Google Advertising Red Flags

I realise this article will rile many agencies whose questionable practices I’m about to expose; and quite frankly, I’m glad.  

I’m sick of seeing the look of dismay on the faces of business owners when they’re told what’s really been going on with their account. From lazy practices to accounts that never existed, this article highlights red flags that may indicate your account is not being managed well.

Google Ads can be confusing, and some agencies like to keep their clients in the dark. They hide behind technical lingo and industry speak to justify exorbitant fees for little gain. Many businesses suspect their account isn’t being managed well, but they don’t know how to tell for sure. We hope this article provides you with some useful clues, so you know what to look for.

1. They’re sold a ‘package’ with their advertising spend to Google lumped in with their management fee to the agency

Often these amounts range from $1,000 – $6,000 + a month. But how do you really know how much of that money is actually going on advertising? If you’re not given full access to your account, you can’t know for sure.

Real-Life Example

We received a call from a medium-sized business concerned with a lack of leads and the poor position of their ads. For the highest relevant search terms, they were showing on page 2 or 3, or not at all. They were paying this company $2,000 a month, and yet they had nothing to show for it. The report they received each month contained no cost information whatsoever. They had no way of knowing how much was being pocketed by the agency, and how much was actually going on advertising. What’s more, they had not been given access to their account, so they couldn’t find this out for themselves, which leads me to my next point….

2. They’re not given access to their accounts

Instead, their given reports each month which they’re assured tells them everything they need to know. But how do you know these reports are authentic?

Real-Life Example

We received a call from a trade business struggling to get answers out of their Google Ads provider. They noticed their ads had stopped showing. When they raised concerns with their agency, they were given assurances their ads were running and to look at the reports. Still unsatisfied as leads had all but stopped, they rang again, but the agency wouldn’t return their calls. When the owner sent a firm email demanding answers, the agency threatened to take their website down altogether.

This is where we stepped in. It turns out their ads weren’t running and hadn’t been for many months. The reports were bogus and the full $2000 they were paying each month was being pocketed by the agency.

3. The reports provide no-cost information, so you don’t know how much is really going on advertising

Often these reports provide ‘high level’ information like the number of clicks received, but not what those clicks cost. We sometimes find that the majority of clicks are put to display advertising because the display costs a lot less than search advertising. But display advertising targets low intent audiences. Ideally, the bulk of your spend should be put to search for advertising so you can get your company’s name in front of people searching for your services. There are of course exceptions to this, like event providers, but for most businesses search works better.

Real-Life Example

We took over an account where 3000 clicks per month were going on display ads, and only 130 clicks were going on a search. Subsequently, this business was not showing for highly relevant keywords. People actively looking for their services couldn’t find them online. The agency was endeavouring to make themselves look good by touting ‘look at how much traffic we’ve brought to your site’. But when we looked at Google Analytics we could see that most of it were bouncing. So the clicks they were paying for were wasted.

4. They expect full payment upfront each month

Would you expect your clients to pay you the full amount for work you haven’t done yet? Perhaps this should send alarm bells about their cash flow situation.

5. You’re not showing for relevant search terms

Like most things in life, the 80/20 rule applies. There will be a few keywords (20%) that are highly valuable to your business. These are the keywords that are more likely to convert. You want to ensure you show 80% of the time for these terms. Your agency should be putting the bulk of your advertising spend on these words, so you don’t miss opportunities.

There is a tool in Google Ads called ‘Auction Insights’, which shows where you rank in relation to your competitors. You want to be near the top for impression share (number of times your ads show to people googling your services) as well as position (position your ads rank in relation to your competitors). Ask your agency to show you this tool. We include this in our monthly reports so clients can rest assured they’re not missing out on opportunities to competitors.

6. Your ads aren’t in the top three positions when you google search terms related to your business

If you’re not seeing your ads until page two or even three of Google, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities. The fewer competitors potential clients have to crawl through before they come across your company, the better! You want to ensure your ads are showing in the top three positions, ideally the second position. Position one can cost a lot of money and result in accidental clicks. While three can be a bit low. We always aim for position two with our clients, unless of course they have a large budget.

Real-life example

A plumbing company was scratching their heads as to why they were getting very few leads despite spending $1000 a month on ads. When we looked at the search terms they were bidding on we found that most of their budget was going on terms related to ‘plumbing’. What’s wrong with that you ask? There were paying for clicks for like ‘plumbing shops’, ‘plumbing supplies’, ‘how to plumb a toilet’, ‘does my landlord have to pay for emergency plumbing’, and so on. By turning off the keyword ‘plumbing’ and focusing on terms like ‘plumber + north shore’, ‘plumber NZ’, ‘plumbing company’, they immediately got more leads.

7. You get calls that have nothing to do with your business

It’s not unusual for us to find high numbers of irrelevant search terms when auditing accounts, mostly due to the agency being lazy and only bidding on broad terms. This results in wasted clicks that chew through your budget. Check out these real-life examples:

Real-life example

  • A noise barrier fence provider who received calls at 2 am in the morning from people wanting ‘noise control’ – agency was bidding on anything to do with ‘noise’
  • A container storage company that received calls from people wanting ‘airport storage’ – agency was bidding on anything to do with ‘storage’
  • An EFTPOS service provider who received calls early in the morning from people wanting to know if their taxi’s had EFTPOS – agency was bidding on anything to do with ‘EFTPOS’

Broad search terms often result in wasted clicks. You’re better off putting your budget to a few highly relevant search terms. If you do use broad search terms, it’s vital you review the search terms fortnightly and add ‘negative keywords’ to prevent your ads showing for irrelevant search terms.

8. They take 40% of the cost of your spend on ‘management fees’

So if you pay $2000 a month on advertising, they take $800 of that. If you pay $6000, they take a whopping $2400! Think about how many hours work you should be getting for that amount of fees. Do you honestly think you’re getting that? Which leads me to my next point….

9. You have no idea what they’re doing each month

Did you know there is a quick and easy way to find out how much work your agency is putting into your account? You can access a feature called ‘change history’. This tells you how many changes occurred in the account month by month, in other words – how much they’ve done in it. If you are paying $800 a month, you should be seeing quite a few changes. These changes should be made to keywords, ads and extensions, bids and budgets, not just bids which don’t take long.

Real-life example

Unfortunately, there are too many to list here. Often we see work every two to three months, and many months with nothing except a few ‘bid changes’. I think this is probably what is most distressing to business owners. You work hard for the money you earn. You put your trust in a professional agency who has no qualms taking that money from you and doing nothing in return for it. Because most businesses don’t realize there is a way they can check, the agency often gets away with it.

10. They leave the management of your account to software, so they don’t have to do much

While there is a place for some automation, no program can understand the competitive landscape and intricacies of your industry as well as an actual person. No system can formulate a strategy or game plan to differentiate you from your competitors. That takes smarts, drive and human intelligence. We don’t use automation software because we’ve found that there is no substitute for hard work, experience and training. It’s not in our clients best interest to take a set and forget approach to management. Our clients pay us to manage their accounts personally, so we don’t pass that work over to machines.

Google ads can be a great way to generate new leads, but only if your account is being managed well. Otherwise you’ll end up spending a lot of money with nothing to show for it. Not all agencies are working in their clients best interests. Who you choose to be your Google Ads provider is an important one. Choose well and you’ll benefit from a growing business. Choose poorly and you’ll end up wasting money and losing opportunities.

If you suspect your account isn’t being managed well, don’t waste another month. Every month that goes by is another month of potentially wasted money and lost opportunities. Pick up the phone and give us a call today for a free, confidential chat.

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