Thursday, August 30, 2007

Black Hat Pay Per Click Methods

Posted by Rob Kerry last August 24, 2007

Rob Kerry has written a very interesting article on Search Engine Watch about playing dirty with PPC. While these techniques aren't something I would recommend using myself, it's very useful to be aware of black hat pay-per-click methods as it's possible your competitors could be applying them.

In the article Rob discusses how you can duplicate a competitors ad text to replace their ad by outbidding them...

Pay-per-click is a competitive process simply by design, so there’s always going to be people who choose to use dirty tactics rather than having to pay the higher bid prices. Whether you should join in with this philosophy is something your company must decide, as the best dark tactics also have some of the biggest risks.

Black hat PPC is rarely discussed in the industry, especially not as much as black hat SEO. It mostly consists of using flaws and weaknesses in systems such as Google AdWords and Microsoft adCenter to your advantage.
Non-Compliant Ads

One such flaw is the lack of pre-moderation on the AdWords system, allowing changes that meet a set of automated rules to go live instantly 24/7. Unfortunately, the human side to moderation doesn’t seem to work 24/7, giving a time period in which non-compliant ads can be published.

One of many reasons affiliates use this technique is that it allows them to show a different display URL to the actual click-through URL on the ad. This means that over the weekend, their site can now appear to be - resulting in a substantially increased CTR from the brand recognition.

You can use this trick in many different ways, as long as it doesn’t hit an automated rule such as trademark infringement. Bringing this to an in-house scenario, you may want to outbid your competitors on their brand terms or use ad copy that a human editor would normally decline. The key to doing this is to test what times and days an editor declines non-compliant copy, plus re-instating the original ad before the end of your blind-spot timeframe. (Some bid management tools can do this for you.)
Same Search Term Multiple Ads

A big restriction on most PPC networks is the inability to have multiple ads from one company displayed for the same search term. You may want to do this in order to advertise multiple products or to flood the ad space and push your competitors off the first page of the search results.

Getting around this restriction is a little trickier, as a new PPC account will be needed for each additional advert you wish to display. This could be achieved by creating a number of phantom companies with a unique bank account, credit card, and address, or you could get a little help from your friends. In either case, it’s often a good idea to use pre-paid credit cards so your phantom company or helpful friend never gets into debt. You’re then ready to start bidding, although be careful not to leave any footprints that associate the accounts to one another.

It’s best to use the first trick I mentioned so you can link directly through to your main site out-of-hours without fear of getting caught. You can also flood the search results for your competitors’ non-trademarked brand terms so they don’t have a single brand name PPC listing.

It’s best not to be too evil toward your competitors though, as someone will eventually find out, and you may get reported to Google. Your best line of defense when this happens is to use your existing affiliate program (or create a fake one) and blame it all on a maverick affiliate of yours. (Remember to use different affiliate IDs for each ad’s click-through URL.)
Copying Competitor Ads

A final example of playing dirty is to copy a competitor’s ad (title, copy, and display URL), and run it on your account with a different click-through URL. As Google AdWords doesn’t allow duplicate ads, you can wipe your competitor from the paid search listings simply by using the same display URL. As long as you bid more than the competitor’s maximum bid, your campaign should replace theirs.

The user will be expecting to land on your competitor’s site when clicking through, so it’s best to create a landing page mentioning the competitor, perhaps in the form of a damning review, e.g., “Product A has been proven to be inferior to Product B...” If doing this on a large scale, try to do it on weekends; once again, so it’s harder for your competitor to monitor and analyze.

Remember, all these examples could risk your PPC account and should therefore be used with caution.

About the author
Rob is a UK-based SEO Consultant and the Forums Editor at Search Engine Watch. See more articles by rob

7 Steps to setting up your pay per click advertising campaign

Pay-per-click is a competitive process somewhere is searching Google or Yahoo for what you sell. And unless your website is optimized to get a listing at the top of search results, there’s a chance they will buy from your competitors instead. So there’s always going to be people who choose to use dirty tactics rather than having to pay the higher bid prices. Whether you should join in with this idea is something your company must decide, as the best dark tactics also have some of the biggest risks.

Here are 7 easy steps to get your first pay per click advert up and running:

1. Decide what you want to achieve

Having a goal for your pay per click advertising is vital, and stops you frittering your money away. You may be keen to sell things from your website, or capture the information of people that visit for future marketing, such as email newsletters.

Beware of using PPC adverts just to “drive traffic” to your website. When people click adverts they are looking to solve a problem or make a purchase. You might as well use that intent to generate revenue for yourself… leave the ego boost of a big expensive website with lots of traffic (but no direct revenue) to the big boys with their deep pockets.

2. Sign up

While several search engines run pay per click, you should concentrate on the ones that attract the majority of the traffic in the UK – Google and Yahoo! It’s very easy to sign up for Google AdWords or Yahoo Search Marketing.

Both often run promotions where new advertisers can get free adverts when they sign up for the first time. These offers are an excellent way to find out if PPC can work for you, without risking any of your own cash. At present, when you sign up to Yahoo Search Marketing you get £60 of free credit on your pay per click account.

3. Set a budget

Not only is pay per click one of the fairest advertising models, because you only pay for clicks, but you also have full control over your budget. You can set a daily, weekly or monthly ceiling. When that budget has been spent, your advert automatically stops appearing.

When you first try pay per click, you should set a tight budget and stick to it. In general, PPC is scalable: so if you spent £50 and get £500 revenue, it’s likely you’ll get about £1,000 revenue from £100 spent.

4. Use lots of search keywords and phrases

With pay per click, you are effectively bidding money to get your advert shown when people search for specific terms. Think about what you sell, and all of the different things people might type into a search engine to find it. Ask friends who aren’t connected with your business what they would type. Remember, your buyers may not use standard industry terms – that’s an opportunity for you.

When you’ve picked a load of search words and phrases, pick some more! You almost can’t have too many. The PPC systems will help you estimate how many people search for the terms you have picked, and over time they will measure how many clicks you get for each term.

Read Choosing keywords for your pay-per-click campaign for a detailed guide on selecting successful keywords and phrases for your pay per click campaign.

5. Build ads for each product or service

Once you have chosen your search words, you should now write adverts for each product or service you sell. Be as specific as you can, and use trademarks of your products where possible, especially when they are well known.

Pay per click adverts are very short, forcing you to get to the point quickly. Another great feature of PPC is that you can write lots of different adverts, and the system will work out for you which one performs better (and will use that advert more often). To help you to write powerful pay per click adverts we have a specific guide on How to write a killer pay-per-click advert.

6. Build landing pages

If someone clicks your pay per click advert for a red widget, the worst thing you can do is send them to the home page of your site and make them search again for red widgets. Most people will just hit the back button.

Ensure that every PPC advert goes directly to a landing page. That should either be full details of the product itself, or a specific landing page you have built just for people clicking on your advert.

7. Track results and keep tweaking

The way pay per click advertising systems are built, makes it easy for you to track exactly what works and what doesn’t. You don’t have to spend long to get the most out of the system. Get into the habit of checking your results once a week, and tweaking. Don’t touch anything that works – instead change everything that isn’t performing. Over a number of weeks you will build a collection of powerful PPC adverts and search terms that could help to generate significant revenue for your website.

Start a Small Business Guides

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Is Meta Tags Important Anymore?

A moment ago, I’ve read somewhere in forum says that meta tags are not important as now. These things bother me a lot. My friend and I are having a debate about the value of the meta description tag. He says that search engines don't index them anymore and so you don't need to use one. I think that he's wrong and that search engines will use them in the search results pages to describe your site, but if you don't include one, you might find a snippet of text from your page being used instead.

But Kalena's answer that it depends on each search engine. For example, Google and Yahoo will sometimes use part of your META Description tag, but they will usually use a snippet of text on your web page that includes the exact search query entered. But if your site is listed in the Yahoo Directory, Yahoo will often use your editor-created description from there. If your site is listed in the ODP, Google may use your ODP description.

As Ammon Johns says in this post at forums, the most valuable use of the META Description tag is to write it in a way that is going to convince relevant visitors to click on your link if it is shown in the SERPs. Always write a unique META Description for each page on your site and make sure it accurately describes your page and the content users are going to find on it so you only attract clicks from qualified visitors looking for exactly the information you are offering.

Ron says: There's some excellent 'meat' in those links you give, he particularly like the 155 character suggestion in the last one.

As you suggest, I try to limit the meta description to 155 characters, which is what Google will likely show if it includes the keyword phrase being queried. Since most of the other snippets on the SERP will likely be gibberish, your well-written 155 characters will likely get the click.

It’s better to have a unique meta description tag for each of page, but it doesn't mean that search engines rank web pages based on it. Search engines looks the page content as a whole, and also at those links pointing to that particular page.

The Description meta tag can be used on all the major search engines to increase click-through rates, and more importantly, to pre-qualify visitors who won't be interested and thus lower the bounce rates and increase conversion rates.

However, all the major search engines also have certain quirks about when to use more trustworthy data for snippets too. Yahoo will use the description from its Yahoo directory for example. Google will use the description from a dmoz listing for the precise URL (thus usually only a root domain), and so forth.

You have to know enough to know when to use the NOODP and other snippet controlling meta tags; to understand how Google determine the best snippet to use on a searc term by search term basis; and to recognise that no matter what, there are times when the snippet is going to be pulled from the page.

There are still mllions upon millions of web pages out there that use the same meta content for every page, describing the site rather than the page, and even then making a poor job of it. There are millions more pages out there that are auto-generated by poor CMS systems and may have no meta content at all.

The search engines have to deal with all of these pages and issues, and have developped a system that is about te best all-around system they could create within realistic resources.

Making the systems and limitations of the search engines work to your benefit is what SEO is all about. -OR- link:[_]

Some people doubt on how to get their backlinks on Google search. Recently, I’d read an article on Google Reader shared items about the correct syntax on how to get your backward link on google search.

Question: What’s the difference between these 2 Google backward links search?

Dear Kalena...

As always, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Much appreciated! Here is yet another question: I have been recently mystified by Google's search feature. If you do the search with a space between the colon and www you get different results. Example vs. link:

Can you explain the difference?


Kalena's Answer:

Dear Marco

That's easy. The first search is the correct query to use for determining the number of backward links pointing to your site that Google considers significant (note this is not your *true* number of backlinks. To see a more accurate list, you need to view your site within Google's Webmaster Tools).

The second search is a malformed query. What you're actually searching for with that query is all documents that have references to the word "link" and "" on the same page. Look at the cache for one of the listings for the second version and you'll see both items highlighted.

Its a sort of. The backlinks shown in Google are the ones that Google think are important. Generally, they are links from pages with higher PageRank or "TrustRank" as it's known in the biz. If you want to see all your backlinks, Google's Webmaster Tools has much larger coverage.

11 Reasons Why Search Engine Industry Is Hot Profession

Are you currently seeking employment? Looking for a new profession? Considering a career change? Then a job in the field of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) should be at the top of your list. Here are 11 reasons why:

1) The Search Industry is HOT
The first dot-com bubble may have burst 6 years ago, but the current bubble is getting bigger and stronger every day. One of the main reasons for the current dot-com boom is the skyrocketing growth of the search engine industry. No longer the territory of geekdom, search has exploded into the mainstream over the past few years and businesses are falling over themselves to get seen by online searchers. And they'll pay big bucks to search engines for the privilege.
Have you noticed that Google shares recently hit USD 500 EACH? It's not a coincidence. Search giants like Google, Yahoo and AOL can't fail to make money because everybody wants a bit of the search action. There's no denying, search is HOT, HOT, HOT.

2) It's Considered one of Four Jobs on the Cutting Edge
According to a recent article on MSN Careers, the position of Search Engine Optimizer is considered one of four jobs on the cutting edge right now. Who gave it this title? A representative from the world's largest specialized recruitment firm - Robert Half International Inc.

Search Engine Optimization is considered a sub-set of Search Engine Marketing. If you're unsure what a Search Engine Optimizer (SEO) does, below is a definition provided by MSN Careers:

"Search engine optimizers (SEO) increase a firm's Web site traffic by improving its search-engine page rankings. This is an especially important task in today's Internet-driven world, where many customers first learn of an organization and its products or services through the Web. Because of a shortage of experts in this relatively new area, many top SEOs receive multiple job offers. SEOs typically supplement their knowledge of how various search engines operate and determine page rankings with strong marketing skills, as well as the ability to communicate effectively and program using HTML."

3) The Pay is Fantastic
A job in the search industry can be unbelievably lucrative. As noted recently by Jennifer Laycock of Search Engine Guide, "There are quite literally more jobs than there are skilled marketers and salaries can skyrocket to almost embarrassing levels."

Have you seen the type of salaries that search engine marketing and search engine optimization consultants are currently commanding in the US? Clearly, the search industry is making some people rich. Here are some typical salaries in USD:

Entry level SEO/SEM position = $30-45K
Three to five years experience / online account managers = $50-75K
Five + years / organic SEO specialists = $75-90K
Senior management level = $70-120K
SEM Director = $95-150K
VP Level = $100-315K

Additional Salary links:

4) You Don't Need a College Degree
Because the search industry is relatively young, there are only a handful of online courses and certifications offered in the field of Search Engine Marketing (Search Engine College being one training provider).

Most search engine marketing practitioners are self-taught, learning the trade by experimenting with their own sites, researching trends, attending conferences and participating in discussion forums and so employers don't generally require SEO / SEM certification or a tertiary qualification as a pre-requisite for a position in the industry.

However, candidates who hold a marketing degree or specific industry certification in Search Engine Marketing may well have an edge over their fellow applicants when it comes to interview selection.

5) You Can Learn it all Online

Everything you need to know to become a Search Engine Marketer, you can learn online. All the information is out there, you just have to find it. To become an expert in SEO / SEM, you need to do research, research and more research. Read everything you can get your hands on relating to search on a daily basis, including articles, forums, ebooks, blogs and newsfeeds. Then you need to put this knowledge into practice by experimenting with your own sites, or finding guinea pig sites to practice on such as those of friends, family or charity sites until you find the methods that give you the best results. Programming knowledge is not a pre-requisite for SEO / SEM jobs, but it does help to learn basic HTML. There are plenty of free HTML tutorials online.

If you don't fancy years of research or are in a hurry to jump-start your career in search, consider taking an online Certification course in one of the many Search Engine Marketing disciplines such as the Certification Pathways provided by Search Engine College. These type of courses are usually tutor-led and designed to fast-track your training and ensure you gain the right type of skills to make you immediately employable within the search industry.

6) You Can Be Your Own Boss

Because most of the work you'll be doing is online, Search Engine Optimizers and Search Engine Marketers often have the freedom of choice to work for an employer, work from home and/or freelance. Many SEO / SEM freelancers end up hiring workers and starting their own company due to the massive demand. This gives search engine marketing experts the work from home lifestyle that others can only dream of.

7) Search Marketing Has the WOW Factor

Once they know what they're doing, it's very easy for a Search Engine Marketer to wow their clients. The difference that a successful SEO or PPC campaign can make to a client's bottom line is substantial. I've seen online conversion rates for a client zoom from 1% to a massive 5% after just two small tweaks to their web site. And although rankings are not as important as actual conversions, clients still get very excited to see their site listed in the top 10 search results for certain keywords. It's the WOW factor in action.

8) The Demand is Strong and Growing

As mentioned in relation to search engine salaries, there are literally many more jobs than there are skilled marketers to fill them. This extreme demand means Search Engine Marketers can pick and choose their jobs and/or clients. The more skilled marketers are head-hunted regularly. For Search Engine Optimization firms, there are more than enough clients to go around and rarely a need to advertise for new business. That's why you often find SEOs turning away clients or recommending their competitors during extremely busy periods.

Experts in select specialties such as Pay Per Click Advertising (a sub-set of Search Engine Marketing) are currently enjoying even higher demand than usual, as advertisers out-bid each other to have their site shown for popular keyword searches on Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

9) The Industry is Hip and Groovy

There's something very trendy about people in search that I can't quite put my finger on. There's a constant buzz around them. If you've ever been to a search engine conference or to Google’s headquarters you'll know what I mean. Maybe it's the fact that they've come from so many different professions. Or that the age range of search marketers varies from teens to Baby Boomers. Or their whacky dress sense. Maybe it's the smell of money and happiness that they give off. Maybe it's the fact that they are constantly in the media. I don't know. All I know is that it's no longer uncool to be a geek. In fact it's downright hip to be square.

10) The Skills Are Portable and Global

Skills in search engine marketing are portable and global. You don't need to be at a desk, in an office or on the phone all day. You don't even need to meet your clients. Of all my clients, I've probably only met 20 percent of them and spoken to half of them on the phone or via chat. You can be on vacation for six months out of the year in various locations and still conduct business. You literally only need a computer and an Internet connection. The Internet is the universal equalizer. You can service clients in any country in the world, in many different languages. You can compete with one man operations and Fortune 500 companies on the same level playing field. The flexibility of the search industry is a huge advantage over other career options. Have laptop, will travel!

11) Job Satisfaction is High

Search is a fascinating industry. With all the hype, daily gossip, corporate take-overs, start-ups and geek toys, I can guarantee that you won't get bored. This combined with the flexible work hours, low start-up costs, ability to be your own boss and the excellent income keeps job satisfaction high for Search Engine Marketers. So what are you waiting for? Go get a job in search!

Resources: Kalena Jordan

August 05, Google PR Update

Long waiting for Google PR update is now at bestow. Predicted last mid July 2007, it is only a month late based on previous Google trends. This comes as no surprise for us amount of minor Algorithm changes we have seen nearly week on, for around the last 2 months. The last thing Google wanted to do was post an update with some of the bugs that we've seen in the last couple weeks in the SERPs.

The update looks to have started on Sunday, August 5th when Google started giving new sites (PR 0) more Authority. In conclusion about the update starting on the 5th has to do with a brand new site having its Google traffic increase around 5x overnight. Next observed sites that had been incorrectly assigned higher PRs notice a significant decreases (this seems mainly to happen to PR2 sites showing as PR5 or PR6), as well as domains that had expired seeing a PR drop, or a complete loss of PR.

Recently, observed the new website mentioned above which was setup in the end of June drop from a PR4 (this was an incorrect value which actually belonged to another site that google had assigned to both domains) to a PR0, then this afternoon jump back up to PR4 which is inline with the total number of links, and strength of links that are linking to the site.

Estimated in that the PR update should be done by Wednesday night or Thursday at the latest. The big thing was haven't seen finish is the main domain PR update, and update of PRs for internal pages.

Resources: Daryl Quenet