Did they really just do that?

It was one of the most shocking things I’ve seen in paid search.  One of those things that when you see it you have to do a double take to make sure what you thought you saw was real.  One of our clients competitors wrote a Google paid search ad that said “Say No to XYZ Company – Say Yes to Us.”  I’ve modified the exact wording of the ad slightly, but the intention was clear.  This was not an ad designed to compare the attributes of two competitors, but rather it was an intent to hurt the reputation of one of the most respected companies in this particular niche.  To compound the matter, this company also repeated this same tactic on others in the market.  There are three quick lessons learned from this overly aggressive strategy.

Desperation Driven Marketing

As the economy has tightened it has been a time when we’re able to see the values and ethics of an organization rise to the surface.   Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”  This is not only important for you company, but also for those you work with.  Regretfully not every company has the same ethics or plays by the same rules, as seen in this PPC example.  For this reason we are increasingly seeing the need for us to perform continual link forensics to watch for negative SEO.  Negative SEO can include a competitor creating link spam simply for the purpose to try to bring harm to a brand.  For this reason it is becoming increasingly important to monitor all the links being built to your site with a focus on looking for unusual spikes or trends.  While we use our enterprise platform to perform this analysis for our clients, there are a number of other tools to consider including SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO.  In addition, consider adding on-going social media reputation management even if you use a tool like Social Mention (free tool), Radian6, Trackur, and if you suspect a threat to your intellectual property we’d recommend reviewing MarkMonitor.  There are also a few sites now specializing in monitoring review sites that are dedicated to keeping you abreast of mentions of your company on a variety of platforms.  One of these review tools you may want to consider is   ReputationRanger.com.  Desperate times sometimes results in desperation driven marketing, but there are a number of ways that you can protect yourself and if something does happen you can be the first to know.

Fully Engaged Marketing Partner Relationships

After the situation mentioned above was brought to the attention of the president of the offending company he said that we was completely unaware of the strategy his online marketing company had put into place.  While we have some doubts about how much he really knew, it highlights the need for marketing communications professionals to have a close working relationship with their internet marketing agency about all facets of their campaign.  Everyone is busy, but one of the best investments you can make is to have regularly scheduled calls with your web marketing agency not only to discuss the details of your campaign, but also to share background on your unique marketplace as well as insights into some of your competitors.  In one client situation we learned that a competitor was facing some tough times which in turn revealed that they had allowed a large portion of their domain portfolio to expire.  These regular calls can be one of the best investments you’ll ever make in your online marketing.

Online Competitive Intelligence

Work with your web marketing agency to set-up a plan that involves on-going online competitive intelligence.  While Google Alerts is a great way to start you may wish to build up your program to use tools like Compete.com and KeywordSpy to stay abreast of changes that your competitor may be making online.   We recommend that you schedule this as part of a routine part of your online discussion. This can also be extremely important as you work on developing your online budget for next year.