I've been in the VPN industry longer than most and have seen the market change from something relatively small to the global industry it has become.
Plenty of companies, review sites and interested parties have entered the market in that time.
Once such newcomer is TheBestVPN.
If recent news is anything to go by then TheBestVPN haven't been playing by the book – but is this technically true? and in a market full of sniping and backstabbing should we be giving the words of what is essentially their competition any merit?
Who are TheBestVPN?
TheBestVPN is a site that entered the VPN market somewhere in 2017. Like ourselves, they're a site mainly aimed at reviewing VPN services and writing general guides about VPN related topics. How to's and the like.
In 2018 TheBestVPN started to make waves and it became their year of reckoning.
A website that was almost unheard of 12 months earlier started to publish mainly research topics. These catapulted the site into the public consciousness and it wasn't long before merely googling the term ‘VPN' would see TheBestVPN taking pride of place at the top of search results.
Clearly, TheBestVPN became the bane of sites operating in a similar market. They had achieved something in a relatively small timescale that many of the industry veterans had spent years building.
In a way they had muscled themselves to the top and when you do this, you gain a few enemies along the way.
So how did they do this?
TheBestVPN brought something new to the market. Research articles and smart marketing.
These articles tended to be lengthy and detailed, but most importantly they contained facts and figures.
News sites love facts and figures. In fact, large figures and percentages are basically a headline writers wet dream.
It wasn't long before well-established tech websites which were at the same time also starting to take an interest in the boom of the VPN market took notice. With juicy facts and figures, they ran with these stories.
VPN news became a headline battlefront of “5 out of 10 VPN apps…” and “85% of free VPN apps…”
These kinds of headlines get clicks and tech sites lapped up the results that TheBestVPN published. So much so that TheBestVPN ran with the research idea and kept publishing similar articles over the following months.
Anyone who knows anything about search engine optimisation knows that sites linking to your content is a good signal for getting Google to push your website up the rankings.
TheBestVPN became what is considered an ‘authority' on the subject of VPN, at least in the eyes of Google and within a few months, they had cemented themselves at the top of rankings.
Not only were they gaining more clicks from readers but also generating more revenue for themselves as users followed their recommendations and signed up for the services that they suggested for various needs.
Towards the end of April an apparent exposé was published claiming the main writer and author of TheBestVPN was not who he said he was. In fact, he didn't even seem to exist.
This, however, is pretty much where the ‘exposé' begins and ends.
The article exposing this information claims TheBestVPN are using the real photograph of the owner behind the site but instead using a fake name and supposedly fake qualifications.
Said owner is claimed to be an SEO and marketing expert which is no surprise given the rapid race to the top of Google results that TheBestVPN experienced. A job well done, no doubt.
The site exposing this went a step further than simply publishing an article. They also unpublished any content that previously linked to TheBestVPN's research. While no other site to my knowledge has bothered to pick up on this questionably weak exposé, it would be fair to say a few other prominent websites may also have killed links.
TheBestVPN has spiralled into somewhat of a free fall through Google rankings and is now no longer one of the first results you hit. In fact, they're now sitting somewhere on the second page, at least in the UK anyway.
Is the exposé warranted?
TheBestVPN have lied about their owner and main author's name and many would argue his claimed qualifications.
This is the upshot of the whole story.
There is no evidence, however, to suggest any of the research they carried out is false. In fact, the majority of the research that was linked appears to be very valid commentary on the VPN industry covering topics like the dangers of free VPN apps.
This includes statistics and information on the sketchy ownership of many free VPN services. Tech sites lapped this information up and published it in its droves so clearly thought it was valid at the time.
The apparent lie about the author's name is damaging but in the scheme of things, is it all that important?
The research if valid and carried out as claimed is legitimate information, research on topics that haven't been published before. A lot of it shines light on interesting details of the VPN industry.
Which brings it all back to the same question, why was this exposé published in the first place?
Reading through the comments section of the article suggests many feel the same; it's an article that is very thin on meat.
Many question the motives of the article. After all, the site that published the information is in the same industry as TheBestVPN, generating revenue via the same means and also now being the owner of not one but three large VPN services.
TheBestVPN is in the same market as our very own website. In a sense, they can be considered our ‘competitor'.
The fact that the author used a false name is not all that important. Using a ‘pen name' has been a tactic employed by authors the world over for centuries.
The most damaging part of the whole debacle is the claim of false qualifications.
These give an air of authority to the author and while the author could well be highly skilled in the field, the fact he falsely claimed he holds a degree in cybersecurity is highly misleading.
Aside from that my opinion remains unchanged.
The research they carried out is valid. There is no information to suggest the results are false or that anything underhand has been done to obtain such results. Yes, it may have been to gain popularity and as an SEO tactic, but that doesn't diminish the research.
The fact tech sites slurped up and published this information proves they thought it valid information of interest to the public. If they failed to do due diligence on the author's qualifications, then that rests solely with themselves.
We have no link with TheBestVPN and so have no incentive to champion their corner.
If there was some real meat to the supposed exposé, then we would tend to agree.
However, with such thin content stemming from a source with financial interest in the market it seems nothing more than petty bickering that does nothing for the reputation of the industry as a whole.
What are you thoughts? Has the information damaged the reputation of TheBestVPN? We would love to know so why not post in the comments section below.
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