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Old 03-31-2005   #1
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Black Hat PPC Management

The Art of Black Hat PPC Management: Applying Black Hat SEO techniques to PPC
by Mikkel deMib Svendsen - March 2005

It boils down to this brief summary:
Quote:
At the recent Search Engine Strategies conference in Chicago in December 2004 I participated in a controversial session headlined: "Black Hat, White Hat & Lots of Gray". It was very good session covering various techniques, strategies, and, of course, a lot of opinions about so-called Black Hat and White Hat SEO. However, there was one topic that was not covered at all; neither by the speakers or in questions from the audience: PPC engines! In this article I will take a closer look at the much overlooked magic of "Black Hat" PPC management.
and the highlight IMO, without giving away the entire article:
Quote:
Black Hat PPC management is the art of getting around stupid rules and restraining guidelines to gain a competitive advantage over your competitors in PPC engines.
Want to discuss? Do you feel there are other techniques around Black Hat PPC Management? Agree or disagree with the article?
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Old 03-31-2005   #2
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I will be happy to answer any questions but I suggest we discuss the approach, strategies and advantages/disadvantages of Black Hat PPC rather than the specific techniques. It's still so new to many - and it would be a shame to blow all the tricks at once
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Old 03-31-2005   #3
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Very interesting article. I have to say one of the first things that came to mind when reading it is politicians that take bribes. As long as you're willing to pay, you can still play.

The adwords bidding tip that you provided was really good as well and makes a lot of sense (and less cents for PPC engines). Too bad overture of Google Adwords won't include anything like that in their learning centre.
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Old 03-31-2005   #4
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Too bad overture of Google Adwords won't include anything like that in their learning
Yes, you'll probably learn as much about PPC management from those pages as you do about SEO reading Googles webmaster section
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Old 04-03-2005   #5
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Not all of these are really 'black hat ppc'

Using redirects to link to various pages is a common PPC practice. This is how you can split test landing pages where you determine how often each landing page gets the hits, which converts better, etc. The PPC engines are aware that people do this, and don't have a problem with it at all. Many stat counters also use redirects.

As far as changing the page content afterwords, this is why they occasionally rereview ads at a later date. Now, making a landing page that will be accepted by a PPC engine, and then changing the content to show what you really wanted the ad to say could be considered black hat. Cloaking editors would definitely be considered black hat, and if it was found out (reported by a competitor or another way) might get you banned from PPC on the spot.

The section about budget is natural. You choose your budget, you're in control of your monetary spend - this is changing a normal setting in PPC - in no way black hat at all.

FYI - I've seen people tossed out of PPC advertising and 'black listed' by website, credit card, name, IP address, etc when they tried to reopen their account or open a new one.
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Old 04-04-2005   #6
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Mikkel, without hearing more specifics, specifically as to which of your techniques apply to Overture, which to Google, etc., I'm inclined to doubt a couple of the individual points you make, or at least feel a bit baffled by them or disagree with how significant they are.

There is no question any professional SEM with any significant aspirations of doing well for their clients must take an end run around the formal/official policies from time to time. Love the spirit and don't disagree with the premise.

But that doesn't change a writer's responsibility to give a little more concrete info ... not give away the store maybe, but at least break down whether you're referring to Google or Overture, and get a bit more specific on how stuff really works.

Now granted, I wouldn't give away any secrets to Mike's readers either. But I do have a few problems with the budgetary stuff and the business about "hard earned CTR" or at least the way these were conveyed. I found it confusing, and there is enough superstition going around as it is.

But, perhaps that was the point. I will admit my own article for Mike's newsletter was a bit "out there" as well.

Frankly it has been a long time since I've felt particularly constrained by Google Editorial. You can usually make your case if there is a case to be made. It feels a bit like you're trying to portray this advertising relationship like it's SEO where they have zero responsibility to respond to you. In fact, Google, Overture, and Espotting will take your phone calls. Sure, you might not always like the answers, but they do have some semblance of customer service and with persistence you can get help. I cling to this crazy belief that if you have advertising dollars to spend then you can get them to listen. Unfortunately, that does seem to depend on how big your budget is, and who you know, and even then, it can be touch and go. But it is a matter of principle and maybe personal style. When thwarted, the SEO's answer seems to be to go with a redirect or some automated trick. The advertiser on the other hand demands answers and typically waves dollar bills around in an attempt to get those answers.

As for Overture, there are so many layers to that company I would not do justice to them by using an onion or phyllo pastry metaphor, so maybe someone else can help. Over here in this neck of the woods we have been collecting an extensive dossier on them.

Don't mean to bust your hump - I think maybe what we need to do is to break down some of the individual topics, because they are worth discussing. For example, what is the value & drawbacks of the partner programs. Maybe we should start there. Obviously neither of us think much of them as they're currently constituted.
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Old 04-04-2005   #7
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Andrew, as you probably know the article came out of a joke we where playing around with at one of the last confernces. I was kind of pushed into writing it and at first I wasn't sure what to include and what not to. You may be right that I ended up in between

However, I am sure you understand the conflict: On one hand I did not want to destroy too many "tricks" by putting them out in public on the other hand I did want to get one important thing across: Think outside the box. Too many people listen too much to what engines tells them - that goes for organic as well as PPC. That was the important point I wanted to illustrate. I am sorry if it did not come out clear to all.

Anyway, I think it would be a good idea to discuss the partner programs in more details, to start out with. What are they worth to us?

As far as I see them, especially Googles program, they give us zero value but a lot of limitations. It's just not a fair deal. As far as I see it it's one of the tools they use in an attempt to control the market - not to make it better for either advertisers or SEMs. I just don't think it will work. Just look at the questions for the test! When I was reading them, and abandoned the test, I quicly realized that they wanted a certain kind of answers - not the right ones: The ones that produce the best campaigns for clients.

Anyway, I'd like to hear your opinion of the partner programs. I think I said enough for now
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Old 04-04-2005   #8
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There is probably not much to be said about the partner programs. At this point at least from where I sit, I think it would probably be a lot of wasted words. Because for now, to me, my main question is show me a single benefit of participating. Show me clearly that I am going to be *rewarded tangibly* for participating.

If partners are essentially unpaid resellers, then it would seem to require a heckuva lot of intangible benefits to make up for the lost potential income.

But the whole concept of who is who's client is at issue. Only in rare cases will Goog. / Ov. concede that your client is actually your client. In some sense they're right. You can never truly have PPC clients UNTIL there is a mechanism to formally credit you for referrals and ongoing care of an account. Chicken & egg question. And of course there would be ways of gaming that mechanism, so probably these guys are going to reserve judgment and down the road deal respectfully only with larger agencies. It's pretty obvious everything can't be automated as they had always hoped. It'll be interesting to watch.

Maybe some different sorts of arrangements will come about in the future.

Point taken about you not really wanting to go into great detail. I think that Overture probably has more layers and is getting more passive-aggressive about giving indifferent service, editorial disapprovals, etc. to the smaller spenders. As a result I can definitely see where an advertiser would need to come up with tricks to get around the often bad decisions made by individual editors.

There have certainly been some interesting machinations. Google for example learned that a policy may not be a policy if you try to enforce it on certain kinds of marketers. Eg. the rule against pop-ups was challenged by "exit pops," delayed pops, conditional pops, "pop-inserts" and all sorts of innovation, most of which pass Google's evil test. So you're quite right, I agree with you that an aggressive marketer probably does not want to sit back and listen to the first answer they get... provided they don't get really annoying and put undue burdens on customer service so that the rest of the advertisers can't get the time of day.

All in all, you can see why there is a drive for consolidation in the business. How else, but if you are representing a recognizable agency, can you be treated as a "somebody"? Google's client center thing perhaps is a way of measuring partners' somebodiness (by calculating how many clients give up their login to you, and how much they spend)... but I'm just not sure about it. Maybe what bothers me about it is the exam.

Last edited by andrewgoodman : 04-04-2005 at 05:22 PM.
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Old 04-04-2005   #9
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If Google is passing out the diplomas for Adwords knowlege, they have a right to decide what they think is a right answer on their exams.

As for me, I'm with Mark Twain when he said, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."

There were indeed a bunch of questions on that exam where there was clearly an answer Adwords was looking for, even though it might not be the best answser for the advertiser. Giving Adwords what they wanted on the exam does not limit one from giving clients what they need.
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Old 04-04-2005   #10
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Quote:
If Google is passing out the diplomas for Adwords knowlege, they have a right to decide what they think is a right answer on their exams.
Absolutely. And that is exactly why it's so easy for me to explain to clients why they should chose a PPC-manager that did NOT take or pass the exam
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Old 04-04-2005   #11
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If one is serious about being an Adwords consultant, it's just silly not to take the exam.

To simplify, there are 3 types of Adwords consultants:

A. Those too ignorant to pass the exam
B. Those who know enough to pass the exam
C. Those who know enough to pass the exam and who know the difference between telling Adwords what they want to hear on their exam and what's best for the client

If you pass the exam you're at least not in category A. At present category A is huge. You are at least differentiated from them.

Besides, the Adwords exam isn't *that* bad. There are really only a handful of questions on it where there's a difference between what Adwords wants to hear and what's right for the client.
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Old 04-04-2005   #12
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Maybe I am just old-fashion but I feel that if you enter an agreement you should honor it. As far as I read the Google agreement you have to follow the guidelines to the letter. If you don't you can get booted from the program. That is fair, I think.

The problem is, that I think it often pays to play slightly outside those guidelines and I don't see any room for that within the agreement. I might give up my "freedom" if Google offered something of real value to me and my clients, but they don't.

Therefore, for the moment, I do think I serve my clients better by being honest and loyal to them instead of Google. I don't hate google or anything, in fact I love them, they are just not my client and I really feel thats where my loyalty should be - with the clients. However, I do respect and honor Google enough not to take an exam with answers different than what I feel is true and then sign an agreement I won't honor. That is not fair to do.
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Old 04-04-2005   #13
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What's so onerous about the Google Advertising Professional Program Rules of Use ? That you have to abide by their policies? Heck, you have to do that as an advertiser. Besides, their only recourse is to recind their certification of you.
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Old 04-04-2005   #14
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I really don't want to turn this particular thread into a legal and contractual discussion. There are so much to that contract I don't like and in fact, in it's current form I am quite sure there are certain parts that won't even pass the law in my jurisdiction which makes this part of the terms impossible for me to work under: "... act on behalf of and bind to these Rules, any third party to whom you provide AdWords Program related services" - I may, and my company may, be able to agree to Googles terms under US law, but my company, can not under Danish law, bind my clients to terms under US law that won't pass here.

However, that is, as said before, far from the only things in that agreement I don't like. But even if I did like the legal aspects of the contract I still don't see where the benifit is to me or my clients. What is it I get, besides an ugly logo (sorry, but it is ) ? And, I don't think that logo in itself with make any difference to my clients ...
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Old 04-05-2005   #15
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I found the article a bit of a shaggy dog story.

Clearly, one can improve ppc campaigns through the judicious use of time managing them. Since AdWords gives benefit to CTR, time managing AdWords is far more effective than Overture. The article always circled around this point without actually making it.

Now of time managing ppc campaigns, some of the activities will be more favored by the ppc vendors than others. The article tried to imply that pushing the envelope of what vendors will allow leads to a better return on management time than doing what the vendors like. I take issue with this implication.

Of all the uses of time managing ppc campaigns, I cannot believe anything is better than selecting negative keywords on AdWords. Clearly, Google loves managers making their ads more relevant, and Google aptly rewards you for it.
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Old 04-05-2005   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cline
If one is serious about being an Adwords consultant, it's just silly not to take the exam.

To simplify, there are 3 types of Adwords consultants:

A. Those too ignorant to pass the exam
B. Those who know enough to pass the exam
C. Those who know enough to pass the exam and who know the difference between telling Adwords what they want to hear on their exam and what's best for the client

If you pass the exam you're at least not in category A. At present category A is huge. You are at least differentiated from them.

Besides, the Adwords exam isn't *that* bad. There are really only a handful of questions on it where there's a difference between what Adwords wants to hear and what's right for the client.
Whoa dude, I'm just too busy to take the exam. I'll get to it. Taking it benefits me how? And proves what?
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Old 04-06-2005   #17
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Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewgoodman
Whoa dude, I'm just too busy to take the exam. I'll get to it. Taking it benefits me how? And proves what?


It's not a long exam. If you actually do much Adwords there's no need to study for it. Just answer the questions. If Adwords is of much interest to you, you might find it intellectually interesting.

For people who are not well known for having published books on the subject, the credential might be of benefit. Some people appear to be impressed by it. After I got the QGAP cert one of my oldest clients asked me to stop saying they were a client. They were concerned that one or more of their competitors might see that I had the cert and decide to engage a similarly certified SEM to copy them. Many of their competitors are doing Adwords; all of them do it badly. One of them engages an SEM that brags about what a great job they're doing for the competitor. They suck. It would be really bad for my client if the competitor fired this firm and hired one that was competent enough to pass the Adwords exam.

What does it prove? That one at least knows enough to pass an interested 3rd party's quasi-objective exam. It proves, to some people, that one is probably not a charlatan. While that exam has a lot of flaws, there are lots of people selling Adwords management who could not get close to passing that test.

For many business strategies there is an opposite, commeasurably successful strategy. Like Mikkel said:
Quote:
it's so easy for me to explain to clients why they should chose a PPC-manager that did NOT take or pass the exam
So, okay, so I take what I said back. For some vendors it may not be silly to not take the exam. There's definitely opportunity out there for vendors who position themselves as Black Hat PPC consultants. Obviously, if this is one's business positioning, one cannot also be saying one is a QGAP.
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Old 04-07-2005   #18
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Word of Warning

I think Google might be punishing those who use "Black Hat SEM" with delisting sites in the natural listings.

I've been doing the aforementioned techniques for months now--and look what happened?
http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/...ead.php?t=5103

Am I overreacting?
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Old 04-08-2005   #19
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Wasting hard earned CTR?

Changing the url of the landing page doesn't waste hard earned CTR. When Google reviews a new ad, the stats for that ad get reset, but the stats for the keyphrases remain the same. Since this change wouldn't have an effect on how the ad is displayed, its stats should return to its previous values anyways (except for conversion data possibly). I don't see the advantage to making a redirect for the purpose of keeping your ad's stats from being reset.
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Old 04-08-2005   #20
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Don't use budget tool?

I think the budget function is valuable. Google warns that using a budget that is lower than their recommended budget can cause you to loose valuable leads. I've had mix results setting my budget below the recommended level - generally, I don't do it anymore because it sometimes does impact your click through rate. I'm not sure why, maybe it has to do with the time of day the ads are active. Either way, I've never had trouble using the budget function if I used Adwords recommended budget - sometimes I set it higher, but my click-through rates remain about the same as when I use the recommended budget. If Adwords' recommended budget for your campaign is more than you can afford, you can bid on less keyphrases until it is at a level you can afford (if you don't want to change your bids, as recommended by the black hat article).
I think the article exagerrates the issue - how it gets its estimates (budget runs out "2 to 3 times faster") is beyond me considering the huge differences that might exist in products and campaigns.

Last edited by stevel : 04-08-2005 at 03:46 PM.
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