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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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  • 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 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.

  • by CaptainDork (3678879) on Sunday July 27, 2014 @11:37AM (#47543265)

    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 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 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.
  • 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 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 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.

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