Beware of Dark Technologies in Your Google AdWords Campaigns

Ever-growing IT sophistication creates more opportunities for people who do not mind playing dirty just to get ahead of competition. So called dark technologies are increasingly used to take unfair advantage of various digital advertising systems, including Google AdWords. What are they and why are they dangerous?

Everybody knows that advertising in Google AdWords network is bought by way of auction. The more bidders, the higher the bidding price. Less bidders – and the price goes down accordingly. So, one may think of deliberately blocking competing advertisements to reduce advertising costs and collect clients. Who may be interested in such schemes and how do these schemes are used in advertising industry?

The problem is that the law is not yet adapted to deal with such cases. No one has been punished for that, because it difficult to find who is reponsible and even more difficult to prove that damage has been done. Moreover, these manipulations are not even subject to criminal proceedings.

Who Benefits from Black Technologies?

The first in line are, of course, the competitors, however, sometimes it is advertising agencies that take advantage of blocking certain advertisements. Obviously, by avoiding competition, a company can buy advertising cheaper and sell more products. And what about the agency? It can attract new clients. The scheme looks like this: let’s say your company’s advertisements have been blocked for some time. Then you get a call from advertising agency’s sales specialists who persuade you that your current advertising methods are ineffective. Then they promise to solve this problem if you buy their services. Everything is easy after that: the agency stops blocking your advertisements and can convincingly show you the results.

This  scheme can only be uncovered by analyzing Google Analytics and Google AdWords metrics. It is yet one more reason for the company to have Google Analytics account and data that is collected properly. If you are incorrectly gathering website’s metrics or do not know which metrics should be analyzed, you risk falling victim for a scheme and never find out.

How Are Competitors Blocked?

Victim’s advertising is blocked using special software, so-called bot. A bot, also known as internet robot or WWW robot, is software created to carry automated tasks online. Usually bots are employed to automate repetetive tasks that are impossible to do by hand.

Bots can also used to block selected company’s advertising. Such software can operate in Google Display Network, Search Network and affiliate advertising. Although bot programming is complex, its operating principle is simple. A bot does a search using preselected keywords and clicks on corresponding ads owned by a victim. As the process is repeated many times, daily budgets set for campaigns are exhausted rapidly, and their ads stop showing. This technique effectively erases competition in search results and in their place introduces perpetrator’s ads for a lower cost-per-click.

Exhausting daily budget can be applied in affiliate marketing, too. In affiliate websites bots act as users that are shown specific ads and can attack a specific victim with ease.

Eliminate all competitors – and you get yourselves advertising that charges 0,01 Eur instead of 0,15 Eur. This allows to attract 10-100 times more potential clients for the same price.

How Does Google Fight Back?

Google have their own software for detecting bots and their activity. If the company manages to separate clicks made by humans from bot clicks, the money you lost to the latter will be returned to your account. In this case you will not experience direct financial losses, however, you will lose a part of clients and sales. So the damage is indirect and quite difficult to prove.

It is also very difficult to link a bot with a certain sponsor. This hurts not only Google reputation and profits, but also a third party – honest Google ad publishers – AdSense users.

Be noted that bots can be employed not only in the Google Network, but in just about any website, including major portals that charge considerably for showing ads. The majority of advertising publishers do not have bot detection tools and do not refund money, so you can experience direct financial losses.

Dangers and ways to manipulate numbers exist in all advertising channels. The only way to find out if you are being attacked is accurate visitor flow data. If you use it, great. If not, however, …

In the following post I will cover ways to detect if your business has become a victim for black technologies of marketing.