Episode 32: Blackhat PPC special

Play this episode:

Or get it on:

What's in this episode?

Mark Williams-Cook and Rob Lewis will be talking about blackhat PPC! Mark and Rob will go into some depth about the rules some PPC practioners are breaking and how they are profiting from it.

Podcast transcription:

MC: Welcome to Episode 32 of Search with Candour podcast! Recorded on Friday the 18th of October 2019. My name is Mark Williams-Cook and as usual, I am joined by Mr. Rob Lewis.

RL: Hello.

MC: And today you are in for a treat; we have a special episode for you. We are going to be talking all about blackhat PPC; so blackhat pay-per-click - what are people doing to break Google’s rules? How are they getting away with it? And how are they making money from it?

Hey Rob.

RL: Hello!

MC: I'm really excited about this episode because I haven't, I've only scanned over Rob's notes to get the headlines about what he's gonna be talking about. I actually don't know that much about blackhat PPC myself and that's probably a good thing, so I'm just gonna fire questions at you as you're talking and so I might interrupt you a few times if I don't understand something you’re saying.

Before we begin, I think it's a good idea just to very quickly define what we mean when we say black hat. So in terms of computing that term is used a little bit differently to marketing, so in computing especially in security, you'll get white hat and black hat practitioners and generally when you’re referring computing to someone who's a black hat practitioner, it will be because they're doing things that are normally illegal - so black hat security people might be trying to break into systems they don't have permission to for instance. in terms of digital marketing the most common association is probably with SEO, so black hat SEO and the specific definition here of black hat SEO for me at least and for the context will be talking in here's black hat SEO refers to SEO that just is against these search engines or in this case against Google's Terms & Conditions - their guidelines - which means it's not necessarily anything illegal you're doing, it's just Google says here's how we want you to operate, here are the rules if you break them, we might you know suspend your website your your account or whatever is if you're doing Google Ads. of course it doesn't mean they're exclusively not illegal things so in terms of blackhat SEO, a common technique now is you see people get their websites hacked and they have links injected into them and this is, of course, Google doesn't want you to do this it's blackhat SEO but it's also illegal as well. but I think it's just important to clear up when people talk about black hat techniques, they're not necessarily talking about really naughty things, it's just whether you want to obey Google's rules, which is your choice at the end of the day.

And so we're gonna talk about Google Ads right?

RL: We are yes!

MC: so I'm just gonna gonna give the mic to you now Rob and I interrupt you. I'm just gonna probably put my hand up when I have a question.

RL: Go for it!

MC: Okay, so yeah tell us about blackhat! Tell us about what people are doing, why Google doesn't want them to do it and why they're doing it, how they're making money from it.

RL: Okay well this talk is gonna focus on black cat pay-per-click search techniques, as opposed to black hat techniques that people carry out in order to drive clicks on their website through Adsense advertising. For anyone that doesn't know what Adsense advertising is, it's when you can monetize your website by showing banner advertising on your own publishing space and you get money for every time someone clicks on your adverts, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about black cap techniques that pay-per-click marketers may or may not carry out, and I suppose it will help just to start off with an example. The first one is double serving, which is where, as the name suggests, you are serving an advert more than once, at the same time.

MC: I know about this one.

RL: You do. Would you like to explain this one?

MC: Absolutely not.

RL: So double serving is something that we come across from time to time, strangely enough it's it's very rife in the real estate business and the solicitor or lawyer sector. I don't know why the latter one specifically, you'd think that they would be very white hat, but in my experience there's a lot of solicitors that like to dabble in double serving.

So essentially double serving is where you show a Google advert at the same time and but you show more than one, so you show more than one advert at the same time, for the same search. so someone could be carrying out a search for customized coffee mugs and three adverts may appear two or more rich may be from the same advertiser. now really only one advert should show for one search at any given time, it's okay to have a shopping advert appear and a search advert up appear, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about more than one search advert appearing at the same time, for a single search query. and the way that businesses tend to get around that, is by creating a number of fake, I call them fake businesses, they're more like sister companies, branch offs of their main company with a different website domain and it's a slightly different brand but exactly the same product offering and if you were to research the business, you'd find it they probably have the same business address, the same head office.

MC: It sounds like when companies are creating shell companies to do stuff with tax.

RL: Exactly. It’s exactly the same but it's to do with having their advert show multiple times for the same search and they're doing it, I guess for two reasons, one is they want a monopoly for certain keywords they only want they want to take up as much of Google's premium advertising space as possible, they want so I guess more effectively control their cost per click and they just want all the business essentially.

MC: I guess if you've got a big budget and you could get away with double, triple, quadruple serving, you're essentially starving off your competitors, may be a cost to yourself but you're just preventing them from that whole area.

RL: Yeah I mean, I don't see it that often but when I have seen it, it's always being the offenders that do it, they know exactly what they're doing and they know they're going to get caught, it's as if they've always got a spare website in production ready for the next double serving scheme that they're doing. And you can, you can report them to Google, but when Google identifies someone who is double serving, what they tend to do is merge all of the accounts into one so they don't block, they don't ban them from advertising on Google, they just give them a slap on the wrist and say don't do that again.

MC: So there isn't a huge downside?

RL: There isn't, but I personally wouldn't want to risk it if my lifeblood was through Google Ads advertising, I wouldn't want to run the risk of being told that I can never advertise on their platform again.

MC: What's the vector of reporting, if you see someone doing this? What's the best way to go about telling tales?

RL: There is a support form for Google where you can report adverts that are breaking policies. In most cases they will look into it within two or three days, but from what I've heard regarding double serving it can sometimes take up to a month for them to actually do something about it once they've identified a website as double serving.

MC: So that's a significant amount of time in some areas with a lot of searches, yeah a lot of money.

RL: Yeah but double servings are massive no no and you'll find as one of their top policies on their policy centre.

MC: I guess it was one of the things you could kind of do accidentally as well, if you didn't know about that rule and you had, you know, some sort of sub brands if you like; you're selling the same thing. I've encountered companies that basically sell the same products, under two different brands, to two different audiences and they could be guilty of that, almost without knowing.

RL: Absolutely and I did actually do an investigation about double serving the other year, for this kind of thing that came up for a client actually and we spent some time speaking with Google about what actually constitutes a business being too similar so that it falls onto the double serving category and they came back with an email saying that the branding needs to be - I can't offer that, I don't have the data in front of me, annoyingly - but it was something like, the branding and the product offering has to have a 65% difference, I'm not entirely sure the exact figure they gave but I thought at the time ‘well how do you measure the difference in cost and branding to be able to safely run a double serving campaign’ and it's perfectly normal for businesses to launch different ventures or for stakeholders of companies, owners of companies, to have different businesses that sell a similar product but here's Google saying, there's a specific rule where there's a difference and if you break that difference then you one account could get barred and it's just it's quite a gray area.

MC: It's a really specific percentage

RL: Yeah I'd say what I'll do is, I'll find the percentage after this and maybe we can post it.

MC: And we need the formula as well of course of how to calculate that.

RL: Yeah well Google when it's infinite wisdom, very rarely gives you definitive answers

MC: Oh that’s a shame!

RL: Yeah the short straw answer with double serving is yes, it you can accidentally do it but you're more likely to accidentally do it, if you have multiple Google Ads accounts. if you have a single Google Ads account and you have the same keyword appear multiple times, ads are only going to show for the keywords or ads that are driving the highest ad rank. So you're unlikely to double serve accidentally if you are only using one Google Ads account.

MC: Cool, so what else have we got apart from doubles serving?

RL: Stealing other people's trademarks and using them in your ad copy. so if anyone's listening and they've had this problem, you know exactly what I'm talking about. it's when a competitor isn't just bidding on your brand name as a keyword, which is allowed in Google ads allow that, but it's where the your competitor is also using your trademark in their own ad text. And in the cases that I've dealt with, when I've had to appeal these things, I've always tried to contact the agency or the advertiser directly before I go through Google and most of the time, they'll always say the same excuse, which is that it was an accident because they were bidding on the brand keyword, but that the keyword was dynamically inserted automatically into the advert.

MC: That’s convenient.

RL: Yeah I mean, I like to think that if you're monitoring a pay-per-click campaign and you've got dynamic insertion your ads and the keywords are going to be inserted, you're gonna know that that's going to happen and you'd like to keep an eye as to what type of keywords are generating impressions of your ads. So if you've got other competitor campaign that's bidding on your competitors and you're using keyword insertion, it's a given that that's going to happen.

In my experience, most advertisers the moment you say, you're in breach of our trademark, you don't have permission to use it, please remove it, the advertiser is generally pretty quick to do something about that.

MC: Yeah, because there is actual laws around that kinda stuff.

RL: Yeah but I've also seen cases where people - you see, is that blackhat? I'd say maybe what I've just explained is gray hat, but…

MC: Isn't gray hat just black hat you can get away with?

RL: Possibly yes.

MC: In the SEO definition at least.

RL: On the subject of trademark, using someone else's trademark without permission, I'd say it gets into black cap territory where people are brazenly using your trademark but they're trying to change the context of its usage. So I’m going to give a really bad, made up example…

MC: I can’t wait for this…

RL: Imagine if you were bidding on the term ‘Amazon’ because you were a bit like, obviously not as big as Amazon, but you're trying to set up a store that's like Amazon. You couldn't get away with saying in your ad text don't shop at Amazon, shop here - they wouldn’t like that. So an advertiser may try getting away with something like, shopping that's so hot it's hotter than the Amazon ,and then bid on the brand name Amazon. You know that's a terrible example, but that's what people do!

MC: I guess including the including that trademark in the ad text is gonna do a few things. It's probably gonna improve click-through rate just because people have typed that word and then they see that word and they're not gonna spend ages reading it...

RL: Yes.

MC: And I guess it has a small impact on the kind of quality scores, because you're matching the ad to the keyword right? So that means that you're paying less per click, if you can get away with that.

RL: Competitor brand bidding typically generates lower quality scores because the brand name often, not always, but often doesn't have anything to do with the product on which you want to bid on. so it often makes sense to put the competitors brand name in the ad text but of course, you’re not allowed to do that because you don't have permission to use that trademark. But as with the double serving if you see a competitor doing that and you are not having any luck speaking to them directly, you can always submit a complaint through to Google; they will ask you in this particular case, to provide details of the copyright owner, show proof that you are the copyright owner, and it can be a bit of a long-winded process and I'm not going to lie, it can sometimes be a bit frustrating when other competitors are using your brand name and they're not allowed to, but Google have to abide by EU regulations and other laws.

MC: It takes a while to get sorted.

RL: So ultimately if someone is infringing on your copyright, Google - and you can prove that they are - then Google have to stop the advertiser from bidding on it.

MC: There's a whole other and highly contested subject around brand bidding and whether it's worth being on your own brand and brands being on other brands because I saw there was quite a viral tweet from the people at Basecamp, who were moaning about the fact they had to bid on their own brand name, to protect it, because their competitors were and there's a big discussion around that and whether you know, some people don't realise their ads, so you have to bid and then the whole case of when you start bidding on your own brand name, it forces prices up for other people, kind of, so it doesn't make it as worthwhile. but anyway, let's not get side tracked on that!

So we've done double serving, we've done trademark stuff. What else have we got?

RL: Okay. People that use pay-per-click to sell products that they're not allowed to sell through pay-per-click. so Google has a number of products that are non-compliant or they disallow them, you're not allowed to sell them and I'm not necessarily talking about illegal items although I'm sure people do try selling illegal items through Google pay-per-click from time to time. but I'm talking about things that Google specifically doesn't want you to sell and has band them. so things like hacking software, certain types of medical products that it may deem to be immoral to try and sell to people, e-cigarettes for example, Google has a ban on those. basically anything Google doesn't want showing up in its feed, it doesn't want you to dirty its feed with the things that it deems are morally questionable or which could potentially be unsafe to people, but may not necessarily be illegal to some.So typically if you were to try and sell that sort of thing on Google, the AdWords would usually be automatically disapproved. It will scan the landing page, it’ll scan the ad text and you wouldn't be able to sell it.

I used to freelance a while back, and one of the things that I was frequently approached to do by random advertisers, was to sell things that are non-compliant on Google and I found this really interesting. That thought was, it’s a whole other business of people selling stuff that Google specifically say that you're not allowed to do. And I was thinking about this, so I never worked with any of these people, but often wondered how they got away with it and I thought about it for a while, and I thought the only way I can see that they would do it, would be to sell them through shopping ads but first of all submit a compliant shopping feed, build up enough background history and then once the shopping feed had been manually reviewed by humans at Google, start implementing things and trying to cloak them and selling the items that Google doesn't allow. MC: So I guess buying time. So with just like in SEO, brand new websites tend to be under much closer scrutiny than ones that have been around for years and years, which is why there's been a huge trade-in in catching domains that are relevant to your niche, your kind of category, that have a backlink profile because basically they appear to be more trusted by Google. So you've gotten a bit of width to get away with these things.

RL: When you consider the amount of people use Google, I appreciate that such an understatement, that the sheer amount of people, every day, of minute of the day, carrying out a search to buy a product on Google. If you can appear, as in you can be the only person to appear for a product that Google doesn't allow, even for the space of 24 hours - imagine you can get away with for a week, for a month, you're gonna get a lot of visibility for your brand, for that product and you're gonna probably generate a lot of revenue, which is why people do it.

So on that note, slightly separate, but I think it's related. I also used to have quite a few merchants or advertisers contact me asking if I had personal Google ad accounts for sale, and they would specifically state that had to have at least a year's worth of history. and of course I'd never do that I'd never want to sell accounts, I mean what are they gonna do with it? it just sounds sounds wrong, sounds illegal

MC: so you definitely didn't do that? Just to get that on record.

RL: Just to clarify, I definitely didn't! I haven't done any of these things to be clear. But the only thing I could think of is that much, like what you were saying with how a new SEO site is under closer scrutiny, I would assume that a Google Ads account with several years worth of billing history is gonna get under a lot less scrutiny and less likely to get banned, than the new account that's instantly committed of policy violations.

MC: That makes sense, yeah.

RL: So they probably want to buy and obviously it happens because I've been contacted by and if anyone else is listening and they’ve been contacted, it'd be really interesting to hear what they were offering. But I assume they're doing that because they want to sell disallowed products, products that aren't allowed to be sold on Google and they want to make a fast buck, essentially. That's a super blackhat that one!

MC: Yeah, yeah. You’ve given me ideas though Rob!

RL: Oh really? I could see your brain ticking. The next one I'd like to talk about is affiliate brand bidding and Mark you know all about affiliates, being a successful ex-affiliate yourself.

MC: I've done a few affiliate things yeah.

RL: Well I used to manage some affiliate accounts for some big brands a while back, I don't do it anymore, I'm out of touch with it. But when I used to do it, one of the things used to really annoy me was affiliate publishers bidding on your brand on pay-per-click, even though the terms and conditions specifically stated ‘no brand bidding on pay-per-click’

MC: Aha, yeah we don't care about that!

RL: Yeah clearly not. so maybe mark you should explain how affiliate. affiliate marketing looks very quickly because you’ll explain it more eloquently than I will.

MC: I don't know about that. So affiliate marketing - essentially you gonna have two parts of this puzzle, you have the merchant which is you, the company, the producer of the products or the provider of the surfaces and you will have affiliates who will take part on your affiliate scheme and generally how it will work is, these people will do things to drive you traffic which maybe, they might advertise you in their email list, they might write content about your products and services that attract and search engine traffic, they might actually just bid - like we're talking about now on paid services like Google ads, like Quora - to get interested people. Basically they will click links to your website and if they go ahead and purchase the product or service within a predefined time frame, usually the merchants, although there are some what I would call blackhat merchants out there, usually the merchants will pay the affiliate a commission for that sale. Is that good enough for you?

RL: That's perfect, yeah thanks. So one of the problems I used to have was affiliates publishers consistently breaking the terms and conditions, and most of the time you'll pick it up and you're just decline their commission, you’ll go ‘nope’ and then you can as an advertiser, you can either give them a warning and tell them not to do it again or you can ban them from the program because they're consistently in breach of the Terms of Service. what I found for and this happens as well with some pretty big publishers that I sometimes work with, is that they used to get really cheeky with the brand bidding and what they would do is, they would exclude, they would do their research, they'd find out who the marketing agency was or where about the actual advertiser was based and they would exclude their pay-per-click brand ads from showing in those locations. So back then, what I used to do was often I changed my Google location settings to say that I was somewhere else, rather than being based in Norwich, I'd say that I was in Nuneaton for example and I'd do a search for the brand and I'd see that the offending pay-per-click brand advert appear.

So, this was when I was quite a new affiliate manager and I got to see it happen time and time again, so it prompted me to spend more time in analytics; looking at dubious traffic from affiliates that have an incredibly high conversion rate that goes straight to the home page. So if anyone is having an affiliate campaign managed or you're managing it yourself, do you have a look at really high converting affiliates that consistently send people to the homepage, that have a conversion rate that's equal, if not slightly different to your typical brand conversion rate, because the likelihood is they're just sending brand traffic to your site and borrowing brand traffic that you would have got anyway.

So that's my, I don't know what Mark's ex affiliate opinion is on that one?

MC: Well you have to make a living.

RL: Okay, fair enough! Speaking of affiliates, I did have a thought the other day about the pay for conversions model and Google Ads, we were having this discussion weren’t we?

MC: Yes, this was a very interesting discussion!

RL: And how it could potentially be used to generate lots of free traffic. So just to very quickly explain, if you generate over 100 conversions a month in Google Ads, then you may be eligible to, rather than use pay-per-click bidding or pay per impression bidding for display campaigns, you can use pay for conversions where you only pay if a conversion has been generated.

So a while back I thought, well why don't you just create a conversion goal that fires really easily, like an engagement goal, for like when someone spends 20 seconds on the website, it fires a goal. Within a day or so you're going to have - probably sooner than a day - you're going to have at least 100 conversions and then you're going to be eligible for paper conversions. I spoke to a Google Account Manager about this once and they said ‘yeah there's nothing wrong with doing’ - that was from Google, that's what they said.

MC: I don't know if that person properly fully grasped where you were going.

RL: Funnily enough, I've not actually spoken to, that account managers disappeared off the radar now! But what I was gonna say is it got me thinking the other day, if I were an affiliate I would definitely use the pay for conversions model on display advertising. I would create a goal that generates and fires really easily and then once I'm eligible for paper conversions, I just set up a new display campaign, set it to pay for conversions on my standard sales or goal, I'd get thousands and thousands of free clicks and then every time someone clicks, I drop my affiliate link through to the merchants website and then I'd imagine that would be a really cheap rate to get potentially thousands of impressions and clicks, at a low to zero costs.

MC: Which we are absolutely not condoning…

RL: No.

MC: But it’s an interesting thought.

RL: I wonder if anyone’s done it.

MC: I’m absolutely sure someone has done that.

RL: Yeah, I mean, that’s pretty blackhat.

MC: If not, I’m sure someone will now.

RL: That' one of those ones where it's probably in breach of Google's Terms of Service, in fact I'd say there probably, definitely is...

MC: Probably, definitely!

RL: But at the same time, there's probably not a specific policy talking about misuse of the paper conversion model, if there is I've not seen it. But I just thought it was an interesting one to throw out there for discussion.

MC: Merchants beware.

RL: Hmm, just a quick one on blackhat stuff, creepy personalised advertising.

MC: I love a creepy personalised ad.

RL: Really?! I've been getting one lately, I don't know if you've been getting it too...

MC: There's a there's a new feedback thing, I saw a screenshot of on Facebook, for why did you hide this ad and it gives you some options like, you know I wasn't interesting, seen it too many times and one of the options is it knows too much - it's one of three options the feedback options now for Facebook ads!

RL: Well I wasn't too happy the other day when I got served a Google Display advert and it said, ‘we miss you Candour Agency’ - which obviously the company for whom I work. It knew where I worked and it actually said ‘we miss you Candour Agency, I won't say who that advertiser is, but it’s pretty big advertiser and I thought, that's definitely in breach of Google's Terms of Service. I don't know whether the company knows that they are or not, but I'm waiting for the advert to be shown to me again so I can take a screenshot and then have a discussion of their marketing manager, just thought it be interesting.

MC: Nobody likes a grass.

RL: Well, I'm just one of those people; I like to write complaint letters. I just thought, you know, it's against Google's Terms of Service to create personalised ads that give away personal information or the infer personal traits or certain traits about the user, and that definitely breached that because it said where I worked.

MC: It's kind of interesting because you're allowed to target the ads based on these things right?

RL: Yes.

MC: But there's a policy that you're basically not allowed to make the end-user aware that that's how you're targeting.

RL: Yeah. I mean those ads probably, if maybe I haven't seen them for the last few days because they've been flagged and they've been banned by Google, but I imagine they've got pretty high click-through rates; you know these personalised ads. But again, they're breaking Google's Terms of Service.

MC: I think Facebook did something similar, where you could essentially when you could import the email addresses they had a really tiny amount - I think when I launched you could target by a list of email addresses and at the very start you could just use one. So if you got hold of one person's email address, you could do like a personalised job advert, just to them which obviously is incredibly...

RL: To Facebook's credit, they've recently started - I think ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, they've really tightened up the type of targeting, the type of messaging you can do. I know in the medical sector for example, people used to use Facebook to target potential patients for you know, various medical products and services because it's a lot easier to do so on Facebook and I know Facebook have been tightening up that side of things up.

MC: I think there see where they get the data from now on ADs can’t you? So you can see how you were targeted as well.

RL: Yeah and I know they've been advertising on TV as well recently, I don't know if you've seen a new Facebook adverts about how you can secure your identity online and control your privacy settings, so they're making a lot of changes there.

I guess I've gone on a bit of a tangent there but when it comes to purse when it comes to personalised banner advertising, that includes your name or your place at work, it is definitely against Google's Terms of Service. I'd need to speak to a GDPR lawyer to have more information about that.

MC: No, nobody wants us to talk about GDPR, that's boring.

RL: Let's move onto the next one, we're near the end. Downright fraud - just being fraudulent; so using Google Ads or Bing ads, you know there are other search engines you can use. Using pay-per-click activity specifically to trick users; whether it’s to steal their data, maybe their bank card details, anything. you know I see this very rarely nowadays, I can't actually remember the last time I saw a potentially fraudulent ad on Google search results, although I did see one on Bing a while back but never mind.

So Google was pretty much on the ball with this type of thing, so just to give a couple of examples. I know a few years back in Google, I noticed a spate of ads where I was looking for customer service number for my bank and I would type in specifically customer service number for my bank and a pay-per-click advertising, click here for the phone number for your bank and I'd click on the ad and it would have a list of numbers and I think ‘these numbers don't look right to me, some of them look quite expensive to call they begin with 09’ and I just thought that's just, why did that ad get allowed?

MC: So these are basically premium rate numbers, so people were assuming they could, if enough people call, they could make more money from them not realising they're calling premium rate numbers and they were spending on the ad clicks.

RL: But with that type of advert could have got through a few years back, then presumably another type of advert come through where, even worse, you call up someone in a call center answers and asks your account number, asks your password, asks your ID…

MC: That's definitely the case, so specifically, I saw a chap called Rob Kerry, I think he was one of the founders of Ayima agency, he did a demonstration for a bank, just running a PPC ad for the brand name Bank and pointing out there's not a lot of controls here, it doesn't take many people if they click on this ad to you know, just clone the website and just sit there and wait for people to put their login information in.

RL: Yeah I know, they're getting cleverer and cleverer, these fraudsters and I'd like to think as well that Google is getting pretty good at automatically identifying these potentially fraudulent activities as well. so I have to say, I've not seen anything like that recently.

MC: It’s kind of critical for their Google Ad business so.

RL: Yeah definitely. So yeah keep an eye out on that, if you type in and do a Google search for your bank's customer service number and an advert appears that isn't being directed to your bank, then just be careful.

MC: It doesn't - just going off on a tangent - you get this security advice, that you should never click on the links in emails from stuff like your bank and obviously if we're saying there are cases, you need to be careful from search as well. it's just circles around to this, you need to type in the URL, but then we've got browsers that are hiding or hiding parts of URLs now so, you know it's still pretty difficult.

RL: We’re not trying to instill fear obviously. As I say, it doesn’t happen very often, you just need to keep your wits about you, don’t you?

Okay, well just to finish off everything I've been speaking about, Google actually has a policy that it doesn't like you breaking it and it takes it very seriously and the policy is called ‘circumventing rules.’’

MC: That sounds like a very general policy!

RL: Yeah, it's like - you're not allowed to do anything designed to cloak activities that are not allowed in Google terms of service, so that may include doing things like blocking certain types of Google BOTS from arriving on your website, cloaking the content in certain ways. You know Mark, probably the more technical…

MC: Yeah, so if we are getting into cloaking, what we're talking about there is, so Google is going to be doing a lot of these checks, I would guess automatically. So we've spoken about how Google tends to use a lot of systems, where they go and investigate a page automatically and then I imagine they have some kind of scoring system that flags up suspicious activity. So cloaking again is that it's kind of an old technique in SEO and it's got some legitimate uses now, which is where you can and your website can detect if it's a user or if it's a robot visiting and you can serve different content to them. So that maybe can be used to, when you've got a Google ads bot checking out the content of your site, you're showing them one thing and then potentially showing users another thing. yeah they land on your site.

RL: So you're tricking what Google can see in order to show what you want users to see. that's obviously a big no-no and that would fall under circumventing rules; other things as well like creating scripts designed specifically to allow you to do things that Google won't let you do in the interface that it definitely doesn't want you to do. So if Google thinks that you're circumventing its system in order to break its rules, then that's a definite policy violation and you're likely to get your account suspended. So I I thought I'd end on that note just because…

MC: It’s a bit of a capsule isn’t it?

RL: Yeah. It is, yeah. Don't do anything naughty is the general advice.

MC: Great general life advice; don't do anything naughty or don’t do anything naughty if your gonna get caught!

RL: Aha, yeah.

MC: Thank you so much Rob.

RL: You're welcome.

MC: That was really really interesting. We've gone on over half an hour, we'd like to try and keep these podcasts short, so I will say thank you very much for listening. If you do enjoy these podcasts, I'm gonna say it, please do subscribe. Rob, thank you very much! We will see you in one week's time, so next Monday is going to be the 28th of October, just before Halloween and we will likely have a regular episode for you with our search news and what's been changing to try and make your life a bit easier. Hope you all have a great week!

RL: Bye.

More from the blog

Get in touch

Please call us on
+44 (0)1603 957068

or email
[email protected]

Alternatively, if you fill and send this form we will get back to you shortly:

Artboard Created with Sketch.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


Thank you for your enquiry, we will take at look at your request and get back to you shortly.