But really. There’s a sea, a virtual cornucopia of information out there. Or misinformation…? There are mattress review sites to check out. Like Sleepopolis for example. So these can be trusted resources, right? Well maybe not.
Derek Hales, an entrepreneurial business degree graduate of Kansas State University, started Sleepopolis after trying a couple of mattress-in-a-box brands. He posted a video of his wife and him trying out a Casper mattress and it quickly racked up 25,000 views. Derek made deals with the mattress companies that when people clicked on his videos through to the mattress maker website, he would get an ‘affiliate payment’. Affiliate payments have been around as long as the internet and are big business. Last year $4.5 billion was paid in affiliate fees.
With the explosion of cheap mattress-in-a-box companies, Derek built Sleepopolis into a online review juggernaut. He was receiving 500,000 visitors a month and millions of views of his mattress reviews.
So that’s the end of the story? Well no…
Eventually a number of the mattress companies began to re-asses their relationship with the various mattress review sites that had sprung up. Generally the mattress companies were paying about $50 to $250 per mattress sale for referrals. Taking into account the amount of referral traffic Derek’s site was sending Casper, Leesa and other mattress companies, apparently he was making $2,000,000 a year from referring web traffic to the mattress sites.
In April of 2016, Derek’s relationship with Casper had soured. He put a note on his website that he could no longer recommend a Casper, and recommended a few other brands. “He even added a little yellow box near the top of that page, which read: “Thinking about buying a Casper? Do your homework! Check out these 4 mattress companies that Sleepopolis loves.”
This “little yellow box” was on the number one search term for Casper Mattress Review. So needless to say, Casper wasn’t too happy! Next, Casper filed a lawsuit alleging Derek and his site (as well as two other sites) were using deceptive advertising practices!
After some legal wrangling back and forth, Casper funded another mattress review site to buy Sleepopolis. Derek’s out of the picture now.
What happened to the little yellow box warning readers about Casper and sending them somewhere else? It’s long gone, replaced with a green box featuring a special coupon for – you guessed it – a Casper mattress.
It’s buyer beware when reading mattress reviews. A multi-million dollar affiliate business and review sites that look independent but aren’t, mean take your online reviews with a grain of salt!
Read the whole story on Fast Company here.
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