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Best Security and Home Automation Systems? ‘Review’ Site is a Sham

TopConsumerReviews.com and SecuritySystemsReviews.com pretend to write "expert reviews" on security and home automation companies but ratings are bogus. FrontPoint trumps Elan, Control4, Crestron, Savant?


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Bogus reviews: FrontPoint is better than Elan, Savant, Control4 and Crestron? TopConsumerReviews.com and SecuritySystemsReviews.com should be ashamed.

Looking for the best home security and home automation systems? Whatever you do, don’t trust the sham of a “review” site TopConsumerReviews.com. Its so-called reviews are complete nonsense and seem to be a ruse to get commissions from its affiliates FrontPoint, Protect America, ADT, Vivint and LifeShield – none of which, of course, actually makes systems. They sell, install and monitor off-the-shelf security products.

No shame in that, but the review sites should categorize these companies as security service providers.

Let me say at the onset that these sham review sites should not reflect poorly on the companies they purport to review. These mostly-respectable companies and many others offer legitimate affiliate programs (pay per sale, pay for click-through, pay per page view, etc.) and they rarely or never get involved in the third-party content that ultimately generates sales.

No ‘Expert’ Reviews Here


Incredibly, FrontPoint Security is named by SecuritySystemReviews.com, a sister site of TopConsumerReviews, as the Best Home Security System and Best Home Automation Security System when it is not a “system” at all. The company sells customized DIY Interlogix alarm panels and Alarm.com cloud-based security and automation service.

FrontPoint also is named as the Best Home Automation System above Elan Home Systems, Vivint, Control4, Guardian, Smart Home and The Home Automation Store – an interesting blend of random service providers, product manufacturers and online retailers.

The home automation rankings begin with an ad for FrontPoint, followed by a “detailed review” by staff experts.

Here is the “Editor’s Opinion” of FrontPoint Security:

At long last there is a home security company that gets it. FrontPoint Security combines safety and simplicity with outstanding customer service to offer customers the best home security experience. Using the latest GE Wireless security systems, 100% cellular monitoring, mobile access and home automation along with a simple Do It Yourself approach and 30-Day Risk Free Trial FrontPoint Security is by far the best choice for a home security company.

It should be noted that FrontPoint enjoys overwhelmingly positive consumer reviews on Yelp and elsewhere, and all of its cohorts are quite reputable as well.

In fact, we featured FrontPoint and its DIY business as an interesting business model for other dealers to possibly emulate.

‘Reviews’ are a Joke

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‘Best Home Automation Systems’
1. FrontPoint
2. Elan
3. Vivint
4. Savant
5. Control4
6. Guardian
7. Prodigy by Crestron
8. Smart Home
9. Crestron
10. ADT Pulse
11. The Home Automation Store

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!



The “reviews” by TopConsumerReviews.com are simply bogus. So are the supposed guidelines for reviews:

We constantly search the internet for the best products available. We then hand these product lists over to our team of expert reviewers for in-depth study. They return with a detailed review of each and every item, along with a comparative ranking analysis. …

Next, to ensure you receive the highest quality review possible, we employ a comprehensive research methodology. Some of these efforts include:

  • Elaborate product research, both online and offline
  • Product claim verification
  • Interviews with industry professionals
  • Product testing
  • In-depth company analysis

Is that so?

Here’s a bit from the Elan Home Systems “review”:

Elan allows customer to automate and control just about any aspect of their home from one easy location. Flexible access to the system, user friendly interfaces, and a customizable system makes this a great home automation system for those that can afford it.

And this for Crestron:

Crestron sells their home automation products through authorized dealers in local areas. We found a handful of dealers in the zip codes we sampled and weren’t surprised with their presence given the number of years this company has been around. As with many home automation companies, pricing was not available on their website.

From the Control4 “review”:

The Control4 website provides detailed information on available equipment but, like most home automation companies, they don’t go into detail on the prices. Control4 does say that they provide quality equipment at a lower price and we were able to find some customer reviews that backed that up.

Expert opinions indeed!

I especially love how the online retailer Smart Home gets three stars and Crestron gets only 2.5.

So why bother “reviewing” reputable brands for which TopConsumerReviews won’t make commissions? Simple – for SEO purposes to maximize page views to sell more FrontPoint, Vivint and the like.

Indeed, these sad sites do a great job with Google rankings and SEO—popping up all the time on my Google Alerts and Web searches—but the expertise stops there.

Don’t Blame the Vendors


I’m not at all knocking these security service providers for allowing their services to be marketed through wholly misleading Websites like SecuritySystemReviews.com and TopConsumerReviews.com. It is quite common for them to offer affiliate programs, paying incentives for sales, leads or other parameters.

FrontPoint principal Peter Rogers explains (rightly):

We are, of course not alone in working with these sites, and many of the companies with whom we compete directly are striving mightily to achieve the same level of ranking or rating as we have earned. It’s easy enough to see who it is I’m referring to, just by looking at a few of the sites. We have learned (often through trial and error) that each site has its own approach to reviews and monetization, and we try to put our best foot forward with each. Most of these sites employ SEO strategies and tactics, and in some cases Paid Search tactics too. We work hard to promote our products and services, but beyond that we aren’t privy to the specific tactics these review sites leverage, or what companies they choose to review.

The sites can, of course, draw their own conclusions on a company’s quality, and we have seen some significant disconnects in the past—such as a company with a poor reputation and many complaints ranking very high on an independent review site. It happens, but less than in the past, in my opinion.

Don’t Bother Calling


The purpose of this blog is to alert consumers that the whole “review” and “ranking” claims by these sites (and others, to be sure) are complete and utter nonsense. Perhaps we should applaud them for their business model—surely they’re not doing anything illegal—but don’t fall for their information.

Why don’t you contact these guys to learn more about their “individuals dedicated to quality”? Good luck with that.

The only contact on any of the TopConsumerReviews sites is Tim Eveler, head of public relations for SecuritySystemReviews.com. His phone number is 571-235-4565. Don’t try to Google him. You’ll get nothing.

I called and emailed numerous times but never got a reply. So I had a marketing person from a security/automation provider call to see how to get listed. Numerous emails and phone calls went unanswered.

The “office,” complete with a suite number, is a UPS store in Overland Park, Kansas – not a crime for an online business. (Update: Here’s the founder and owner of these sites: Brian Dolezal (877-827-9827) of Kansas City, Mo., which explains the Overland Park P.O. box.)

Pretty sure I’m not believing how Eveler quotes himself in a recent press release: “Our writers have really outdone themselves over the past year. These are people who’ve been either working in or writing about the home security system industry for years—sometimes even decades.”

Right.

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Brought to you by the “experts” at TopConsumerReviews.com

Just for Grins


CE Pros will get a huge kick out of this 61-page paper called Home Automation 101: Discover How To Create Or Transform Your Current Home Today.

If anyone can understand the section about using X10 with a surround receiver, please explain it to me. I’m a little rusty.

Download the paper here. It will surely make for good nighttime reading.

Lest you should try to plagiarize this fine material, you should note:

This manual contains information protected under International Federal Copyright laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is strictly prohibited. We actively search for copyright infringement and you will be prosecuted.





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About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

6 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by John  on  05/21  at  01:00 PM

Hi Julie,

Great article,  that site is a sham.  But I think you should remove the links to their sites (just show the urls),  or at least make them nofollow.  Your links from the blog post help this site rank,  and perpetuates the misinformation they are promoting across the web.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  05/21  at  01:25 PM

Thanks, John—I debated about that but I think you’re right. I have removed links to the main sites, but kept the one for the home automation system “reviews” because they’re not easy to find.

Thanks again for your feedback.

Posted by Anonymous  on  05/21  at  04:00 PM

you should remove the links. Your article is actually promoting them.

Posted by Barry Ober  on  05/21  at  04:42 PM

A bit hard to follow but I am going to bookmark this to send to prospective customers and tech support inquiries many of whom use the phrase “I researched it on the web” before they spill their gallons of misinformation to me. The web is a mess!

Posted by Tom Wells  on  05/21  at  04:49 PM

Julie
Great article (as usual).  Eventually we will all benefit from the thousands of unsuspecting consumers who fall for this stuff and buy something that does meet their expectations.

I just hope that they figure it out before Home Automation follows Home Theater down the path of extinction.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  05/22  at  09:45 AM

Barry—That’s exactly why I posted this. And, I agree with you, it’s a pretty clunky piece.

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