In my previous column, I expressed skepticism that black hat techniques are relevant to the world of paid search. This time, let's look at some aggressive techniques that are worth considering - and aren't necessarily black hat. Let's call them "edgy."
Confusion in "hat" debates in PPC (define) arose when some players began calling "edgy" techniques "black hat." If you're worried about the cool factor, let me testify that everyone in marketing looks sexy in cowboy hats, whether they're black or white.
Edgy techniques 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.
Surely, you wouldn't overpay for car insurance if having a contact or a bit of insider knowledge gave you a better discount than your less-savvy neighbor who just tried to haggle with his agent over the phone? That's business.
Edgy techniques include:
This barely scratches the surface of edgy techniques 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 company 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 businesses are image-conscious; others just want leads.
Because not all businesses 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.
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Goodman is founder and President of Toronto-based Page Zero Media, a full-service marketing agency founded in 2000. Page Zero focuses on paid search campaigns as well as a variety of custom digital marketing programs. Clients include Direct Energy, Canon, MIT, BLR, and a host of others. He is also co-founder of Traffick.com, an award-winning industry commentary site; author of Winning Results with Google AdWords (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed., 2008); and frequently quoted in the business press. In recent years he has acted as program chair for the SES Toronto conference and all told, has spoken or moderated at countless SES events since 2002. His spare time eccentricities include rollerblading without kneepads and naming his Japanese maples. Also in his spare time, he co-founded HomeStars, a consumer review site with aspirations to become "the TripAdvisor for home improvement." He lives in Toronto with his wife Carolyn.
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