It is ridiculously easy to use Google’s personalisation features to ‘trick’ analytics and bid management packages. If you believe shady folk make money in outsourcing click fraud activity to low wage economies then it’s easy to believe the same workforce can be used to make money with this technique.
Log into Google and look at the bottom of a set of search results. Near the bottom you get presented the search box again. Look just above that. There’s an option to ‘Add a result’.
It’s that ‘Add a result’ link that acts as a simple, powerful and potentially mischief making option.
The catch is that you should only be adding a result for your own use, as it’ll only apply when your Google account has been signed into the computer.
The fat cow prank
A work colleague of yours is a Flickr fan, with a pro account and looks at her Flickr web traffic stats now and then. Search Google for [fat cow at the xmas party], use the ‘Add a result’ to add a Flickr URL from her account of a photo of her at the office Christmas party, search again and click.
Your poor colleague will notice that people have started to be shown pictures of her after searching Google for [fat cow at the xmas party]
Turbo charging your affiliate earnings
You may come across computers that could be used with someone else logged into a Google account. For example, create a blank Google account and use it to log into the search engine on library computers, internet cafes or even your work’s PA or office assistant’s computer.
The chances are that people will continue to search Google and click on results before anyone logs out of the account. After all; do you check to see if you’re logged in before you examine a set of Google search results?
Use the ‘Add a result’ to match your affiliate tracking URLs to some popular and profitable keyword searches. For example, affiliate link to a generous airline by adding a result for [cheap flights to London] or make money from a wealthy hotel chain by adding your tracking URL to Google’s results for [hotels in Edinburgh].
What about configuring library computers so that Google results tended to link through to key classics and blockbusters on Amazon while also including your associates ID? What about linking the brand search [ebay], through your ebay affiliate account and back to the site?
This is one of easiest ways to abuse Google’s ‘Add a result’ feature and a trick agencies managing affiliate programs need to watch out for.
Defeating bid management software
Bid management platforms; rule based, portfolio based or even the hybrids will look at success and failure rates in order to determine bid techniques.
If you’re able to trick the bid management system into thinking the traffic you’re generating is unique, perhaps you have outsourced it, then you can turn successes into failures and fool the bid technology.
For example, the keyword [red widget] might be a great keyword for a campaign. It might convert most of the time and make a nice healthy profit. Using the ‘Add a result’ feature on Google someone could add the PPC tracking URL (or landing page query string) to the organic results. That would let a team of people click on that tracking URL often without ever clicking on the PPC results.
This means no click fraud and therefore no click fraud alerts. This team of people won’t be buying any red widgets and as a result, over time, the bid management software could notice that the CPC remain high but that the conversation rate has dropped far too low. It’ll stop bidding on that keyword or portfolio.
Not all bid management platforms fall for this trick but many do. Just as with the affiliates example the lesson here is that human eyes are sometimes necessary to spot trickery.
The dodgy SEO payment deal
Sometimes brands end up in a situation where they’re paying an SEO agency or technology provider for traffic sent through to either certain landing pages or via certain keywords.
Once again the ‘Add a result’ option at Google and the ability to make this traffic look unique can be all that’s required to ‘spoof’ traffic and make it seem as if a landing page is getting traffic for a keyword when it isn’t really.
I’m certainly not an advocate of any of these techniques (except for perhaps the ‘fat cow prank’ – although I tend to use it send geeky messages to friends instead) but do think it is important to shed light on these tricks so brands and ensure they don’t fall foul themselves.