Five Über-Pwner Paid Search Strategies We Are Willing to Share (That Are Not Black Hat)
According to Wikipedia, Pwn is a [slang term derived from the verb own, as meaning to appropriate or to conquer to gain ownership. The term implies domination or humiliation of a rival], used primarily in the Internet-based video game culture to taunt an opponent who has just been soundly defeated (e.g., “You just got pwned!”). ADS’s Paid Search Professionals often use this slang when they have successfully decimated one of our client’s competitors in the paid search game… This week, we would like to share 5 aggressive strategies that are worth considering – and aren’t necessarily black hat. Let’s call them “PPC über-pwner” Strategies!
Confusion in “hat” debates in PPC arose when some players began calling certain techniques “black hat.” (Don’t hate the player, hate the game.) If you’re worried about the cool factor… Well, we are based in Texas and let me assure you that all of ADS’s employees look super sexy and cool in cowboy hats, whether they’re black or white.
ADS has numerous PPC über-pwner techniques, which typically involve pushing normal campaign management routines to the limits, or inventing new ways to achieve goals outside of the “prescribed” optimization techniques. You may not find these in a Google AdWords certification course.
ADS PPC über-pwner strategies include:
- Competitive intelligence: Many tools provide additional research opportunities beyond what was once seen as the norm. Two our personal favorites are AdGooroo and SpyFu. Brand name sector research can also come from the likes of comScore and Hitwise; it’s expensive, but totally worth it for ADS as this is our business and having the best tools separates us from the pack.
- Multiple account serving: Google doesn’t want to leave revenue on the table for no good reason. So the rules here have become more flexible. If you have two distinct lines of business that overlap on some keywords, chances are you could show up twice on the page for the same keyword. At one time, Google prohibited this. Here’s a key distinction: it’s black hat if you do it for cookie-cutter businesses that are almost entirely the same, while trying to avoid detection by Google. Eventually, Google will detect it – no matter what you do. It’s as simple as a competitor ratting you out or a Googler making a few purchases. Do it that way, and you risk losing all credibility with Google. Another approach is to work with Google. Under Google’s formal (evolving) policies, there are permitted uses depending on the degree of overlap. With our Search Engine Domination (SED) methodology we have been audited by and are in full compliance with Google. We were able to show Google how we actually extend one dealership brand over multiple products within a local search – White hat. When your competitor attempts to emulate our SED methodology and they do not involve Google they will probably be banned rather quickly.
- Dynamic landing page titles and other forms of automation: If you want to build gigantic accounts and do any number of things to try to improve user response on more granular landing pages, no one is necessarily stopping you. It can work for some businesses, not so much for others. Depending on how unwieldy that same strategy makes your actual account, as measured against your spend and importance in the grand scheme of things, Google is either going to become annoyed with the ambitious scope of your account, or not. Users are either going to convert better, or not. Either way, it’s not necessarily black hat. First, consider whether this is a fit with your overall dealership’s strategy before the mega-build, mega-automation approach.
- Large keyword lists: Avoid the temptation to benchmark the size of your keyword list in the aggregate. Quality campaigns are driven by the logic of their campaign and ad group structure, not the sheer number of keyword variations – but you should be striving to grow your list, within reason. In days gone by, black hat abuses of the fact that it’s free to add keywords were largely driven by affiliates and click arbitragers, who would happily bid low on any potential keyword imaginable, regardless of relevance. That led Google to change many rules, and to institute caps. But former black hat use of big keyword lists doesn’t take away from the fact that you might have a high number of car models across several brands or a desire to get very granular in the geography of your account setup. In such cases, your account might surpass a formal limitation on the number of campaigns or keywords. If it’s being done for legitimate reasons, ask Google to waive the cap. Just keep your priorities straight.
- Saying you’re the best when you’re not: Yikes, you can’t even do that. There are guidelines that steer you away from making false or unverifiable claims in ad copy. But of course, there are hundreds of ways to tell a compelling story in ad copy: some bogus, some merely aspirational. Knowing the difference is essential. If you’ve never even read “All Marketers Are Liars” by Seth Godin, which explores the mindset needed to build brand equity by telling a better story, then what are you doing “black hatting around,” staring Google down at every opportunity, when you could be just doing better marketing?
This barely scratches the surface of pwner strategies that may come into play as competition heats up. Of course, black hats and black-hat-friendly loopholes haven’t vanished.
For example, what if a competitor pretends to be located in 50 cities so they can run geo-specific campaigns? If they “shade” the rules, is it black hat, gray hat, or just annoying because now you have to decide whether to follow suit?
This leads to a broader conversation you’ll have to have with yourself, beyond any single example. With the recent proliferation of paid search advertising features and ad formats, there are tons of settings, tactics, and “things to watch” that can lead the curious search marketer to wonder “what would happen if…”
When a dealership sees its competitor doing something strange or deceptive, it feels like it may need to jump on board. With some of the tactics, your gut will tell you they’re harmless enough, so you might as well just keep exploiting it until the publisher closes the loophole. In other cases, your gut will tell you that you don’t really want your business to be seen jamming promotional language into the anchor text for AdWords Sitelinks, to take one example. Some dealerships are image-conscious; others just want leads.
Because not all dealerships are as image-conscious as others, the enforcement burden on companies like Google will continue to grow. Despite rapid evolution in ad formats, it’s unlikely that Google will allow any serious departure from what made it successful in the first place: a commitment to protecting searchers from “shouty” and unwelcome advertising, as well as from “spammy” and deceptive offers.
If you want in on some of the other strategies we deploy in paid search (and Organic Search) give us a call as we are here to help. For example, you can take advantage of our Search Engine Domination (SED) Strategies where we build and host 10 SEM-Enabled full, multipage websites that help you score your leads and dominate the entire first page of the search results – leaving your competitors in the dust.
About Advanced Dealer Systems
Advanced Dealer Systems provides an integrated suite of internet marketing services exclusively for the Auto Dealership including search engine optimization, search engine marketing, search engine domination (SED), conversion path optimization, comparison shopping management, and online competitive intelligence. Founded by experts from the automotive industry, bid optimization technology and online marketing, the company has grown to over 100 dealership accounts and is an active member of the councils for the three major search engines.
Performance-driven dealership Internet Managers trust Advanced Dealer Systems to deliver measurable results across their most highly- valued metrics. The combination of hands-on account management and proprietary technology consistently improves clients’ competitive positioning on the major search engines and converts a higher percentage of prospects into customers. For more information or to schedule a free search marketing audit, visit www.AdvancedDealerSystems.com or call 281.419.1422.