Operation Camouflage,The Art of War, and PPC


In the classic "The Art of War", Sun Tzu's states that "All warfare is based on deception - when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near".

Even though "The Art of War" was written over 2500 years ago, its lessons could be applied to today's pay per click strategies.

By implementing Sun Tzu's philosophy to your PPC campaigns, you may just be able to create a deception that can help undermine your competitors' efforts and bring about a victorious ROI.

The PPC Battlefield

Our goal in the PPC battlefield is to trick our competition into believing that we have opted not to enter into battle with him for prime visibility of popular keyword phrases. If our competitor does not see us on the battlefield for those keywords, he will likely alter his combat strategy into a more passive mode.

The weapons used to create that deception is a previously top-secret classified cloaking strategy developed by Engine Ready, called "Operation Camouflage", and a handy tool from Google, called the "Ad Preview Tool".

The essence of Operation Camouflage is the illusion created to fool our enemies into believing we have retreated from the battlefield, when in fact we are strategically positioned for victory. The direct benefits of this strategy (and some pleasant side effects) have proven successful for Engine Ready clients for nearly a year now.

Operation Camouflage Revealed

Our objective is to present to our competitors weak looking ads, positioned non-aggressively. A nice side effect is the instant reduction in unwanted click costs generated by our competitors.

Ask yourself, how many times you've clicked the top 3 or 4 ads simply to check in on your competition? Even though we're promised by the search engines that they filter out this type of click fraud, why even chance it? By showing your listings at the bottom positions, Operation Camouflage will further reduce your exposure to "competitive click fraud". And what clicks we do get from competitors are far less costly at that lower position.

Here are the tactical step-by step maneuvers derived from our field manual:

  1. Our first step is to gather intelligence on the precise location of our competitor’s headquarters. These are the competitors we see in the top 4 or 5 sponsored positions on our most expensive, popular keyword terms.
  2. The easiest way is simply visiting their website and looking at the address for the company's business under the contact us page. If you know that your competitor is using an agency, you'll need to try and figure out that address. You can also lookup the domain record's registered admin address info from any whois tool to gather another potential address to target.
  3. Next, we’ll need to create a new campaign and AdGroup in Google to contain the keywords under battle. You’ll only need to setup 1 AdGroup for all of the keywords. Be sure to add all of the important keyword phrases that we’ll want to be camouflaged for. Because these keywords will be custom geo-targeted, all your other normal ads that are regional or national will not be shown in the targeted area. Google checks for and displays custom geo-targeted first, then regional and then national.
  4. Now modify the geo-targeting of our new campaign by clicking the "Change option" link as seen below
  5. Select the "Customized" Radio button
  6. Now type in the address of your competitor's (or agency's) address and select a 1 to 3 mile radius.
  7. Finally, it's time to hide behind our camouflage.
    Go to your newly created AdGroup, and select a default bid of around $0.10 or just enough to keep you on the first page depending on bid prices for your main keywords. This will ensure that for the geo-targeted area containing our competitor’s headquarters, our ads will not show aggressively for the highly competitive keywords.

Since our ads for those keywords will fall below our competitor‘s radar, they will no longer think we are a threat and will change their bidding strategy. Our competitor though will be unaware of the fact that our ads are being displayed in all locations except their headquarters.

Google's Ad Preview Tool

Google has provided a useful tool, akin to a special type of radar, which allows us to see the new battlefield from our competitor’s perspective. It's called the Ad Preview Tool

By simply filling in the prompts, you’ll be able to see how our cloaking strategy appears to our competitor.

Victory Requires Skill & Deceit

Remember that Operation Camouflage will not turn an ill-conceived PPC campaign into success. It is designed to complement a thorough and effective PPC strategy that entails best practices for keyword strategy, ad copy creation, landing page optimization and bidding. Once you have the direct components of your PPC account optimized, adding the indirect tactic of Operation Camouflage will secure victory.

Common Questions

  1. What if my competitor's headquarters are located in an area where a large percentage of my target prospects can be found?
    Obviously, you'll need to evaluate whether the risk of that lost exposure is greater than the potential gain from adopting Operation Camouflage. We employ multiple strategies and use Operation Camouflage when it benefits most.
  2. Should I frequently monitor my Operation Camouflage tactics?
    Yes. Over time you may see different competitors take over the top positions of the paid listings requiring the need to modify your camouflaged areas. To give you some idea, we redo all camouflage campaign settings monthly.
  3. Are there any other benefits?
    Yes! With Operation Camouflage in position, your valuable top creative's that win great click through rates have a longer life span. You'll preserve the uniqueness of your best ads when they are no longer so readily seen and copied.

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