Posted on June 2, 2007
Filed Under Online Tools |
Courtesy of Negative-Marketing.com
The purpose of this article is to consider the scenario of Negative Marketing Campaign against online casino. Let us consider such a scenario on an example of hypothetical site casino-eiffel.com.
1.1 What makes online casino a tempting target for online attacks?
• Online casinos are the largest cash caws of Internet business
• Offshore status of online casinos and ban of gambling in many countries create considerable obstacles for legal persecution against party launching Negative Marketing Campaign
• Online casino revenues are dependable on search engine results which makes them extremely vulnerable from this angle of attack
Recent wave of DDoS against online casinos (when most of the victims paid ransom $50,000) has confirmed the choice of online casino as attractive and vulnerable target of potential attack.
1.2 What is Negative Marketing Campaign?
MUDSLINGING, NAME-CALLING, ACCUSATIONS. Sounds like a bad way to run a marketing campaign but all those negative ads may have a more effective result than you think. What many of us call “negative” or “attack” ads are termed “comparative” ads by those in the industry, and the bottom line is that they appear to work. “They’re very effective,” says Rick Farmer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of political science at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, who has studied the impact of comparative ads. Farmer, other researchers and campaign consultants agree that negative ads are more memorable than positive ones. In political campaigns, comparative ads work because “people have a cynical view of politics and tend to believe the negative very quickly,” says Farmer.
Though many Americans say they don’t like negative political ads, research by faculty members at the University of Georgia found that not only are attack ads initially effective, but their impact increases over time, perhaps because they produce an emotional response. And positive ads used to counter them are not as effective because they’re ultimately less powerful than the opponent’s attack ad.
Let us get back to Online Negative Marketing Campaign.
“According to web guru Jakob Nielsen, for most brands their Google search page is their “home” page, as far as Internet users are concerned. Research shows that more people visit “Ford” on Google than visit the Ford home page. But for many top UK brands their Google search results are dominated by negative commentary, insults, misinformation, or systematic campaigns against them.
A survey by Market Sentinel (www.marketsentinel.com) – a UK-based company specialising in online monitoring and response – shows that twenty of Britain’s top fifty grocery brands have negative commentary amongst the top ten results on their Google search page. For some the negative comment is the number one result.” - From Market Sentinel White Paper “Search is Brand”
In a recent survey of a Google search on the top 50 UK grocery brands, 20 were found to have detractors in the top ten results, including Coca-Cola, Walker’s crisps, Lucozade, Mars bars and McCain oven chips. See also 29 of Fortune 100 Have Negative Google Results. 25 of top 30 FTSE companies were “not easily found” by search. Blogs are increasingly rivaling mainstream media for mindshare. 15 of the top 37 online news sources are blogs. Blog stories have recently had serious consequences for brands – Kryptonite locks recalled their product at a cost of $10m.
Let us define the goals of Online Negative Marketing Campaign:
• To create dominating visibility of negative comments (detractions) in search engine results
• To lower or destroy search engine ranking of the target pages
• To detract visitors from target pages by discrediting brand, blocking access and attracting visitors either to negative comment pages or to competitors’ pages.
While for grocery brands such campaign might by only collaterally damaging, for online business the results will be catastrophic. Unfortunately, economics of Online Negative Marketing Campaign favors “bad guys”. Just like Ben Laden terrorist attack launched at the cost of a few hundred thousand dollars effectively caused damages capable to cripple country’s economy, in much the same way thousands of blogs with zero cost can wipe out the whole value of casino domains (with painstakingly built reputation, search engine ranks and millions invested into their advertising).
1.3 What are the tactics and weapons of Online Negative Marketing Campaign?
1.3.1 Establishing Adversary Sites
The first step in mounting Online Negative Marketing Campaign is to establish adversary sites. A good example of adversary site is paypalsucks.com – “an anti paypal site to expose the nightmare of doing business “the paypal way.” The site enjoys Page Rank #6 in Google, traffic rank #38,548 in Alexa, links in 126 (much in the same league as casino-eiffel.com – Page Rank #6 in Google, traffic rank #2,800 in Alexa). Blogs with public hosting provide good alternative to primary domains as adversary sites – they are immediately indexed, flexible and untraceable to publisher.
1.3.2 Optimizing Adversary Sites for Search Engines
The next step is to perform SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for casino-eiffelsucks.com (domain name is fictional, just for example) but let us first analyze links to Casino-eiffel.com. These links are the main factor of casino-eiffel.com page rank. Casino-eiffel.com has 986 links in Yahoo and 334 links in Google. Casino-eiffel.com and its affiliated sites are optimized mostly for highly competitive generic keywords like online casino, online roulette, online poker, online baccarat, etc.
Let us assume that if casino-eiffelsucks.com will get 1,000 links in Yahoo and 300 links in Google (from different domain name/class C IP addresses), the search results of casino-eiffelsucks.com will be highly visible together with results casino-eiffel.com. However, casino-eiffelsucks.com does not have to compete with casino-eiffel.com on generic keywords, but it should be rather optimized for the following combinations unique for casino-eiffel.com, like: casino eiffel (2469 searches monthly – Overture), casino eiffel review, online casino eiffel, casinoeiffel, eiffel keno, eiffel baccarat, eiffel roulette, eiffel blackjack, rogue casino, etc. Competition for unique keyword combinations is considerably less than for generic keywords. Our research of casino-eiffel.com and affiliated domains shows that for certain keyword combinations a few dozens of links would be sufficient to get within first ten search results.
1.3.3 Negative Search Engine Optimization of Target Site
Sometimes overzealous SEO experts are getting results contrary to desired – page ranks lowered and domains removed from Goggle’s or Yahoo’s index. This step is based on the principle that excessive SEO may be extremely damaging. Let us consider the following practices that may damage current ranking of casino-eiffel.com:
• Spamming Google’s Submit URL service (http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl) with URL of the target site – achieved easily with automatic script
• Spamming comments in blogs and forums with awkward messages appearing to promote casino-eiffel.com – achieved easily with automatic script
• Spamming comments in blogs in forums with negative remarks
• Spamming emails sent with target site extension. Just imagine the impact of false awkward advertising emails sent to millions users from false firstname.lastname@example.org
• Linking to casino-eiffel.com from blacklisted or ill-reputed link farm
• Multiple URL re-directs from fishy and shadow domains (like casino–eiffel-poker-online.com) as well as from “door pages”
• False requests to Google to remove site from listing
• False complaints to Google (combined with real ones resulting from spamming)
• Manual analysis of existing links to casino-eiffel.com with the purpose of identifying shadow links and reporting them to Google. It seems that at current level of shadow linking to casino-eiffel.com, generating artificial shadow links might be completely unnecessary – just regularly reporting them will do the job.
According to the ComScore Media Metrix reports Google’s market share is 36.5%. Yahoo ranked second with 30.5% of the market share. while both MSN and Yahoo improved. MSN’s market share is 15.5%. Therefore it would be sufficient to focus on Google, Yahoo and MSN search engines to suppress 80 % positive search results.
The specifics of the main search engines should be accounted in mounting Negative Marketing Campaign. MSN and Yahoo are easier manipulated than Goggle into getting the negative results among top searches. From the other side Google is easier manipulated into lowering Page Rank, and even removing the search results of targeted site from its index.
1.3.4 Multiplying Effects of Negative Marketing Campaign
Effects of Negative Marketing Campaign can be multiplied by posting negative comments on forums dealing with scam and fraud, such as Diligizer (currently suspended), Quatloos or KYC. Search engine robots scan these forums on hourly basis. Interviews with online businesses indicate that most of their losses stem from negative comments on these forums. Potential customer gets cold feet the moment he/she sees reference to the target site on sites dealing with scam and fraud. If forum supports HTML, it offers even better opportunities for hyperlinking adversary site on unique terms and target site on “scam” and “fraud” associative keywords.
2.1 Motivation of adversary side
• Ransom demand
• Antigambling sentiments
• Competitor’s attack
Motivation behind the Negative Marketing Campaign is important only for understanding of snowball effect of attack. Once visibility of negative comments reaches the critical mass, many new participants join the party.
Attack can be launched by task force of 2 – 5 SEO experts with access to established link farms. Subcontracting additional outside link farms will greatly increase negative exposure. Let us assume that 10 adversary sites (mix of domains and blogs) will be launched within one week with 1,000 of supporting links in Yahoo (about 300 links in Google). While we consider 1,000 of supporting links in Yahoo as benchmark for this case, the number of 10,000 is quite plausible for SEO expert. One month later negative search results will surface in vicinity of 30% positive search results. In three months about 50% of positive results will be counterbalanced by negative. These figures do not account multiplying effects from spamming comments and suppressing Page Rank of the target site. The result could be truly devastating – it may affect as much as 40% of revenues. In several reported cases, when online business depended heavily on customers’ credibility, Negative Marketing Campaigns have succeeded to discredit completely brand name and domain.
Attempts to refute mudslinging on Web are pathetic at their best and could be really harmful in blowing up visibility of negative comments. Attempts to close adversary sites and blogs will succeed too late (if ever) when damage will be irreparable. The best course of defense is to prevent attack within first month. Time is critical factor.
While budgets of SEO services for online casinos measure by six digit figures, the Negative Marketing Campaign can be launched on very modest budget - as little as $500 paid to Indian SEO expert might cause a lot of annoyance, $100 paid to Russian spam experts will buy 1 – 10 mln spam email messages, $10,000 paid to team of 2 – 5 SEO experts will do maximum damage.
The perspectives that face established online business in encounter with professional disruptive task force mounting Negative Marketing Campaign are extremely bleak. Budget of attacking force and potential damage differ at order of magnitudes. Attacking force has economic, positional and technical advantage.