Can you trust AllAnonymity? The short answer: Yes. But we don’t expect you to take our word for it — we’d rather earn it. Stick with us as we explain how AllAnonymity works and why our reviews are worth reading.
Recently, a number of articles have been published casting doubt on the whole genre of online VPN reviews, such as this one on ZDNet. These articles argue that the average consumer can’t trust VPN reviews because the same parent companies that own the review sites also own VPN providers.
Can you believe everything you read on the internet? Of course not. We agree that many VPN review sites and VPN parent companies can’t be trusted. If you need a virtual private network to protect your personal safety, you should be extremely careful about whose advice you take. However, that doesn’t mean all VPN reviews are untrustworthy.
Rest assured that you can trust AllAnonymity’s VPN reviews. We’re a small company and don’t own any of the products we review. Although we make money through affiliate agreements with VPNs, we don’t make our decisions based on affiliate programs.
Read on to learn exactly how AllAnonymity works and why you can rely on our VPN reviews and online security information.
How AllAnonymity Works
You may have noticed that AllAnonymity doesn’t display ads on any of our pages. We’ve seen way too many VPN review sites that are so full of ads you can barely read them. Trying to get around them all reminds us of the best scene from Airplane!.
We want to provide you with a better reading experience — one where you can actually learn about online security without constantly closing videos, hiding banners and getting rid of pop-ups.
Although advertising would be an easy way to make money for the site, we don’t want to display ads because we don’t want to compromise the user’s experience with ads. Additionally, advertising is now pretty much unavoidably linked with personal data collection, which we despise.
However, we still need to make money. That leaves us two choices: get acquired by a shady parent company or leverage affiliate partnerships. We weren’t about to go with option one (see the “Warning!” section below), so we chose affiliate partnerships.
What Are Affiliate Partnerships?
Affiliate programs are a new kind of marketing that rose up alongside e-commerce. Amazon was an early pioneer, but in 2021, you can find affiliate programs anywhere products are sold online.
An affiliate partnership is a relationship between a product’s creator and a content creator who reviews or recommends that product.
Generally, affiliate partnerships work on a commission model. A website reviews a certain product and shares links to a place where you can buy it. Thanks to a tag added to the end of the link, the manufacturer knows their customer got to their site through the review. If the customer buys the product, the reviewer gets a small percentage of the sale.
Affiliate marketing is a win-win for the reviewer and manufacturer. The former gets paid without selling ads, and the latter gets publicity without investing much.
The only person who doesn’t necessarily benefit is the consumer. The flaw in the plan is clear: If the reviewer is getting paid when someone buys a product, doesn’t the reviewer have an incentive to bias the review in the product’s favor?
To be honest, yes. But that’s neither the only incentive nor the end of the story.
3 Reasons Affiliate Marketing Isn’t Always Bad
1. It Happens in the Open
Third-party product reviews are nothing new. Before the internet, they showed up in print. Before newspapers and magazines circulated widely, you’d hear from your cousin that Farmer Smith sold better potatoes than Farmer Jones. None of us knows everything, so we all look for expert guidance when we have a decision to make.
What’s new about affiliate partnerships is that reviewers are now open about having a relationship with the manufacturer. In spite of your cousin knowing everything about potatoes, you could never be sure whether Farmer Smith was passing him a few shillings under the table.
By contrast, affiliate marketing is very difficult to hide. In the United States, writers are required by law to disclose relationships with merchants. Honest content creators know that a disclaimer about their affiliate partnerships can actually make the reader trust them more, so they’d probably do it even without the law.
But some unscrupulous reviewers try to hide their affiliate relationships. Fortunately for the public, the internet makes that impossible. An affiliate link must include a tag within the URL — for example, “tag=” or “aff=” — so the manufacturer knows who should get the commission. Anytime you’re unsure, run a test: Delete the affiliate tag and everything after it, then follow the link. If it still works, you’ve found a hidden affiliate program.
2. You Can Have Many Affiliate Partners at Once
In the past, if a reviewer was in the pocket of a manufacturer, it was typically an exclusive relationship. But now that affiliate marketing is out in the open, it’s a lot more common for the same reviewer to work with multiple partners.
If everybody is paying a reviewer for good press, then — effectively — nobody is. It’s true that when a company forms a relationship with a review site, it’s expecting positive coverage. But the company can’t dictate what the reviewer writes.
In fact, the reviewer now has an incentive to recommend products they genuinely like — if everyone pays, you might as well make choices that will lead your readers to trust you.
This is especially relevant in the VPN world, where most of the 25 or so top providers have affiliate programs. Setting up an affiliate program is actually a lot like building a VPN service: It’s so easy that any doofus with a laptop and a B.A. in electrical engineering can do it. The hard part is making one people actually want to join.
3. The Reviewer Is Still Independent
An affiliate marketing partnership is a voluntary relationship entered into for the mutual benefit of both parties. It’s not an acquisition. The product manufacturer doesn’t purchase the affiliate or any part of it, even if it’s a publicly traded company.
Now, if you’re concerned about VPN review sites not being independent, that’s totally legitimate. Many of them aren’t. Recently, there’s been a frightening trend of consolidation among VPNs, with companies buying up several VPN providers at a time. What’s less talked about is that those parent companies are also buying review sites.
There’s obviously a lot of reason to be skeptical of anything a site says about the VPNs its parent companies own (see the full list in the “Warning!” section). But this doesn’t apply to all websites that review VPNs.
Case in point: AllAnonymity has a parent company, but that company doesn’t own any VPN providers. Our parent company, Trustona Media, is entirely dedicated to affiliate-funded review sites. Other than affiliate commissions, we have no financial stake in the products we review.
How AllAnonymity Works With VPN Affiliates
Our mission at AllAnonymity is to arm you with up-to-date information you can use to protect your privacy and anonymity online.
That said, we’re not going to insult your intelligence by pretending our other mission isn’t to make money. We just believe those two goals don’t conflict.
Here’s our reasoning:
- The more readers we get, the more people click our affiliate links and the more money we make.
- We get more readers by giving reliable recommendations than by spamming the links that can give us the most money.
- Therefore, we make more money from giving out trustworthy information than we could from any shady backdoor tactics.
We can imagine a situation where some awful VPN offered a 50% commission on affiliate links. Some reviewers would rush for the bait, recommend the terrible service, and immediately destroy their credibility. Not us — we’re not interested in making choices that violate our bond of trust.
At AllAnonymity, our business and editorial decisions are kept 100% separate. We’re not required to select content based on how much money it will make us. We ask only one question: “Is this good content that our readers will find useful?”
Warning: Digital Publications Owned by VPN Companies
We’ll make sure to update this section if any other VPN providers and review sites consolidate with one another.
Conclusion: AllAnonymity & Reviews You Can Trust
Like we said at the top, we don’t expect you to trust AllAnonymity just because we said you could. Skepticism is a vital survival skill, and trust should be based on evidence, especially on the internet.
So try the products we recommend, using their free trials or money-back guarantees. And if our recommendations steer you right, use that as your evidence that you can trust us, not just our words.