you do own your own domain name.

But she didn’t.

What does that tell you?

2) You can’t move your site to cheaper hosting.

Again, Lis has to retract this statement, indicating is that is IS possible, but apparently “quite difficult.”

Once again, a little research done beforehand would have prevented Lis from putting her “foot in it” once again.

Worse, there’s absolutely no context provided here either, which means you’re getting an artificially “negative” view of the transferring process.

For instance…

As I indicated earlier, this site is based on the Word Press platform. And while I could easily transfer it to another hosting service that supported the Word Press platform, it would be a serious P-I-T-A to move it to a hosting platform that supported a different format, like Movable Type, Blogger or straight HTML.

And that’s why this argument is flawed; you’re not switching hosting – you’re looking to move material provided in a specialized format to another different specialized format – either HTML, a blogging platform, CMS platform, or whatever. And that’s a P-I-T-A no matter what you are using. In other words…

… this is an issue not exclusive to SBI!.

In other words, while its unfair to call SBI! a website building platform (because it’s so much more than that) you must do your due diligence before picking a specific platform for your web business because you do not want to have to change it later.

3) Using Alexa to validate SBI!’s traffic-driving ability is deceitful because…

“Alexa ranks just proves that you have a bunch of internet marketers visiting your site probably because of the link from the sales page – as they are the only people who use the Alexa tool bar. Internet marketers are unlikely to buy your homemade chocolates or rent your condo in Puerto Rico.”

This is another perfect example of how lazy Lis is; once again she has made a series of unsubstantiated statements which, like the ones she’s already had to retract, are easily demonstrated to be inaccurate.

In her rather rambling statement above she has indicated…

  • The SiteSell “results” page (a page that illustrates the effectiveness of the SBI! process by featuring select sites and their corresponding Alexa ranking) is worthless, since the only reason why the site in question HAS an Alexa ranking is because it is featured on this page, and is visited by internet marketers who have the Alexa toolbar installed.
  • Only Internet Marketers use the toolbar, which infers that all Alexa data is incredibly skewed and offers no value at all.

To demolish these arguments, let’s first see what Alexa says about how it obtains its data…

“Alexa’s traffic rankings are based on the usage patterns of Alexa Toolbar users and data collected from other, diverse sources over a rolling 3 month period.”

So by its own admission, Alexa compiles its data from numerous sources. This makes sense, since only a tiny percentage of surfers browse with the toolbar. If it only used this data to compile rankings, most web sites would receive no Alexa at all. Yet relatively few do, which is indicative of much more diverse sources of data.

Secondly, if Alexa compiles data over a 3 month period, there will be a 3-month lag before any site’s information is updated. In other words, the sites appearing on SiteSell’s “results” page – especially the non-internet marketing sites that according to Lis only have an Alexa ranking because they are on the “results” page – would have to be included with no Alexa ranking at all. This would mean that for a period up to 90 days, prospective SBI! customers would see tons of poorly performing sites as a “testament” to the effectiveness of SBI!.

Hardly good for business.

Obviously then, any site included on the “results” page must obtain a decent Alexa ranking on its own, or it makes ZERO sense to feature it on an SBI! PREselling page.

Two last things to think about…

If it were SO easy to manipulate Alexa rankings for your own financial benefit, why is SiteSell the only one to be doing so? Why wouldn’t any of the zillion other website building services use it to demonstrate proof of their own traffic-building systems?

And if SiteSell is manipulating the data, why aren’t they being sued by Alexa?

4. The SBI! Search Engine (SE) Tool submits your site to the SEs, including Google. According to Lis, you should never submit your site to Google.

Really?

According to Google’s own Webmaster guidelines, you should.

I don’t know about you, but I know who I will choose to believe.

5. SBI! advocates the use of PPC (pay-per-click search engines) which…

“…is as about as risky as say foreign exchange dealing as it is not something any new on-line marketer should be doing.”

Uh-huh. Now it’s just getting silly.

A couple things here (and I hate to beat a dead horse, but Lis would have known this had she any real experience with SBI!)…

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is NOT risky. As the owner of an offline business, I can tell you I would love to have more advertising opportunities like PPC, where I can easily select my audience, determine the maximum I will pay per visitor, and measure my conversion rate. In the offline world, I pay a ton of money for advertising and have almost no idea how well it fares for me. Online, you determine what you will pay per visitor, and who those visitors will be. PPC is only risky if you don’t do any research or elementary math, and throw a pile of money at poorly performing keywords and pages.
  • The Site Build It! documentation does address PPC advertising in detail, but it does not “advocate” it. PPC is an essential element of online marketing, and depending on the nature of your business, may or may not make sense for you. This is completely addressed in the SBI! Action Guide. Obviously, advertising only makes sense if you can obtain a decent ROI, which usually means you need to be selling your own product or service. But if you can make $50 for every $10 spent on PPC, why on earth wouldn’t you do it? At the very least, you need to be educated about the opportunity.
  • For brand new sites that do sell products/services, PPC brings traffic, customers and newsletter subscribers immediately, so your business can start being profitable.

6) “You don’t need a newsletter or autoresponder unless you are selling crap.”

In over 10 years of doing business online, this is the first time I have heard ANYONE say this (having made it this far through her “review” it really shouldn’t surprise me to hear something this dumb).

It doesn’t matter which marketing gurus you worship at the feet of, they all say the same thing; having a newsletter or autoresponder sequence is paramount to ANY online business.

Yes, regardless if you are selling anything or not. It is the only way to stay in touch with your visitors, build trust and rapport with them, and to encourage return visits. If you are actually building a business online – regardless of how you monetize it – you need visitors. More importantly, you need repeat visitors who trust you. The easiest way to accomplish this is with a newsletter and/or autoresponder series.

7) At $300/year, Site Build It! is expensive. All you need to spend is $10 on a domain name, $5/month for hosting, and supplement that with some free tools used in conjunction with WordPress.

Sigh. Let’s go through the reasons why this is yet another ridiculous statement…

  1. SBI! is not expensive. The minimum investment for ANY successful online business will be…
    $10/month hosting (I would not recommend paying any less for hosting, regardless of what Lis says. As with everything, you get what you pay for. Cheap hosting is often inferior hosting).
    $10/year for your domain name
    $19.95/month for your autoresponder which you MUST have if you are serious about succeeding online.
    That’s a grand total of $370/year, $70 more than SBI!, which offers all the above, plus tons of other features as well.
  2. Compared to other online business building services, SBI! is cheap. For instance, a base level subscription to Adam Short’s Niche Proft Classroom (which I recently reviewed) costs $67/month.  What about tools that offer similar functionality to those already present in SBI!? I recently played with a keyword research tool (Cash Keywords Pro), and it also costs $67/month. SBI! contains a ton of cutting edge keyword research tools already… no need to pay anything extra.
  3. SBI! is a LOT more than a series of tools and simple web hosting. It’s the process outlined in the Action Guide that is so invaluable. One thing Lis says is that her suggested bundle of tools is not an “all the tools in one place” solution, and “you’ll have to learn some stuff along the way.” Once again, Lis has FAILED. This time, to account for your time being worth anything. Learning how to build a successful web business from scratch can literally take you years of trial and error. Who do you “listen” to? Whose ideas are credible? Every guru seems to have a different idea… and product to sell you. What are the best options for your business? Is your business even viable? From keyword targeting to SEO, from web copy to autoresponders and newsletters, from monetization to link building, from social media marketing and Twitter, there’s a ton to know and learn. In short, budding newbie marketers do not need a recommendation for a bunch of free stuff  and an invitation to “go build your business as you see fit.”  What they need is a proven, concise, step-by-step process how to build an online business. And THAT is what SBI offers. And THAT is its biggest value.

8. SBI! is a scary cult.

Which sounds more reasonable to you…

1) The SEO of SiteSell.com, Dr. Ken Evoy, is a diabolical mind control expert. From his bunker in the Caribbean, he controls numerous satellites and operates sophisticated “world-hypnosis” machines which turn innocent surfers into slathering, raving pro-SBI! fanatics.

2) SBI! works (if you work it). This leads to an ecstatic group of individuals who cannot believe their good fortune; the “stay-at-home-mom” doesn’t have to go back to work, but can enjoy raising her daughter. The retired couple are happily supplementing their income and can now follow up on the plans they had before the credit crunch.

Is it any wonder folks like these are both excited by SBI! and eager to share the good news?

I can relate myself; I remember back when the Internet first started earning me a living. I scarcely dared breathe for fear of killing the “goose that laid the golden egg.” It’s an exhilarating feeling – while you sleep, affiliate commissions pile up. As does Adsense and Chitika revenue. Feel like taking a day off? Go for it… the money keeps on coming in.

When it happens, it’s amazing. Unbelievable, in fact. And the way your life opens up? The freedom you now have is incredible.

So I understand the enthusiasm.

But it makes me wonder if Lis actually makes any money online. If she did, she would not mistake genuine enthusiasm for the “evidence of a cult.”

Oh yeah… and I have been in Dr. Evoy’s office several times, and never once did I see any mind control devices. :-)

So there you have it. A complete breakdown of Lis’ BOGUS SBI! review.

What’s the moral of the story?

Always do your own due diligence.

Question those who talk with authority, but have no practical experience with what they deem to be an expert on. Be wary of those who have to retract statements that have been proven inaccurate, especially when rudimentary research would have established the facts beforehand. And watch for statements that are completely at odds with readily established facts (i.e. “you don’t need a newsletter unless you are selling something”).

Of course, always, always, always look for evidence of an ulterior motive. Lis’ article is packed with them.

As for me, well… SBI! may be for you, or it may not be for you. Regardless, it is an amazing tool and you deserve to know the truth.

Oh yes, and one more thing; SiteSell has prepared a response to Lis’ article. You may wish to read the official response to the whole “SBI! scam.”

Comments

  1. Thank you SOOOO much! *Applause!* *Applause!*

    I read that review by Lis Sowerbutts and was appalled that she could get away with so many blatantly false statements. No wonder the SBIers got mad – there were so many outright lies in that review. I notice she had a few cohorts backing her up and 1.5 years later, turns out they’re all in business together.

    One of those buddies of hers did a video on Adsense, calling SBIers vile names, etc. Being curious like you, I tried his advice. It crashed my income!

    So you’re right. Lis is not a good source of information. I don’t think her mentors are that hot, either. I think the whole false review thing was an intentional ploy to get traffic and income – because Lis has used this tactic more than once with more than one company. It’s like some kind of business plan she cooked up: go around call people a scam, bait them into giving her content, traffic and income. Then slap up some affiliate links and sell “stuff” to all the people she riled up.

    However, like Matt Cutts says – do it too often and you’ll lose credibility.

    And that’s exactly what has happened to Lis.

    Thanks again for setting the record straight. It’s nice to finally have the truth come out. :0)

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