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August 9, 2007

Promoting Yourself Using Other Brands

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Funny thing. I just mentioned Nick Stamoulis this morning and then I head over to my friend Simon Heseltine’s Search Engine Tigers blog and what do I see – a post about Nick Stamoulis. Darn, this guy is popular lately.

Simon was doing a routine Google search for his company, RedBoots Consulting, when he discovered a PPC ad hanging out on the right hand side. The ad was for a man named Nick Stamoulis. Thinking the name sounded familiar, Simon queried his old company, and sure enough, there was Nick’s ad hanging out on the right hand side again. Pattern, anyone?

Simon writes:

"My first thought was that both were SEMPO members, so to test this theory I went over to the SEMPO membership list and did some more searches – target="_blank">Bruce Clay, href="http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=fathom+seo&btnG=Search"
target="_blank">Fathom SEO, href="http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=ingenio&btnG=Search"
target="_blank">Ingenio, href="http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=360i&btnG=Search"
target="_blank">360i, href="http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=flying+point+media&btnG=S
earch" target="_blank">Flying Point Media, target="_blank">G3 Group, href="http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=kinetic+results&btnG=Sear
ch" target="_blank">Kinetic Results, target="_blank">JumpFly, href="http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Performics&btnG=Search"
target="_blank">Performics, href="http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=sitelab+international&btn
G=Search" target="_blank">Sitelab International, The Search Agency, TopRank Online Marketing – each one had the exact same ad from Mr. Stamoulis displayed.

Nick Stamoulis has decided the way he’s going to brand himself is by bidding on the names of well known search marketers. That’s cool, I guess. I’m certainly not going to chastise his marketing habits; I just wonder if it’s the most effective way to brand yourself.

From what I can discover about Nick, he’s a professional search marketer. This tells me that Nick likely has all sorts of experience, knowledge and prowess in this area. So why isn’t he using it more? What is the philosophy behind bidding on competitor’s brand names? I just feel like using the names of popular search engine optimization companies as a launch pad isn’t the way to get that name recognition you’re looking for. Not because it’s unethical or because it’s "bad" but because it does nothing to separate you from them, aka your competition. If I’m doing a search looking for Bruce Clay, it means I’m already somewhat committed to that company. Just showing up in the sponsored links section for that query doesn’t tell me that you’re better than BC. It just tells me that you, too, recognize Bruce as being an optimization expert. Wow, I should really call this Bruce guy!

You can make the argument that aligning yourself with respected companies gets you noticed, and yeah, that has obviously worked for Nick to some degree. But are they are going to remember you as being a search engine optimization company or are they going to only remember that you showed up next to Bruce Clay or RedBoots Consulting when they weren’t looking for you. You don’t want to be remembered for being annoying.

We’ll look at it another way. One of the reasons ranking for the phrase [search engine optimization] is so sought after is that SEOs know clients view it as a testament to their optimizing ability. If you’re charging thousands of dollars for search engine optimization services and yet you can’t even get your own site to rank, what does that say about your ability to practice what you preach? Why should I trust that you’re going to be able to get my site to rank?

Something else to consider before heading down the path of bidding on trademarked terms is that you’re not winning yourself any goodwill with the search marketers whose names you’re bidding on. Sure, some people don’t care, others may even be flattered, but there will always be those that are offended, and vocal about it. Those that feel like you’re trying to use their good name to make a buck. If you read the comments over on Simon’s blog or on Sphinn, you’ll see that not everyone is happy about Nick’s marketing techniques.

It’s probably important to point out that everything Nick is doing (besides placing his telephone number in the display URL, which he’s since fixed) is 100 percent legal and within bounds. The courts have ruled that it is totally okay for companies to bid on trademarked terms (they’ve also ruled it’s okay for the owner of the trademark to sue you). I just wonder if it’s the best plan of action. I have no doubt that Nick is a talented search marketer; he’s clearly got the linkbait down. My fear is that by heading down the path where you piggyback off others success may make you more enemies than you gain clients. If you’re a good search marketer, why not get attention by showing off your skills?

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3 responses to “Promoting Yourself Using Other Brands”

  1. Nick Stamoulis writes:

    Lisa, I appreciate your comment yesterday and this editorial analysis about my pay per click strategy.

    Our company business model is to serve small to mid-size businesses and I am showing off my skills to them. I do not consider what I am doing piggy backing on other people’s techniques but rather a way to get exposure to small businesses that cannot compete with the media budgets of larger businesses.
    Also, many small businesses need internet marketing services and cannot afford to pay the prices of some of the larger companies I am bidding on. I provide them with another option.

    Bidding on competitor branded keywords is 100% ethical and is in fact a standard practice and part of many pay per click strategies. For example, Google the keyword, "Adwords" and you will find over 20 advertisers (other than Google) bidding on that keyword.

    I also did a quick search on the names that Simon had mentioned my bidding on and low and behold, I wasn’t the only one. If you Google any of the names:
    Bruce Clay, Fathom SEO, Ingenio, 360i, Flying Point Media, G3 Group, Kinetic Results, JumpFly, Performics, Sitelab International, The Search Agency, TopRank Online Marketing

    You will find the following companies also using this PPC strategy and bidding on the keywords above:
    http://www.vizioninteractive.com, http://www.leveragemarketing.net, http://www.SEOElite.com, http://www.ConstantContact.com, http://www.LegendCps.com, http://www.juicemedia.com, http://www.datamediastore.com, http://www.nbcsearch.com, http://www.iContact.com, http://www.hydramedia.com, http://www.juicemedia.com, http://www.ThePayPerClickFormula.com, http://www.mindfire.com, adwords.google.com, (yes, Google is bidding on "toprank online marketing"), http://www.advmediaproductions.com , http://www.dropship-business.com, http://www.the-marketing-zone.com

    Interesting how I’m the only one being commented on in all the blogs.

    The AD that I have written actually has a very low CTR rate as I am not looking to "take away" or "annoy" clients searching on branded keywords, but to brand my name…after all this is business.

    That said, I appreciate all of the attention and wish you well.

  2. Lisa writes:

    Nick — Thanks for stopping by. As I mentioned in the entry, we’re in no way trying to insinuate that you’re doing something “evil” or “bad” or that you’re somehow less worthy than the companies whose names you’re bidding on; that would be ridiculous. I think you’ll agree, though, that the strategy you’ve taken can be a bit risky for personal branding, and that’s all I was commenting on.
    We wish you well, too, and I apologize for all the bad jokes I have inflicted upon you. ;)

  3. Simon Heseltine writes:

    “Interesting how I’m the only one being commented on in all the blogs.”

    Not to harp on this Nick, but the reason is because you’re the only one bidding on all of them. If I’d seen others doing the same thing, I’d have mentioned them too. Again, I didn’t say that bidding on competitors was wrong or unethical, but what I said, and have clarified in the comments on my blog, and on the Sphinn posting, was that the use of the SEMPO list by a SEMPO member to target people searching solely for SEMPO members seems skeevy to me.

    Sorry, but that’s how I feel. SEMPO is an organization to further the aims of SEMPO members, not a place for SEMPO members to try to take business from other SEMPO members by using their resources.



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