The Top 4 Dirty Internet Marketing Tactics: What Every Business Owner Needs To Know
Ever since the days when two or more people were competing over anything, there has been cheating and dishonesty involved. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. Some people will do almost anything to get one over on a competitor, even if the advantage isn’t permanent or worth the risk.
It’s no surprise, then, that so many business owners (and their advisors) turn to unethical tactics when trying to get ahead in the world of online marketing. Not only is there a lot of money involved when a campaign succeeds but working on the internet gives some people the feeling of anonymity. They feel sure that whatever they do online will stay hidden forever.
That notion has driven some to push the envelope beyond the limits of common sense and everyday decency along with the stakes involved in online marketing getting higher every day. But, that doesn’t mean you have to let their ethical shortcomings affect your business.
Today, we’re going to shed some light onto the four most common dirty internet marketing tactics out there, so you know those tactics when you see them. Let’s look at them in order…
#1 Copied or Scraped Content
You are probably aware already that fresh, unique, and high-quality content is needed to attract customers over the internet. It takes content to pull in visitors from Google and the other search engines, to engage interested viewers on social media, and to convince the prospects that come to your website to take the next step and make a purchase or share their contact information.
You probably also know that developing content can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Wouldn’t it be nice if you would simply find a competitor who had plenty of great writing on their website or blog and simply borrows it for your own purposes?
That’s essentially what some marketers think when they decide to copy text content and images from a competitor’s website. The more sophisticated ones will go through the minor trouble of altering a few words or phrases here and there so their theft will be more difficult to detect.
This can be problematic for a couple of reasons. The first, most obviously, is that someone else is benefiting from your ideas and creative work. The second is that Google may become confused about which content source is legitimate and ignore both websites. That means you could lose search engine visibility because of a competitor’s action. It’s the business equivalent of failing a test because someone copied from you.
The easiest way to protect yourself against copied and scraped content is to use automated software tools that register your pages and posts with Google and then scour the internet to look for any unauthorized duplications. That way you can be sure the benefits from the valuable content you’re creating are coming back to your company.
#2 Fake Negative Reviews
Surveys have shown again and again that most new customers – more than three-quarters of them, in fact – will read online reviews before purchasing from a company they don’t know. For that reason, the feedback they see from older or existing buyers carries a great deal of weight in their buying decisions.
As a marketer, that means one of the smartest things you can do is beef up your online review profile. That is, get lots of verified buyers saying positive things about your products, services, and pricing. For a business owner who can’t get good reviews because they don’t have much to offer, though, there is a “second-best” option – hire someone to leave bad reviews for a competitor.
It only takes a few cases of negative feedback to impact your marketing in a big way. Or to look at things differently, just one or two bad reviews could be enough for a buyer to decide to check out your closest competitor instead. And, because it doesn’t take long to fill out a review, there are plenty of “services” out there who will leave dozens of them for next to nothing.
This is another area where some simple and low-cost tools can go a long way towards detecting fraudulent review activity. With the right safeguards in place, you can make sure none of your competitors manage to place false or misleading online reviews for your company. And if they try, you can ensure the damage is undone in hours instead of weeks.
#3 Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Fraud
In some businesses, like real estate and finance, competition for the top advertising positions on Google for a high-traffic keyword can be intense. We regularly see situations where a single click to a website can cost $20 or more. In those markets, the margins are tight, and there is a very pressing need to get budgets right and generate consistent results from paid search traffic.
Most marketers love to lower a competitor’s search engine ranking and get more traffic for themselves, particularly if they could do so at a lower cost. The easy way for them to do this is by having a team of overseas contractors click on another company’s ads again and again. That way, they blow out the competitor’s budget while ensuring they don’t get anything useful in return.
Google and the other search engines have algorithms meant to detect PPC fraud, but they aren’t perfect. Your best line of defense against this type of theft is to monitor your accounts closely and then watch what kind of corresponding activity you get on your website. In other words, either you or your web designer need to be checking that paid search traffic is legitimate and showing up in the places you would expect.
Without that added layer of scrutiny, you could end up paying thousands of dollars for advertising that was never really put into place.
#4 Link Bombing
A few years back Google started punishing marketers who paid for junk links to their websites. Through a series of algorithm updates, they first deemphasized link farms and then began to actively weed marketers who used them out of the search listings altogether.
This was very bad news for marketers who embraced spamming tactics, but these business owners and web designers found a way to put what they had learned back into use. Instead of generating thousands of spam links to their websites, they simply started aiming them at the competition. If they couldn’t help themselves, they could at least hurt the competition.
As a result, there are thousands and thousands of business owners out there who have never done anything unethical to promote their websites, and yet find themselves sinking like stones in Google search rankings because it appears as though they attempted to game the system. They have fallen prey to a practice called link bombing.
The best way to avoid being a target for these types of negative strategies is getting regular website audits for your business. That way, a trained programming and development team can dig into the HTML on your site and look at things the way Google’s spiders do. They’ll be able to tell in an instant whether you’ve seen a sudden influx of low-quality links point at your pages. Better yet, they can use automated tools to get rid of all of them and stop Google from counting the bad links against you.
Should You Turn the Tables?
In looking at these unethical marketing tactics, a question some business owners will ask is: if the competition is going to try to use tricks against me, should I consider returning fire or using them preemptively? In other words, is it worth it for you to try to use any of these tactics yourself?
We don’t think so. For one thing, playing dirty isn’t worth it. If you have been in business for a long time, or plan to be, your good name is worth more than a short-term marketing boost. Why risk your credibility for something that isn’t necessary?
In a more practical sense, none of these tactics works all that well. A smart web design team can detect all of them, and if you’re caught trying to employ them, the penalties could be severe. Copying the content and posting fake reviews, as examples, could easily be considered as theft and fraud. There’s no reason to get yourself in legal or ethical trouble for something that won’t benefit you very much or for very long.
It’s unfortunate that some marketers will stoop to the lowest level to try to hold you back, but you shouldn’t let them stop you or try to join their ranks. There are much better ways to take your business where it— needs to go.
Need common sense advice for promoting your company in the digital age? Contact WebWize in Houston today to see how our creative team can help!
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