Pay per click, guerilla tactics abound!

September 29, 2006

I run a large (50K a month) pay-per-click campaign and it’s very succesful for us. We get an amazing return on investment and it accounts for close to 30% of all the traffic to our website. I’ve noticed a trend that’s becoming more and more common in the PPC arena and that’s guerilla or spoiler tactics.

As an example, travel company A sells holidays to Greece while travel company B doesn’t, but does sell the Canaries. Travel company B starts bidding on Greek island keywords and using a creative that promotes their Canaries destinations, there by taking potential customers away from company A and possibly converting some to book a holiday with them.

Nothing underhand about the above, that’s life in PPC, people will bid on terms that aren’t related to their product in the hope of acquiring new customers for themselves.

However, I’ve noticed some more guerilla style campaigns going on now. Again these aren’t underhand, but they are clever and I’m sure are proving effective for the companies running them.

One example is a company who are bidding on the catchphrase of a competitors TV advert. They are also outbidding the competitor so are top position all the time and potentially grabbing a lot of their customers. Now this is a great tactic, so many web users will type catchphrases from TV, so if your competitors are doing a TV campaign maybe it’s worth having a dabble in some keywords related to it!

An example of the darker side of PPC is companies who bid on spelling mistakes of their competitors trademarks. Google of course does offer brand protection but that is a lot more difficult for them to enforce on mispelled words. This kind of guerilla keyword buying is extremely effective as so many people make mistakes when typing into search boxes.

The last example is people who buy misspelled domain names as keywords. Many people type full domains into Google etc (quite why I’m not sure, just use the address bar!) or into the search box of Google toolbar, so it’s well worth them trying to appear in the results for a misspelling of a competitors domain name.

I’m unsure how the engines feel about the last two examples, whether they would allow it if they knew or could do anything about it. I get the impression from discussions with some guys from a search engine that they would stop this if they could, but it’s very difficult.

I even know of people using almost identical tactics but in natural search and seo, it’s becoming much more widespread than it used to be!

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