Cancel jacking is when you target competitor customers who are trying to find information about cancelling their accounts.
Why it's a good idea
If a user has purchased a competitors product and is looking to cancel their account, they may be looking for an alternative and be open to trying your product.
Cancel jacking is a repeatable pattern. Each new update, version release, pricing change, etc creates an entirely new segment of cancellations to jack.
Getting in front of potential customers
Cancel jacking requires getting in front of current users of competitor products.
Specifically, we want to show our advertisements during or around the cancellation process. The best channel for this is organic and paid search.
We can access these users through targeting queries that might imply intent to cancel, such as:
[competitor product] + cancel
[competitor product] + cancellation policy
[competitor product] + close account
Tip: Sometimes you can infer how long a user has been a customer.
Targeting [competitor product] + refund could provide you with users who have only recently signed up for the competitors product.
In my experience, short term users are easier to jack. These are likely people who have taken a trial or are generally unhappy with the first use of the product.
A word on channel: As many of the best cancel jacking opportunities happen in small windows of time, most sites will have a difficult time executing on organic SEO and will likely need at least some paid search augmentation in order to be effective.
Positioning and Messaging
On the plus side, customers who have experience with a competitor can be considered educated and knowledgable about potential solutions in the marketplace.
The job of the marketing campaign is then to persuade a user that your product rises above the shortcomings of the competition. You can unlock these key shortcomings through doing customer research. My favorite method is using Twitter search to find conversations between competitor support accounts and customers. Setting up automated monitoring of these is a good idea.
Overall budget requirements for paid search campaigns are on the low end. It’s hard to spend significant (4 or 5 figure) sums on a monthly basis with this pattern.
It’s worth noting that due to relevance and ad rank factors, CPC prices can be high when targeting competitor keywords. Additionally, some queries may not have enough volume to target. In these cases you can be a little more broad with the keyword targeting, but be careful about trademarked terms (if your competitors have them).
On the SEO side, this is fairly straightforward. In my experience, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to do significant amounts of linkbuilding to rank for these queries, unless your competitors are much more popular than you are, or have powerful affiliates.
Tech and Tools
A general campaign can be built without any additional tech or services. However, in order to automate the discovery of new opportunities, such as flopped product releases, or pricing model changes, you may want to incorporate rss subscriptions, twitter tools, or sign up for competitor email lists.
Additionally, one could set up google/twitter/reddit alerts for [competitor] + sucks or [competitor] + alternatives.
Real World Examples
Landing page (~1mb image)
Landing page: (~1mb image)
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I'm a developer, marketer, and writer based in Appleton, Wisconsin.