Hijack Your Competitor Ads on Google AdWords


Disclaimer: Do not use the technique described in this article. If you choose to do it, it’s at your own risk. The author cannot be held responsible for any kind of damages resulted as testing or implementing this hack.

I find this security hole in AdWords pretty nasty (we will contact our account manager and notify them so at the time you’re reading this, the bug could’ve been fixed already).

The idea is actually very simple and it’s possible because there is no ownership verification of the AdWords account and the associated website. In other words, I can open an AdWords account and start advertising a website which is not actually mine.

Ok, let’s see how you can harm your competition with help from Google:

1. Open a new Google AdWords account using a fake email address

2. Create a new Campaign and when you add the Display URL and Destination URL type your competitor URL

3. Choose the keywords you want the ad to show up (choose a keyword on which you and your competitor are bidding against)

4. Have the account running (this means you will have to enter payment details). Warning: I do not recommend doing this unless you want your credit card/bank account to be charged for clicks or worse. For the sake of testing, I used an  existing AdWords account and I tested the hack with two websites we own and operate.

What will happen is that you will pay for your competitor’s ads to show up, but at the same time you can write ads on their namesor do some false advertising on their behalf.

According to Google’s policy only one display/destination URL is displayed at the same time, for a certain keyword. While the described technique is not hijacking per se, due to the AdWords policy your competitor ads may be forced not show up, while your ads will.

A sample ad one can write to harm their competitors:

Throw Mud at Your Competitors

Throwing Mud at Competitors with AdWords

Very few people will click on the ad because of the high starting price and the ad it’s so nasty that your competitor brand may be jeopardized by it. Display this ad for a long time and their target market will start create a mental model and unconsciously avoid them .

So, what can be done to stop this? I think that a “verified-by-the-owner” system (similar to the the verification process at Google Webmaster Tools) where you upload a file on your server, could fix the issue. If you can’t upload the file on that site, then you shouldn’t be able to advertise it. Simple.

Pitstop Media offers ROI based internet marketing services. If you need help with PPC management or PPC optimization please contact us for a free, no obligation quote. We’ve helped companies reduce their paid advertising cost by as much as 48% and increase AdWords conversion rates by as much as 410%. See our internet marketing case studies.

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Traian is Director of Search Marketing at Pitstop Media Inc. He has more than 11 years experience in helping small and medium businesses generate and convert organic traffic from search engines. Connect with Traian on Google+. He is also the author of the Ecommerce SEO book.


One Response to “Hijack Your Competitor Ads on Google AdWords”

  1. George Roberts said:

    May 28, 12 at 6:45 am

    Never thought of doing that! A bad technique but useful to know encase someone uses it against my site! thanks

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