Before you read on, we should say that the BlackHatters are not hackers. We could barely hack back a hedge. We are PPC experts, not code writers. But having said that, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t read the odd hacker forum.

Recently, we were chatting about what would happen if you could get around Google’s click fraud system for Google’s PPC ads? If you could get around the click fraud, you would have the ability to click away on your competitors ads and deplete all their budget on a keyword so that their ads fell out of the auction and your ad is the only one remaining. That would be great news for the advertiser, as they would see big increases in their CTR (being the only ad shown) and having reduced CPC’s (in theory anyway) if there are less competitors in the auction.

However, you need to get around Google click fraud system and we know that its a pretty sophisticated bit of kit. If a user clicks on an ad more than 3 times within a session then the click fraud system kicks in and they are counted as invalid clicks and the advertiser gets their money back. Google’s click fraud system looks at all kinds of different identifiers when a user clicks on an ad – location, ip address, browser settings, etc…basically anything that Google Analytics reports on.

Google are one of the top technology companies in the World and they have some very smart people with very smart security systems to keep their data safe. So trying to hack into Google would (other than being illegal) be nearly impossible, as Google has encrypted URL’s on all PPC ads which send data back to the Google AdWords database. Maybe there are hackers out there who could hack the Google database and get access to AdWords accounts (someone hacked Linked In recently by the looks of it) but we wouldn’t have the first idea how to go about doing that.

So how could someone hack  Google AdWords?

Well you wouldn’t hack into Google at all. What hackers are very good at doing is creating Trojans (you’ve probably heard of them) which are computer viruses which allow the hacker to talk to your computer (and in a sense…control it.) Hackers create these viruses and then input them into a piece of software which a user downloads not knowing the virus is there. Well, if a hacker created a trojan that got spread to 500,000 computers (with all unique settings that wouldn’t be picked up by Googles click fraud) that allowed that hacker to talk to all these computers, the hacker could then write a fairly simple script that could be get these computers to click on a PPC ad. If you had 500,000 computers clicking on competitors keywords every day, you would fairly soon ensure that your competitors would drop off that target keyword and you would control that keyword. Just think…what would that be worth to someone to control keywords like ‘Poker, Car Insurance, Credit Card or Bingo?’

In short…if you want to control a keyword, dont try and hack Google at all, try to control as many computers as you can.

Important: We are not suggesting try this…its just our rather stupid theory. And we dont want anyone doing anything illegal.

Brought to you by The BlackHatters.

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  1. j says:

    question is would it really get rid of all competitors or would the space constantly be filled by the broad and phrase matching bidders? Also what would happen to the CPC, increase due to the increased activity or decrease due to the lack of competition? The cpc wouldn’t likely fall below a certain point as you have suggested in the past, but it’d be interesting to know if it would go up or down. Botnets have so many uses!

    • blackhat says:

      Good points…something the BlackHatters were discussing between themselves. You may well be right in that even by depleting competitor budgets Google’s system may just find new ads to enter into the auction. However, there are minimum bid requirements for keywords to enter into auctions, so whether the space was filled with other competitor keywords is unknown. We dont know how quickly AdWords would react to such a change and whether it would bring down CPC’s if there were no competing ads or whether the CPC would stay high based on historical data.

  2. 5 Common PPC Optimisation Mistakes
    You’ve researched hundreds of long-tail keywords, organised them into granular ad groups, and crafted ad messages which closely match the ad group’s keywords. You then set your Google AdWords campaigns live.
    But after a while, you realise your PPC campaigns are not delivering the desired return on investment. You start making changes to bids, budgets, and keywords. Still no improvement, so you make more changes.
    It’s not long until you’ve lost track of what’s working and what’s not. Your keywords and ad groups become disorganised, your Quality Scores start to fall, and you start paying excessively high CPCs to chase after visitors and sales.
    If any of this sounds familiar, perhaps you need to take a step back and review your campaign optimisation strategy. Are you making intelligent and informed decisions based on reliable, insightful, and unbiased data? Or are your bids being changed and keywords paused in a random and haphazard fashion in a drastic effort to improve results?
    Below are 5 optimisation mistakes I’ve found myself guilty of from time to time, and some tips on how to avoid these common pitfalls.
    1. Basing decisions on too little data
    Data is a PPC advertiser’s best friend. Without knowing which keywords, ads, and landing pages perform better than other keywords, ads, and landing pages, it is almost impossible to create and maintain a profitable PPC campaign. But when assessing the performance of your campaigns, it’s all too easy to make uninformed changes to keyword bids and unnecessarily pause keywords and ads based on insignificant and unreliable data.
    A keyword which has received 1 click and delivered 1 sale is not a high performing keyword. Similarly, a keyword which has received 50 clicks and delivered no sales is not a poor performing keyword.
    Recommendations:
    200 clicks is a good rule of thumb – it gives the keyword or ad a fair chance to show its true worth, and any freak anomalies are likely to be cancelled out over a decent-sized data set. So avoid writing off keywords and ads with less than 200 clicks
    Use larger data sets, but keep track of the time ranges used during your analyses (point 4)
    2. Being too granular
    Another common mistake is placing too much emphasis on the performance of individual keywords and individual ads, and failing to see the bigger picture. If you look at only keyword data, you will fail to spot how each of your ad groups and campaigns are performing.
    Recommendations:
    If your individual keyword data is too small, look at your ad group data – you’re sure to uncover greater insights. And if you ad group data is too small, look at your campaign data.
    Same with ads. If you have the same ad messages across multiple ad groups, run a pivot table in Excel to benefit from a larger data set
    Try to only make optimisation changes when you have at least 200 clicks, so keep moving up a level until you have enough data set to make informed decisions – any changes you make will them be more likely to have a positive impact on your account performance.
    3. Assuming that just because a keyword or search query has converted in the past, it will convert again in the future
    Because it won’t. Well, not always anyway.
    People make a wide range of unique searches, so just because you made a sale after someone searched for ‘cheap Bahamas deals summer 2012′, does not mean that bidding on the keyword ‘cheap Bahamas deals summer 2012′ will deliver another sale in the future. Recommendations:
    Try to view your more obscure long-tail keywords as a whole, rather than individually
    Pick out themes from your search query reports to get more insightful understanding on what types of keywords and searches are working, rather than the individual searches and keywords
    4. Optimising the same data twice
    One of the easiest yet most dangerous mistakes to make when optimising campaigns regularly is to overlap your date ranges. You’ve selected data for the ‘last 30 days’, made your keyword bid changes, then carry out another bid optimisation 2 weeks later, again using the ‘last 30 days’ of data. Your bidding decisions will be based on overlapping data, so your changes will be made with poor judgement.
    Similarly, if you’ve changed bids in the middle of the month, but then view data for the whole of the month, your CPC, CTR, and average position data will not be representative of the current state of the campaigns.
    Recommendations:
    Record the date you make changes to your campaigns, and view data from that date onwards – it will then be more representative of the current state of the campaigns
    Download campaign statistics using AdWords Editor – when you come back to optimise your campaigns on a later date, you can see what date range was previously used and select a new date range from that date onwards
    Try to make routine changes such as bid adjustments at the same time each week or month, to get in the habit of selecting reliable date ranges (e.g. ‘last 7 days’)
    5. Being afraid to walk away
    There’s nothing more frustrating than investing huge amounts of time and effort into carrying out detailed analysis on your campaigns, only to find no findings whatsoever. After carefully compiling results to compare the profitability of prices versus non-prices in ads, or compare visitor engagement and returning visits of landing page A to landing page B, you secretly hope one proves to be a clear winner.
    Really, you do.
    But all too often, different ad messages and landing pages will perform exactly the same. When faced with such inconclusive and frustrating results, it’s often difficult to walk away and make absolutely no changes whatsoever to your campaigns. Despite the difficulty in doing so, walking away is essential to avoid making unnecessary and often detrimental changes to your campaigns.
    Recommendations:
    Realise that making changes based on insignificant data can worsen your campaign performance
    Create two identical copies of each ad style within the same ad group, and let them rotate – only if both ads AA clearly beat both ads BB (or vice versa), can you be confident of a clear winner

  3. Less is sometimes more
    PPC campaign optimisation is an art. Especially when you want to include engagement metrics such as time on site and returning visits. Changes to keywords and ads should not be made haphazardly – they should only be made after careful thought and analysis, using reliable and significant data sets.
    Not only does efficient and informed PPC optimisation require a good understanding of data analysis, but it also requires a good intuition and experience on when to make changes and when to walk away. Sometimes the best work you can do to a PPC campaign is to do no work at all.

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