Navigating Ethical Boundaries in PPC Marketing: Outperform Competitors without Damaging Your Brand

PPC Marketing
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PPC Marketing

Today, I took a few moments to review some of the online content about PPC marketing. I eventually came across a post entitled “17 most common PPC mistakes web marketers make” by Igor Mor.

Do PPC Marketing the Right Way

It was posted on Moz as part of their YOUMoz program, where they “claim” posts from others they deem appropriate. Since my last post was about the ongoing feud between some PPC gurus and SEO pros, I was interested in the topic.

As I read, I was quite pleased with the content and the expertise Mr. Mor obviously has obtained through his experience with previous PPC campaigns.

Unfortunately, my positive mood did not hold out until the end; I now wish this post had been named “16 most common PPC mistakes web marketers make” because the 17th point is not very good advice.

In points 8, 9, and 16, Mr. Mor makes it a point to discuss the importance of protecting your firm’s name from your affiliates and from your competition. This advice, although obvious to most business people, is very sound.

Your firm’s name and the proper branding of that name are of paramount importance in the marketing world, online or otherwise.

Ignore the stupid PPC Marketing strategies of the unethical

If your competition is using unethical marketing tactics to steal clients and benefit from your firm’s brand, or if they attempt to purposefully damage your firm’s reputation or brand image without cause, then by all means, firms need to do all they can do, including taking legal action, to stop these competitive threats.

I have no problem with this PPC marketing advice.

However, point 17 is so misguided and potentially dangerous, it severely reduces the quality of the post.

Here is the problem, in his last point, Mr. Mor suggests firms bid on the brand name of their competitors because “anyone searching for your competitor could easily be your customer instead” (ghastly logic) and “Most of the time the ROI on those keywords is excellent” (Ah, we make more money, so the practice is acceptable, the good ole “The ends justify the means argument”).

What makes the whole suggestion even more preposterous is that Mr. Mor explains earlier in point 8 that his firm frequently sends “legal letters” to their competitors to stop them from continuing this unethical PPC Marketing behavior.

So I guess we have an acceptable double standard here? We are instructed to engage in bidding on our competitor’s brand name as a good PPC marketing strategy. And we should make it a point to threaten our competitors with legal action if they attempt to use the same PPC marketing technique toward our brands. 🤦🏻‍♂️🤦🏻‍♂️🤦🏻‍♂️🤦🏻‍♂️

Even with my lower-than-average cognitive skills, it doesn’t sound so good to me. Mr. Mor’s closing sentence advises, “If you get a “legal letter” from the competitors and it holds water, I’d suggest complying with it.”

If we get a letter, and if it holds water?

I’m sorry, folks, that isn’t a letter I want waiting for me in the mailbox; the innumerable bills and credit card applications already in waiting when I make the daily trip to the mailbox is miserable enough.

I sometimes get frustrated with the disconnect between online and non-online business worlds. This maverick/old-west mentality online continues to percolate, where obviously unethical, and some employ potentially illegal marketing strategies with impunity.

Interestingly, the resulting vitriol from those caught in their back alley practices is impossible for me to comprehend. These unscrupulous marketers know what they are doing is sinister, but they risk it anyway for a few extra bucks.

How can they be so upset when they are shut down?

Here is another thought… I know I do not want the FTC, or any other government entity, to form an Internet Marketing Oversight group to start governing our every PPC marketing move. But suppose this sort of poor online marketing advice is continually doled out and routinely implemented.

In that case, I think we should expect some well-funded PAC to encourage government involvement in the future.

And they will do it in the name of consumer protection and fair trade enforcement, whether that is true or not. Just for fun, I took a second and went out and Googled “Dell Computers” and interestingly found no PPC ads for Apple or HP.

Clients aren’t fools; they will know when firms have attempted to hijack a competitor’s brand name. You still might get a sale, improving your ROI, but what has this ploy done to your company’s image?

It is hard to quantify in dollar terms, but it should be considered. It is considered by image conscience Fortune 100 companies.

My advice doesn’t bid on your competitor’s brand name in your PPC marketing campaigns; earn your money the old-fashioned way, work harder, work smarter, have a better product, offer superior customer service, run PPC ads on the long tail keywords, have fresh content on a site benefiting from solid SEO techniques.

Do it correctly, and stay above the murky waters of black-hat marketing tactics. You will sleep better knowing you will not receive a cease and desist letter from your competitor’s legal representatives for unethical behavior. Instead, do it the right way.

You may very well get an offer from a competitor to buy you out because they are sick of being hammered by your squeaky-clean, brilliantly employed PPC marketing efforts. Interestingly, your pristine brand will be worth your ridiculously high asking price. 😉