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December 17, 2012

Scroogled: The SEO Benefits of Bad-Mouthing a Competitor

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A couple weeks ago, Bing began running their “Scroogled” campaign in “an attempt to tell people not to get screwed over by Google this holiday shopping season”. Or in reality, a new way to draw attention to themselves by calling out their largest competitor.

While I’m not going to get into the merits of spending thousands of dollars on a hypocritical ad campaign, I will say this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a company do this and it certainly won’t be the last. So why not look at the positive side? Results!

When it comes to bad-mouthing competitors, one of the biggest benefits is the boost to your company’s SEO efforts through links & SERP real estate.

Links & Mentions

People love talking about controversy. It makes good news and don’t we all enjoy watching two giant companies battle it out? At the end of the day, controversy drives mentions and it drives links.

If we take a look at the Bing campaign, there are currently over 1,000 news stories listed in Google News and over 17,000 mentions on Twitter alone. The biggest thing to note is people are talking about the Scroogled campaign and Bing itself.

Scroogled Mentions

On top of that, many articles are featuring the video ad and even more are linking to the “Scroogled” microsite.

Scroogled Links

The site didn’t exist 30 days ago and now it has a good number of links from authority sites. Not bad, Bing.

SERP Real Estate

Over the past 18 months, GoDaddy has had its share of PR disasters. From the elephant shooting video to the company’s support of SOPA, the Internet has been none too kind to GoDaddy. Neither have their competitors.

While many competitors jumped to declare their stance on the issues, NameCheap took a different route, publicly calling out GoDaddy, offering discounts for domain transfers, and during the elephant debacle, donating $1 to Save the Elephants for every domain transferred from GoDaddy to NameCheap. The story was picked up everywhere, especially after 20,000 domains were transferred.

By calling out GoDaddy, NameCheap not only garnered mentions and links, but they were able to grab some real estate in the search results for the GoDaddy brand name. One year later, when you search NameCheap, you still see them being associated with GoDaddy in the related searches and competitive searches:

Namecheap vs Godaddy

Gaining search share against a major competitor can be next to impossible but by calling out GoDaddy and taking advantage of their errors, NameCheap was able to do just that.

So there you have it. Bad-mouthing a competitor may be bad for business but it can be great for SEO. The next time you’re struggling to come up with a link building strategy, look no further than the competitor you like the least.

Note: The author of this post does not condone bad-mouthing competitors for the sake of SEO. Happy Holidays!

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4 responses to “Scroogled: The SEO Benefits of Bad-Mouthing a Competitor”

  1. Virginia writes:

    Hi Casie,

    Awesome post! I’m surprised a controversial topic like this hasn’t gotten more comments, so I’m going to take a moment to play devil’s advocate.

    It’s interesting to read about how effective calling out a competitor can be on the one hand and then your making the disclaimer that you don’t condone that tactic. If it works, it works – and all is fair in love and business. But your footnote underlies the nagging sense that trash talking is a dirty tactic, so it could be opposed on ethical grounds. Rather than trying to have our cake and eat it too, I wanted more evidence.

    Attacking a competitor reminded me of mud-slinging in political campaigns. In the lead up to last month’s election, I remember reading and hearing research about how the American public feels about political attack ads. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, personally, but what does that affect on an action level? Is a voter less likely to support a candidate who has engaged in such a campaign? Or is there another effect at play?

    Dr. Ted Brader authored “Campaigning for Hearts and Minds: How Emotional Appeals in Political Ads Work” and in an interview (http://insight-magazine.org/2012/featured/political-mudslinging-does-it-work/) he said:

    “Fear ads get a bad rap. They’re seen by many as sinister, but in fact fear ads are not unsavory,” he says. “They break people out of their political habits and make them pay attention to what’s going on around them.” He explains that when attention is focused on a potential danger—as in the daisy ad—voters engage in a more effortful process of gathering information that can inform their choices in the polls. “When there’s nothing to fear, there’s no reason to weigh the costs and benefits of a particular decision. It’s easier to stick to the habits you already have,” he says.

    This is the effect you explain in this post, and in this context, I see a noble utility in pointing out weaknesses in a competitor.

    On the other hand, I can get behind this Post Advertising article (http://www.postadvertising.com/2012/01/when-political-ads-attack-everyone-loses/) when the author compares attack campaigns by politicians to those by brands (same exercise I’m performing here) and sees a net loss, especially for the party doing the pointing:

    You’ll find the potshots taken across the board. Car companies have struck blows across the bow on thousands of occasions such as this commercial from BMW attacking Audi. And while many times you’ll find that the brands are able to get their messaging across, it’s often at the expense of their competition. The best way to advertise is to advance your brand’s story by demonstrating why your product is the best on the market, not at taking cheap shots at companies you’re up against. The best advertising doesn’t involve kicking your competitors but, instead, defining who and what your brand is and why consumers learn more about your services. In other words, let your products speak for themselves.

    I guess what it comes down to for marketers is how comfortable they are with mud-slinging, but more importantly, if that’s a behavior that fits their brand. Will it alienate potential new customers? Will it darken their brand reputation? Because the truth is that while voters and consumers will say they devalue brands and politicians who engage in manipulative, salacious campaign strategies, psychologists say they work.

    Another one of life’s hard choices. Thanks for bringing it to light, and like those dirty ads, forcing us to face our personal position.

  2. Larry Kim writes:

    i love the scroogled campaign. how do they think this stuff up.
    the other thing they did recently was “Bing it on!”.
    so funny!

  3. Corporate Branding Company in India writes:

    We do see this kind of stuffs often on the web as well as on the television where one big giant tries to bad-mouth the competitor giant with a motive to either get into a controversy and become a hot topic of discussion, with this, the bing can achieve a good number of visitors to its site and also a good click through for the campaign, it is the strategy used to increase over self creditability and trying to fade out competitors reputation.
    Good Going Bing. Waiting to see Google’s response for this campaign. :)

  4. Nick Stamoulis writes:

    Bing still has a long way to go to when it comes to the competition with Google. While this campaign brought some short term attention, it’s doubtful that it will really change people’s search habits. Google is still king.



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