How to advertise when you operate in a forbidden niche?
Marketing and advertising is everything if your business relies on any kind of sales. Of course, nowadays there is a whole myriad of paid and free advertising options. Google and social media are definitely the most important ones when it comes to online marketing and advertising.
Many businesses use these channels to reach their potential customers and generate sales, both in organic and paid advertising modes. It is a rather complex process and we have already mentioned some of its key features in a few previous articles.
Still, there is an obvious problem that occurs every now and then and heavily affects some types of retail. Namely, there is a case when the conventional marketing and advertising simply aren’t available!
There are niches that are forbidden by both Google and major social media networks due to various reasons. For example, fireworks can’t be advertised on any of the regular sources since they contain explosives. Also, certain medications and supplements are also being banned, as well as explicit and inappropriate content. For the segment of digital commerce, the actual products that are forbidden for advertising are the most interesting case, so we will focus on that part.
There are 2 basic ways to overcome this issue:
• You can try and advertise yourself
• You can hire affiliate marketers
Doing things on your own
This is the approach that can be plagued by difficulties from the get-go. Namely, the advertising rules are changing constantly, and both social media and Google are finding out new ways to counter advertising that comes from the forbidden niches. Still, there are a few windows that are still open and a few that will be open forever.
In terms of Google traffic, SEO is the best way to push your product no matter it lies in the forbidden niche. Google will rank all websites, and if your specific niche is forbidden for paid advertising, it will still be able to generate organic traffic.
The downside of this approach is the fact that this is a long haul and that there are no immediate results in a significant amount without investing heavily in copywriting and optimisation of the content.
The upside is that this is a cumulative value added to your website, as some of the most significant ranking signals are website age and frequency of adding content.
The biggest downside of this approach is that Google has removed search volume metrics for all forbidden keywords, so it is not likely that your in-house staff will be able to target the right KWS. It is a common thing that they are very knowledgeable about the products, but they usually lack the distance from the topic to be able to identify the winning SEO strategy, which is not always in total alignment with the portfolio.
There was until lately a pretty sound option of creating dedicated landing pages on separate domains and cloaking them with the other content that is not related to the forbidden niches since the moderation was a manual process. It was giving you enough time to utilise the landing page and extract profit until it is noticed and banned. This approach was also used on Facebook as one of the main sources of traffic. Unfortunately, both Google and Facebook recently rolled out new algorithms that easily detect cloaked landing pages and ban them automatically.
Thanks to the organic traffic, it is possible to collect the contacts of your website visitors. If they agree to subscribe to your newsletter, you will get an open channel to advertise directly to them! This is a great approach since the visitors coming in are potential customers, and you have a very nice and precise targeting from the very beginning.
The downside is more than obvious – it is a hard and long process of collecting the emails. Same as it is the case with SEO, the results are progressively increasing over time. Of course, you need to follow the GDPR guidelines to the letter in order to cover this segment properly.
There is an option of buying the mailing list and sending the emails to the people who haven’t actually subscribed to your newsletter, but this approach often makes more damage than it brings benefits.
Although it is unlikely that you may end up in legal trouble due to the GDPR violations, it is more than likely that your email address will be flagged as spam by Google and that will cut off the reach to the customers completely. If you use only genuine emails and follow the rules, this is not going to happen.
Although it is forbidden to advertise such products on social media (Google and Instagram are the key platforms), it is possible to generate some reach through organic posts. You will have to be a bit crafty in this case, since you are not allowed to promote products that are forbidden, but it is allowed to have a page that treats that topic in the form of multimedia and blog posts. If you manage to generate an audience in this way, there is a small catch that could be helpful and is still available.
Namely, while Facebook heavily moderates the content that is being published on the page, they do not moderate direct messaging. In this way, you can address your followers through direct messages via Facebook and offer your products.
Of course, this is a slow and boring process if you don’t use any of the automation tools, but luckily there are some that can help you send messages in volumes, and then you can interact with the followers manually or through the scripted chats. It is uncertain for how long this option will be available.
Using affiliate marketers
The second option is to leave things to professionals. There are two possible solutions for this approach: you can use dedicated affiliate marketing agencies, or you can use the so-called “incubators”.
The first approach is rather direct and involves you and the affiliate marketer. The entire process is usually organised around the revenue share model where you give your products for advertising, and the affiliate marketers invest their own resources into advertising. These resources are not only of a financial nature but instead, they include their contacts and the technology as well.
The end result is that they will compromise their email accounts and their social media accounts and invest their own money in order to advertise your product. In return, they will have a claim of the share for each item sold via their resources.
It is an approach that requires some knowledge, as well as good negotiating skills and a solid understanding of the affiliate marketing industry.
Incubators are companies that work as middlemen between the businesses and the affiliate marketers. They have vast networks of affiliates as well as a huge number of different affiliates. In this case, the options are almost countless.
It is possible not only to work in the revenue share model with these incubators, but it also allows a CPA (cost per action) approach. In this way, you can target not only sales but also form submissions and email collecting. The legal responsibility for these operations falls strictly on incubators, so this is a great way to avoid any kind of legal trouble.
They operate with various businesses, not necessarily only with the products from banned niches, but they have through their affiliate marketers a huge selection of tools to promote your products without exposing your company to any danger. At the same time, you get to pay per performance, no matter which action you agree upon with the incubators.
Their associates use every trick in the book to promote your product, and they usually have quite valuable assets to do it. Instead of trying to promote your product where it is banned, they often resort to the “pop” and “push” traffic generated through their own websites and social media channels, as well as their own internal mailing lists.
Generating “pop” traffic is a rather simple operation. They create popups advertising your products that are then placed on their assets, and in that way generate traction.
“Push” traffic is far more aggressive as it includes opening new, specially dedicated landing pages once a visitor clicks on a completely unrelated link on any of the websites used for this purpose. It is incredibly annoying, but they manage their assets in a completely different manner than the classic businesses so they manage to generate traffic through those means.
Of course, there is also classic banner traffic that is generated in a rather similar way to Google Display, but it runs under a different network that allows such content.
Finally, there is an option of using native networks. Many of these marketers have joined their assets into networks and they provide cross-website advertising in all of the forms we mentioned above.
The positives are easy to understand. Relying on these techniques you are getting the opportunity for paid advertising for your products which you couldn’t offer in any of the regular ways. Still, there are some downsides to it as well.
First of all, there could be some bad reputation generated towards your brand if you come in contact with the agency that is inexperienced and looks only to make a profit, without any regard to the long term consequences. This is the reason why incubators are always a safer option.
Also, if you opt for a wrong type of action, it is likely that the investment will not be justified by the end results.
You will be provided with some consulting as the incubators do have their account managers on both sides of the business, but these consultations are not completely error-free.
It is essential that you define the goals in the right way and the channels through which you wish to achieve them. After that, things can get much easier, and much more efficient.
In any case, there are tools and ways to advertise your products even if they are forbidden by the major providers. We at Studioworx are able to help you in decision making in this segment through consultancy services. If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact us and we will be more than happy to answer!