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Advertising Businesses The Almighty Buck

Nasty Business: How To Drain Competitors' Google AdWords Budgets 97

Posted by timothy
from the this-one-weird-trick dept.
tsu doh nimh (609154) writes KrebsOnSecurity looks at a popular service that helps crooked online marketers exhaust the Google AdWords budgets of their competitors.The service allows companies to attack competitors by raising their costs or exhausting their ad budgets early in the day. Advertised on YouTube and run by a guy boldly named "GoodGoogle," the service employs a combination of custom software and hands-on customer service, and promises clients the ability to block the appearance of competitors' ads. From the story: "The prices range from $100 to block between three to ten ad units for 24 hours to $80 for 15 to 30 ad units. For a flat fee of $1,000, small businesses can use GoodGoogle's software and service to sideline a handful of competitors' ads indefinitely."
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Nasty Business: How To Drain Competitors' Google AdWords Budgets

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  • by phonewebcam (446772) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @10:30AM (#47542879) Homepage

    Hey, so I don't get to see those "your content will play in 5 seconds" prompts if I use their service? Cool!

    • by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @10:37AM (#47542927) Homepage Journal
      If you run adblock, you won't anyway.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CaptainDork (3678879)

        Sites can detect that Adblock is on board and some ask you to adjust the settings or die. [goodanime.net]

        I predict that's the way things will be in the future: "Don't want to see ads? Then, leave. We already provide 'free,' content. We will not provide content for ABSOLUTELY free."

        • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @11:41AM (#47543295) Homepage

          People who run adblock aren't going to click on the ads anyway. I'm sure it makes them better to get all self-righteous about it, though.

          • by jythie (914043)
            Yeah, but part of the economics of running ads is number of eyeballs, so the people clicking or not is not always that important.
            • by Bite The Pillow (3087109) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @01:46PM (#47544147)

              Eyeballs bring awareness, and the hope that future purchases will be affected just by familiarity.

              That works great for brand names available at the grocery store when you are already primed for buying. It does not seem to be effective if I go to a place like amazon with the intent to buy, and that product or service is not available.

              Traditionally, eyeballs and click conversions have been measured, with a huge weight given to clicks. Again, brand awareness is hard to measure other than in general purchase trends. But it makes no sense to ignore the importance of click conversions and focus on eyeball measures only, or largely, or even a smallish percentage.

              I have not read anything in the last decade that makes me think that in any way, a measure of eyeballs is significant in general. For anything other than brand awareness, people who would not click anyway have no need to see the ad, and eyeball measurements don't add anything.

              Statistics are only meaningful when they are interpreted and understood, and eyeballs is effectively a number without meaning. It is a small part, and not worth niggling about. Especially when the point is that people who won't click don't give any benefit from watching something they won't click. Brand awareness on something that is not going to be on a list of shopped for products is throwing money away, and paying for people to watch ads they don't care about likewise.

              That's why targeted advertising is such a big deal. People realize that pure eyeballs are nearly meaningless, your objections to the contrary.

              • by Sanians (2738917) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @02:27PM (#47544367)

                Clicks are an equally worthless metric.

                A friend wasted some $75 on Google Adsense trying to expose a free game we've made to more potential players.

                As it's similar (but not too much) to Minecraft Classic, we figured we'd just try to get Google to show an ad to the side of searches for stuff about Minecraft Classic, and some people might decide they're interested and check it out.

                As Google presently showed no ads whatsoever for searches for "minecraft classic" and a few other search terms we wanted to display ads next to, we assumed this would cost us almost nothing, that they'd be willing to display them for a penny as we didn't have to out-bid anyone. That couldn't have been further from the truth. The minimum we could get any advertising for was $0.25/click, and none of that was on Google's search results.

                Half of the clicks came from random web sites with the most horrible games (as in, there was sound and graphics (ripped off from other games), but no playability whatsoever) which displayed a dozen ads on each page with one of these games. Thus, those clicks were completely worthless to us as they were likely all coming from three year olds who simply didn't know what they were doing. Chances of a three year old downloading a game, installing it, and running it aren't that high, and we weren't interested in three year old players anyway.

                The other half came from paid search result placement on altavista.com. These clicks were also completely worthless. Just think about it: You're searching for something related to a game you like, and you get sent to a web site about a completely different game, so what do you do? Do you say "yay, I'll download and play this instead" or do you just immediately click the back button and look for a search result that's related to what you searched for? We specifically wanted ads to the side of people's search results because then they'd know that what's over there isn't necessarily exactly what they're looking for and so they would only click on the ad if they were interested in finding a new game. Paid search placement may increase the number of clicks we get, but it ensures that those additional clicks are as close to worthless as can be imagined. Think about it again: How long would you stick with a search engine that does this? Only morons and five year olds use Altavista. Not our target audience, and if you're trying to sell a legitimate product or service, probably not your target audience either. On the other hand, if you're trying to scam people out of money, paid search result placement might be exactly what you're looking for.

                After going through $20 on these worthless clicks, I looked up the statistics of how many of the IP addresses ultimately ended up playing the game. Normally about 50% of the IPs that visit the web site end up downloading our game and 30% (60% of those who download) connect to the game's servers, but not one of the people who clicked these links even downloaded the game.

                This is the kind of bullshit you end up with when you consider that clicks are the only important thing: a system optimized to give you clicks at the expense of any sort of quality placement.

                Anyway, it seems that if you want results displayed on google.com, you have to pay at least $1 per click. The adsense interface gives you all sorts of BS reasons about why your page won't display ads if you offer less money than that, but it's all designed to make you think there's some legitimate reason you can't figure out until you ultimately give up and just decide to give them more money and see if that fixes the problem. In particular, the supposed metric of the quality of your landing page is almost a random number generator -- just wait a while and it changes, as it's apparently chosen by monkeys. Eventually my friend paid the $1 per click, despite my objections that the whole deal was a huge scam, and as far as I know we got nothing for that either.

                The one thing my friend did that did help was to list our game o

                • by AlXtreme (223728)

                  As you discovered, advertising is only worthwhile if you are reaching the proper audience. Adwords should be a last-resort as it is way too easy to cast a very wide net and takes quite a bit of effort to tweak.

                  From your description you had the 'content network' enabled in Adwords, which is indeed a very easy way to waste your budget on useless visitors. The content network means that your ads could be shown on all the sites out there that use Adsense (I think you mixed Adsense and Adwords: Adwords is Google

                • by Prof.Phreak (584152) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @07:47PM (#47546427) Homepage

                  You've just stumbled on one of google's business models: there are millions of new ideas every day, those turn into many thousands of startups, majority of those think that google advertising is the way to get the word out... each of them spends a few hundred dollars (at best...at worst, some of them spend many thousands of dollars) on Google... and shortly afterwards they go out of business. And this repeats every day.

                  The winner in all this? Google. Heck, they don't even have to care about repeat customers to make moneh every day.

                • by Vellmont (569020)

                  I think what you've discovered is that you can't put up ads for something similar to what people are searching for, thinking they'll consider buying your product instead. Searching for somethng is a very narrow task. "Is THAT what I want?... no. Is THAAAT what I want?". It's not really a time when people are open to new ideas.

                  So I don't think Google adswords is a "scam". If it was, Google would have been out of business long ago. What you need to realize about marketing is you need to get the consumer

          • by Stan92057 (737634)
            We all have paid at the cash register in over priced produsts and products that are missing a few OZz like 12 oz instead of a pound. That fill advertising budgets so I am not viewing for free. I have already paid. so have you.
        • by penix1 (722987)

          I predict that's the way things will be in the future: "Don't want to see ads? Then, leave. We already provide 'free,' content. We will not provide content for ABSOLUTELY free."

          If you have advertising on your site, then your content isn't free and it is false advertising to claim it as such. It simply is being paid by proxy. A more apt statement would be advertising supported.

        • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @12:34PM (#47543659)
          If the site is one I may want to see again, I will e-mail thewebmaster to let them know about the adblock "allow inoffensive adds" feature and how to get whitelisted. Some have ignored me, and I have ignored them. Some have responded negativly, and I found other websites. But some have responeded very positivly and thanked me for the info and link. Those sites, I support.
        • I'll always leave adblock enable on those sites that make (empty) threats. Everything on the 'Net has an alternative source, and users smart enough to use adblock are smart enough to find alternative sources.

          If they ask nicely to show ads, like DuckDuckGo does, then I may allow them through.

        • Because there's no way for browsers running on OUR machines to sidestep that...it's foolproof. Yep, better give up, and start watching those ads...
    • by Andrio (2580551)

      Advertised on YouTube? That's some Insanity Wolf shit right there.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @02:28PM (#47544377) Journal
      The 'you can skip in 5 seconds' ads amaze me. Presumably the people using them know that they have 5 valuable seconds that everyone can see, yet they uniformly squander them. I've almost never seen an ad that tells me anything interesting in the first 5 seconds, which isn't that surprising, but it's really surprising to me that most don't even tell me what the product is. Several that I've seen use the first 4 seconds to fade from black, then get 1 second of something incomprehensible before I hit skip.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    GoodGoogle only accepts bitcoin?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 27, 2014 @10:44AM (#47542989)

    I block all ads and have for the better part of a decade. Too many worries about malware, improper handling of info, tracking, you name it. It's a bad business model, anyway. I not met too many true geeks who feel much differently. If someone's business is built on something that can be manipulated and blocked so easily, the business model sucks to be sure.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why is this off-topic post modded up? Who cares if the OP doesn't personally see ads?

      I can bid for the exact name of your small business with Adwords, and make the advert divert to my competing business. And there's nothing you can do about it. What do you think about that business model?

    • by mhollis (727905) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @12:27PM (#47543597) Journal

      You (and Greyfox) do not seem to understand what Google Ads are. They are, for the most part, not the display advertisements one tends to see on websites. Instead, they are textual only and associated with search or with websites that open up space on their site for text ads.

      Ad Blocking software allows them to show and always has. And that is because they are unobtrusive and not annoying.

      All of my browsers have some kind of ad-block technology in them. And the Google text ads show just fine, thank you.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Ad Blocking software allows them to show and always has. And that is because they are unobtrusive and not annoying.

        This is false. For a good while when it started AdBlock (the most popular blocker plugin for FF) blocked even Google Text Ads. More recently they've started recommending that people allow unobtrusive text ads, but the option to block even those is still there, and works fine.

        Source: I tried disabling AdBlock temporarily on Google Search, and a bunch of new ads showed up that I hadn't seen in ye

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Well, good for you. My browsers have all the ad-block tech I can throw at them, including filtering text ads. I don't want ANY ads, thank you.

      • Ad Blocking software allows them to show and always has. And that is because they are unobtrusive and not annoying.

        All of my browsers have some kind of ad-block technology in them. And the Google text ads show just fine, thank you.

        False with regards to Adblock Plus. http://tech.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        You (and Greyfox) do not seem to understand what Google Ads are. They are, for the most part, not the display advertisements one tends to see on websites. Instead, they are textual only and associated with search or with websites that open up space on their site for text ads.

        Ad Blocking software allows them to show and always has. And that is because they are unobtrusive and not annoying.

        No, those are the Google-braned ads. Google Ads encompasses ALL of Google's ad products. Including most of the malware la

    • It seems that a lot of internet companies make their money from adds. If this buisness model was so bad it would have stopped decades ago.

      So how do you propose web sites to be funded. People don't like a pay wall, ISP will not pay you for their customers visit. If your site doesn't meet the need for the greater common good then you probably won't have the government or some other large grant funding you. However you have costs to pay for. The add model is the best we can get unless you know of some super

      • by Sciath (3433615)
        How about reputation as a "business model"? If a business has a good and unique product or service then reputation should be it's marketing strategy as opposed to deceptive and intrusive ads. Sure it might take longer to build a customer base but all that means it may take a few more years of quality product or service to make it into the 1%. But you're going to spend fewer resources on meaningless advertising. But it also means you are committed to the satisfied customer and that you see your "job" as a ca
  • A lousy way (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 27, 2014 @10:50AM (#47543045)

    If I can trace that this attack-company is attacking my ads because my competitor paid them to do so, I would think that would be evidence that my competitor is liable for anti-competitive action. I imagine this is likely to be easily trace-able.

    With Tor and all thems type of technologies, something like this could probably be quite difficult to trace. But, that is assuming that this attack-company has gone through the effort to make things difficult to trace. When I find scenarios where a company could invest in doing things in an effective way, or may just try to do things simply and cheaply and ineffectively but still sounds good on the surface (when marketing the services), I usually find that security and intelligent design and other good and useful things have been neglected.

    Rather than pay one of these scumbags of ill repute, I'd rather focus on improving my own business's image. If the other guy can make a buck or two as well, that may help to grow interest in our industry. And when I've collected a few bucks of my own, I can stop the other guy from competing against me by buying him out. Works out well for me. Works out well enough for my competitor. Doesn't work for scumbags who act as dealers of virtual arms, hoping that I waste my efforts trying to hurt the other guy.

    But, I do know that not everyone shares my positive views in life.

    KrebsOnSecurity looks at a popular service that helps crooked

    Helping crooks is popular? That is just sad. Very, very, very sad.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The ease with which one can sink a competitor's listings is part of why I dropped adwords a few years ago. I couldn't be sure, but it did seem odd that my listings would be regularly exhausted early in the day, without any indication that the site visits were from real potential customers.

    • Depends on the audience of the web sites your ads were displayed on. If you were, for instance, advertising for a US company on a site that had lots of viewers from Europe, the exhaustion early in the day might have been legitimate. Europe is a few time zones ahead.

      But if adwords does not give you statistics about this, I agree that dropping them would be the smart thing to do.

      • by xenoc_1 (140817) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @11:26AM (#47543213)

        Depends on the audience of the web sites your ads were displayed on. If you were, for instance, advertising for a US company on a site that had lots of viewers from Europe, the exhaustion early in the day might have been legitimate. Europe is a few time zones ahead.

        If your intention is to advertise only to the US market, which is what I assume from your example, you're doing it wrong if you are even showing AdWords to audiences in Europe. Unless, of course, they are using a VPN or proxy or other means to browse with a US-based IP address.

        Heck, you can target down to individual zipcodes, Congressional districts, counties, Metro areas, and a bunch more ways. No excuse other than ignorance if you or your clients ads are running in an entirely different continent.

        If you want your ads for your US company to appear in Europe as well as in USA, then you need to create a sufficient AdWords daily budget, plus perhaps do time of day targeting. Or to be better at it, have separate AdWords campaigns for each geo, with separate budgets, even if you're using the same ads.

        There's a lot I don't like about AdWords, including how Google loves to split functionality into different menus and services and levels of products to create massive confusion about how to use them. Like WTF isn't there one single thing that has all my ad budgets, my analytics, my webmaster tools, my everything-about-it, all in one damn place? Or to use another, non-ads example, Google Voice can be used as VOIP from a computer, but only by a not-well-explained combo of Google Voice + Google Chat + Gmail page + Google Talk plugin, something no non-technical "normal person" will ever discover. Some of that dysfunctional UX comes from Google's only-engineers culture, but on the advertising products I think some of it is also deliberate ambiguity so you will inadvertantly spend more. Same reason that in USA and many other jurisdictions, Google will not let you prepay for a fixed spend, only postpay - they like that you can't quite control it, and the house always has the edge.

        But they do provide geotargeting tools, rather good ones. So no excuse if your ads are running in the wrong locales.

        That doesn't make the sleazy service abusing AdWords any less evil themselves. But if the ads are eaten up by wrong geolocations, whether from that sleazy service or just from legitimate browsing clicks in the wrong countries, that is the advertiser's own fault for not using the control Google gives them.

        • You know, right, that you can set a daily budget limit in AdWords and Google won't go over it?
        • One reason that advertising is so confusing with Google is that they been gobbling up hundreds of different advertising companies in the online space.

    • by ranton (36917) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @11:44AM (#47543315)

      You should have to worry about not being sure. Just look at your conversion rates. While it is hard to identify how many of your sales you would have gotten anyway without AdWords, it is very easy to tell how many of your AdWords customers are actually purchasing anyway. And the last time I worked for an e-commerce site was 2008, I'm pretty confident that their analytic tools have improved since then.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        I'm not sure what you're trying to say here, if your AdWord campaigns are being sabotaged it's extremely hard to say what your conversion rate should have been without the sabotage unless you've got really good historic data to show we used to get good leads but now we get crap. For example if my botnet all likes to visit Google and click your ad links, but never buy anything. Yes, you know the conversation rate is very low - as a few real customers are in the mix - but it doesn't tell you anything about wh

    • by jafiwam (310805)

      You can control what time of day the ads are displayed.

      Try avoiding the times when they are being used up, or try focusing on when your potential customers are on and using computers.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Expedia and its sub-brands have a nasty habit of bidding for the exact name of virtually every major hotel in the world.

    So when I search for the name of the hotel that I run, the first search on Google will always be a paid-for advert. When somebody books my hotel through Expedia, I then have to give a percentage of the room revenue to Expedia. Unfortunately they are also our biggest customer - very few major hotels can afford to do without Online Travel Agencies.

    Expedia and sub-brands had an AdWords budget

  • by bytesex (112972)

    1) This service will survive for all of two weeks tops - it's him against the collective power of Google. I put my money on Google.
    2) Ads should come inline with the other HTML, as well as associated images. It's not difficult, and adblock can never really find a solution to that.

    • ...only if it's in Google's interest to block services like this instead of asking the victim to pay more money.

    • > 2) Ads should come inline with the other HTML, as well as associated images. It's not difficult, and adblock can never really find a solution to that.

      Out of interest, how do you do it with google adsense?

    • by turp182 (1020263)

      What would be the best way to setup a "more difficult" to bock ad service?

      Could one use cloud services, and have the clients issue DNS sub-domain entries (content.CompanyName.com) pointing to the service which then provides the images? Of course the IPs could be blocked relatively easy.

      What about providing companies that want to serve ads with a small web server that you control that serves the ads (it would appear internal, just sub-domain)? It would reside outside the DMZ, so security concerns on the co

      • by hawk (1151)

        >I don't mind static image ads (although I hate it
        >when I purchase something on Amazon and then
        >get served Amazon ads for the thing I purchased).
        >But if it is not static then I despise it.

        It's not just ads; it's *anything* that blinks & runs around while I"m trying to read. In fact, I've never blocked *anything* just for being an ad, and I block much of what sites fancy to be "content."

        Stay still, damnit, I'm trying to read!

        hawk

        • by turp182 (1020263)

          I recently gave up on CNN.com because every story is a video (but not marked as such, some articles are clearly marked as videos), and they are all auto-play. And they have video ads that play on the front page.

          Every day it seems that the world is moving towards Idocracy, I love the movie but hate to call it poignant. It's like a documentary from the future.

    • by Dwedit (232252)
      Adblock has element hiding, so if the web designer makes a <div class="adbox"> or something, that's really easy to override the CSS on to make it invisible.
    • by Vellmont (569020)

      1) This service will survive for all of two weeks tops - it's him against the collective power of Google. I put my money on Google.

      And if that were the matchup, I'd agree. But remember Google is an enormous company, with many problems. This is a minor little annoying fly buzzing around the office. If the fly lies low, it can survive for quite a while. If it bites the wrong person, or becomes too annoying, it's going to get swatted rather quickly.

      So far it looks like the fly has managed to lie low enough

  • Free Market (Score:4, Funny)

    by inode_buddha (576844) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @11:57AM (#47543425) Journal

    It's the Free Market (TM) at work, doing God's Work (TM)! Why do yuo hate America!?!?!?

  • Businesses A and B don't want each other on Google. Both use the service. Neither were seen again. Winner? Middleman, the service.
  • Last time I worked in a corporate environment I heard a few stories about the tactic of continually clicking on competitors ads to cost them money.
    • Most productive hours PHBs will ever have.

    • by Vellmont (569020)

      Shit, if people actually DO that, I'd put out ads specifically so competitors would go try to click on them. Why? Because every minute they spend clicking on ads is a minute they aren't doing any work trying to compete with me.

  • Is your competitor putting Google Ads on their website? Are they making any decent money off of it? Click on their ads repeatedly until Google suspends their account.

    This happened to me, but not from a business competitor. I put some Google Ads up on my WoW guild's forums hoping it would help offset the cost of hosting. One of our rival guilds on our server ran up the clicks to the point where my account was suspended for click fraud and I was no longer permitted to place Google Ads on ANY websites, even af

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