Monday Madness 9/15/14

This week’s Monday Madness AAA award winner was discovered because I own a domain name called “boulderhardwoodflooring.com” and I am looking for someone that might be interested in purchasing this domain name from me.

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asinineDefinition

Asinine AdWords Advertiser Award

Asinine AdWords Advertiser award  (aka – AAA award)

ASININE –  adjective – “extremely stupid or foolish”

Each week I choose the AAA award winner of the week and I report it in my Monday Madness blog posts.  I give the winner a keyword rich back link to their website.  I also email the company and let them know about the “Award” and what they’ve won.  If they choose to, I will give them a FREE Adwords Account Analysis ($149 value) and FREE AdWords account setup if they choose to switch their AdWords over to me.  It’s the least I can do for featuring them in my blog post.

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Thursday Tip – Bid on your top competitors business names

Instead of bidding on your own business name (which you should dominate Google for if you’ve done everything else correctly) – why not bid on your competitors names?

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Reach Local – Are they a Scam?

Reach Local Pay Per Click Scam

Reach Local is one of the largest Google AdWords re-sellers.  They really like to use this as one of their selling points, but don’t be fooled.  They have an alleged markup (when combined with hidden management fees) of 65%!  This is the largest that I have heard of yet.

Of the 3 big AdWords re-sellers featured on this blog for their horrible pay per click services, Reach Locals programs are probably more efficient that the other 2.  They sort of comply with Google’s requirement (I’ve heard, but not seen) to divulge the ACTUAL CLICK COST.  I say “sort of” because they don’t make it easy to find this info.  They also provide somewhat better (but not total access) data for their customers.  If it wasn’t for their ludicrous markups – they would probably not be a bad choice for small businesses.

Reach Locals Markup on Clicks is the worst

The alleged fees and markup that Reach Local charges combine to total 65% of your monthly budget.  If this is true, then that means that you will definitely not get a positive return on your investment.  Actually even if their markup is as “low” has Hibu’s alleged 40% – you would still struggle to get a positive R.O.I. from a pay per click campaign ran by Reach Local.

How can I make such a blanket statement – because the fact is that paid traffic tends to convert VERY LOW overall and across all industries.   This means that you need a lot of clicks to get 1 new customer.  If the markup being charged by Reach Local is 65% – you would need 65% more clicks to get that same 1 customer that you could have gotten on your own!

In my opinion, there is no way that you can pay Reach Local a markup of 40 – 65% and expect to get an R.O.I.  Dare I say you’d have better chances in the Yellow Pages?  Yep – you would!

Avoid Reach Local and save yourself a lot of money.

Dex Media – are they a Scam?

Dex Media Pay Per Click Scam

Dex’s Pay Per Click Program (also known as “Guaranteed Actions”) is, in my opinion, the worst of the worst.  They have an alleged 50% markup and their programs (the ones I’ve seen anyways) don’t even lead traffic to your website.  Instead – all clicks go to a horrible landing page.  This landing page is so bad, I can almost guarantee you that the bounce rate has to be through the roof.  There is no way that new customers are clicking these ads and then taking a desired action (filling out a form or making a phone call).  These landing pages have a “Visit Website” button – but research has shown, over and over again, that the more clicks someone has to take to find what they are looking for, the less likely they are to contact you.

Add to that the fact that all these clicks (if there are any) from Dex’s landing pages lead to the home page of your website and I can almost guarantee you one of the lowest conversion rates out there for your paid traffic!  These “guaranteed actions” or pay per click programs are a complete waste of money.  If you are paying Dex for any kind of Pay Per Click program, I SUGGEST YOU STOP IMMEDIATELY! 

Is DEX secretly shifting revenue sources from Yellow Pages to Internet Marketing?

I say “secretly” because I suspect that many of Dex’s Pay Per Click customers don’t even know that they are a pay per click customer.  My suspicion stems from the fact that every single DEX PPC client I have run across has AdWords ads that lead to a landing page that looks like this:

All Dex PPC Campaigns send traffic to a page that looks EXACTLY Like this

Every Dex PPC Campaign I’ve seen sends traffic from clicks to a page that looks EXACTLY LIKE THIS!

I don’t mean a few.  I once did a search for “best plumbing, Seattle, WA” and 7 of the 11 ad’s were Dex Ad’s and they all lead to landing pages like this.  I run across these ad’s so often that I can recognize them without even clicking the ad.  I find it hard to believe that so many people would sign up to pay for clicks from Google (at an alleged 50% markup) only to have the clicks go to such a GARBAGE LANDING PAGE.

I have heard of DEX forcing it’s Yellow Page customers to take a PPC Bundle.  They do this by telling Yellowpage customers that if they want to keep their ad at a reduced price – they have to bundle it with PPC.  In other words – if a YellowPages customer wants to stay in the Yellow Pages only – and ditch any internet products with DEX – they will be told that the stand alone price of the Print Ad is 3 times what they can get it for if they “bundle” it with internet.

Dex also does not divulge their markup to their customers (even though Google requires it) and their monthly reports have absolutely no useful information in them.

If you are paying DEX anything for Pay Per Click – Stop Immediately!  You will be glad you did.

Lastly – if you are being forced into a bundle – hold your ground on the print price.  The way the Yellow Page industry is hemorrhaging money – they will not give up the revenue.  Print is still Dex’s bread and butter and will be for the foreseeable future.

 

hibu94x40

Hibu Pay Per Click – is it a scam?

Hibu’s Pay Per Click Scam

I believe Hibu’s pay per click programs (also known as Web Reach) to be a scam.  Hibu does not divulge their markups (even though Google requires them to do so) and they intentionally withhold important AdWords and Analytics data from their customers – EVEN WHEN THEIR CUSTOMERS REQUEST IT!  Since Hibu sets up an AdWords account for you, they could easily give you read only access to that AdWords account – but they won’t.  Instead, they will send you very vague monthly reports (if you request one) or give you online access to the same vague data.  These vague reports will not contain any data that makes it look like your program is not doing well.  If you want to know where your clicks are coming from, how much they really cost, or what the bounce rate for certain keywords are, you can forget it. Hibu’s monthly reports are one of the  reasons I call them an outright Pay Per Click Scam Company.  It’s not what’s in the report that makes Hibu one of the worst pay per click re-sellers out there, it what’s NOT in the reports.  The “conversion” reports they provide you give you very little information, and what they present as “conversions” are hardly that.   Sure you might get a report that says you have 40 phone calls, and 200 clicks.  Let’s say your budget is $800.  Hibu will present this as a “cost per call” of $20 and try to convince you to do your R.O.I. that way.  What if 35 of those 40 calls were from existing customers that Googled your name?  They will never share ACTUAL COST, QUALITY SCORE, BOUNCE RATE or other valuable metrics with you.

Hibu’s Pay Per Click Markup

Hibu has an alleged (and a minimum from what I hear) markup of 40% on their clicks!  40% of your budget is spent before you ever get a single click from Google!  Given that the bulk of their customers have an average monthly budget of $800 – you will pay Hibu, on average, $3,840 per year to plug in a bunch of broad matched keywords and send traffic to your home page (in most cases that I’ve seen, this is what they do).  You might want to think twice before you sign a contract with Hibu to run YOUR Pay Per Click program. Speaking of YOUR’s – that’s exactly what this is.  It’s YOUR AdWords Account – YOUR Data – YOUR Money.  Why on earth would you give someone your hard earned money to NOT HAVE ACCESS TO ALL INFORMATION AVAILABLE?

Free AdWords Tips

Adwords Tip of the week – 9/4/14

Use Negative Keywords to make up for the Advanced Location Setting limitations:

An often overlooked setting in Google AdWords is the “Advanced Location Settings”.  This setting can get rather confusing and Google recommends you just leave the setting at the defaults.  If you do this, you will show your ads to “People in, searching for, or viewing pages about your targeted location.”  Depending on the type of business you are in, you may not want to show your ads to everyone under the sun.  Let’s break down why. 

What this AdWords setting means and how it will affect when your ad’s show up.

  • “People IN” my targeted location

This means that anyone physically located IN your targeted area will see your ad.  This is determined by the users I.P. address.  On the surface this sounds great, but what if a user is physically in your area and searching for one of your chosen keywords with a Geo-Modifier that is OUTSIDE of your targeted location?

For example – a Hardwood Flooring Company in Denver would not want to show their ad to a person sitting in Denver searching for “Hardwood Flooring Seattle, WA”. Why not?  This would be a completely wasted impression.  Wasted impressions lower your Click Thru Rate – Lower CTR = Lower Quality Score, Lower Q.S. = Higher Cost per click.

Maybe not a big deal for 1 keyword, but if you have hundreds or thousands of keywords, this could come up a lot and have a very negative effect on a campaigns overall performance.

  • People “Searching For” my targeted location

This means that your ad can show to anyone OUTSIDE your targeted area that searches with a geo-modifier that includes your targeted location name in it.  This is good because maybe the I.P. address is out of your area.  Or maybe someone travelling to your area will be searching for services in your area and you want the opportunity to capture that business.  In a nutshell, you always want to show up for searches that include your targeted location in the search term.

  • People “viewing pages about your targeted location”

This means that if someone is viewing pages about your area (looking up “tourist activities in Denver”) your ad would have a chance to show to that person if they later search “Hardwood Flooring, Seattle, WA”, regardless of where they are physically located.  Most local, blue collar, businesses would not want their ad to show to these people.

Note: Google does not state how long they take a users interest in a location into account.  We don’t know if Google will show ads to a user based on an area of interest they had yesterday, last week, or last month.

In a perfect world, you would show your ads to people that are physically in your area, OR searching with a Geo-Modifier in the name of their search.  However, the 3 targeting options that Google provides don’t allow this. You can either target all 3 (in, searching for, or view pages about) or you can target JUST “People IN’ your area, or just people “Searching for or viewing pages about” your targeted area.   Enter Google’s “Exclusion OIptions”

Exclusion Options and Definitions:

  • “Exclude people in, searching for, or viewing pages about my EXCLUDED area”

If you leave this default box checked, and you exclude certain cities – you will exclude everyone in that EXCLUDED city, or anyone searching for info about that EXCLUDED city.  This means that if someone is sitting in Seattle and searches for “Hardwood Flooring Denver” your ad would not show for that person.

  • “Exclude people in my excluded location”

If you check this box, then you will exclude people physically in your excluded area no matter what.  Again – not ideal.  You will surely miss some relevant searches.

So what do you do about these shortcomings in the Advanced Location Settings.

As you can see it is not possible, with the available inclusion and exclusion settings, to accurately target ONLY people “physically in” OR “searching for” your keywords.  So what do you do about it?

The solution:  Leave the default settings but use negative keywords for the top 100 cities (by size) in the United States).  This will eliminate the vast majority, if not all, of the irrelevant searches.  If you setup a Denver Campaign, with a “Hardwood Flooring” ad-group – and on the campaign level your inclusion options are set to the default “people in, searching for, or viewing pages about” my targeted location – but you put a negative keyword your ad will not show to a person sitting in Denver but searching for “Hardwood Flooring Seattle” because the negative keyword will exclude that ad.

The reason using negative keywords for the top 100 cities will eliminate virtually all of the irrelevant searches with a Geo Modifier or to someone that is “viewing pages about” that location (regardless of where they are physically located) is because Google also shows ad’s for “related cities” which means that by included the top 100 cities (by size) in the USA – you will also eliminate most of the surrounding suburbs.

This work will be tedious, but in the long run it will give you a leg up on your competitors because they are most likely NOT going to bother.  This means their ad’s should have a lower quality score, which means you will have a better chance at better placement at a lower cost.

Good luck, and as always – if you need EXPERT AdWords Help at one of the lowest prices around, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

hibu94x40

Is Hibu intentionally defrauding customers with false phone call tracking data?

I have recently completed a thorough review of a Hibu “WebReach” campaing.  If you are not familiar with the term “WebReach” – it is Hibu’s term for the suite of internet marketing “services” (services is put in quotes because it is my belief that what they offer is anything but a “service”).  The primary product in Hibu’s “WebReach” program is Google AdWords.  Hibu is a large re-seller of Google AdWords.

What I found in this review was shocking.   I expected the standard limited information in the reports.  I expected withholding info like Bounce Rate, Match Type, Search Query etc.  Hibu did not disappoint in those areas.  I did NOT expect to find evidence of fraud! (Alleged)

I discovered Hibu reporting phone calls received from Organic Visitors and Direct Visitors as if they were from a Paid Click.  Yes – you read that right…. I did a search for the company name and found the organic listing. Clear as day – in the “Title tag” is the customers main phone number, but when I clicked the ORGANIC link, the phone number on the page was replaced with the tracking number.  The same tracking number being used for the Pay Per Click Campaign Reports!

Is Hibu deceiving it’s customers intentionally?

I don’t know, but I don’t see any way that this could be an accident.  I took a look at the java script code that is used to dynamically change the numbers and the code says “look for # (xxx) xxx-xxxx and replace it with # (yyy) yyy-yyyy”.  Most of the times I see call tracking numbers for Google AdWords campaigns, the code is a bit more complex.  Normal AdWords Call Tracking (or call tracking for any purpose) would look for the source of the visitor and IF the source of the website visitor matches the predefined parameters, it would then replace the phone number on the page with a tracking number.  You can use this code to insert 1 tracking number for visits from Campaign A, and a different tracking number for visits from Campaign B.  You could even use this type of code to track phone calls from Google Organic Visitors vs. Yahoo Organic Visitors.

Why have Hibu’s “Google AdWords Experts” not discovered this problem?

This was a major red flag on an account that is spending between $12,000 & $15,000 per month on Pay Per Click advertising.  When the customer forwarded me the report (very vague report) that Hibu provides them, the first thing that popped out was the insanely high (and utterly useless) “Click to Call Ratio”.  The numbers reported by Hibu to this customer were:  (please note – campaign names have been changed to maintain the privacy of my client)

Campaign Clicks Impressions CTR Avg CPC Spend Total Phone Calls Cost Per Call Click to Call Ratio
City A 74 4,999 1.48% $6.62 $489.89 46 $10.65 62.16%
City B 235 12,000 1.96% $8.15 $1,914.09 106 $18.06 45.11%
City C 80 1,800 4.44% $4.05 $324.39 89 $3.64 111.25%
City D 176 7,552 2.33% $6.30 $1,108.39 55 $20.15 31.25%
City E 3 260 1.15% $4.79 $14.37 7 $2.05 233.33%
City F 116 7,222 1.61% $7.51 $871.44 25 $34.86 21.55%
City G 155 5,039 3.08% $4.73 $733.07 55 $13.33 35.48%
City H 161 8,196 1.96% $6.36 $1,024.53 88 $11.64 54.66%
City I 35 1,340 2.61% $4.21 $147.25 33 $4.46 94.29%
City J 263 24,738 1.06% $8.08 $2,125.33 59 $36.02 22.43%
City K 186 12,881 1.44% $6.74 $1,253.91 53 $23.66 28.49%
City L 70 2,974 2.35% $5.53 $387.21 38 $10.19 54.29%
City M 58 1,011 5.74% $3.66 $212.47 34 $6.25 58.62%
City N 300 17,895 1.68% $9.91 $2,973.72 75 $39.65 25.00%
Total 1,912 107,907 1.77% $7.10 $13,580.06 772 $17.59 40.38%

THOSE CLICK TO CALL RATIO’S ARE INSANELY HIGH!

If it is intentional, then Hibu is more than scamming people, they are intentionally defrauding its customers in an effort to keep them paying money into campaigns that aren’t delivering the results that Hibu claims they are.  If this is the case – Hibu should be held accountable.

In conclusion – do not rely on (phony) phone call tracking data provided by Hibu.  You need to dig a little deeper and see what these reports to know if you are close to getting a return on your investment.  When you factor in their alleged 40% markup…..well – I’ll let you decide if you want to keep flushing money down the toilet ….errrrr I mean investing, with Hibu.

Red Flag

Is Hibu Defrauding it’s customers?

I have recently completed a thorough review of a Hibu “WebReach” campaign.  If you are not familiar with the term “WebReach” – it is Hibu’s term for the suite of internet marketing “services” (services is put in quotes because it is my belief that what they provide is anything but a “service”) they offer.   The primary product in Hibu’s “WebReach” program is Google AdWords.  Hibu is a large re-seller of Google AdWords.

What I found in this review was shocking.   I expected the standard limited information in the reports provided by Hibu.  I expected withholding info like Bounce Rate, Match Type, Search Query etc.  Hibu did not disappoint in those areas.  I did NOT expect to find evidence of fraud (alleged).

I discovered Hibu reporting phone calls received from Organic Visitors as if they were from a Paid Click.  Yes – you read that right.  Hibu is reporting (at least in this case) all website phone calls as if they came from the Pay Per Click Campaign!

How I discovered this:

It was originally an accident.  This customer paid me to also do an SEO review of their Hibu created website.  To get to the website, I did a Google search for the company name in one of the cities they are located.  I found their organic listing.  In the Title of the organic listing, you can clearly see the customers phone number (which is in the title tag on the page that showed up in the organic listing).  When I clicked the ORGANIC link, the phone number on the page was replaced with the tracking number.  The same tracking number that is being used for the Pay Per Click Campaign Reports!

Is Hibu intentionally misleading customers?   

I don’t know, but I don’t see any way that this could be an accident.  I took a look at the java script code that is used to dynamically change the numbers and the code says “look for (xxx) xxx-xxxx and replace it with (yyy) yyy-yyyy”.  Call tracking scripts for Google AdWords campaigns are usually a bit more complex.  Normal AdWords Call Tracking (or call tracking for any purpose) would look for the source of the website visitor and IF the source of the visitor matches the predefined parameters, it would then replace the phone number on the page with a tracking number.  That’s why it’s called DYNAMIC CALL TRACKING.  Dynamic Call Tracking can be used to insert a tracking number for any reason.  You can use this code to insert a tracking number for visits from Campaign A, and a different tracking number for visits from Campaign B.  You could track visitors from Yahoo vs. visitors from Bing.  The possiblities are endless.  What you should never do is just arbitrarily replace phone numbers on websites!

Why have Hibu’s Google AdWords “Expert”s not discovered this problem?

This was a major red flag on an account that is spending between $12,000 & $15,000 per month on Pay Per Click advertising with Hibu.  I would expect a lot more attention to detail on an account spending this much money. The first thing I noticed when looking at the, very vague, Hibu campaign report was the insanely high (and utterly useless) “Click to Call Ratio”.  The “Click to Call Ratio” percentages reported by Hibu to this customer were:

  1. Campaign A – 62%
  2. Campaign B – 45%
  3. Campaign C – 111%
  4. Campaign D – 31%
  5. Campaign E – 233%
  6. Campaign F – 21%
  7. Campaign G – 35%
  8. Campaign H – 54%
  9. Campaign I – 94%
  10. Campaign J – 22%
  11. Campaign K – 28%
  12. Campaign L – 54%
  13. Campaign M – 58%
  14. Campaign N – 25%

I am not making these numbers up!  There is NO WAY IN HELL that a pay per click campaign is driving that many phone calls to a customers business!

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I then took a look at the call detail report.  When I removed duplicate phone calls and calls under 1 min 30 seconds – the total calls reported by Hibu for the month dropped from 763 down to 225!  Keep in mind – this is the number of ALL CALLS for the month – not just the paid ones.  However – even if you assumed that all 225 of the calls that were left on this report were from paid clicks – you have no way of knowing how many are from existing customers and how many are from potential new customers.  Based on that fact alone, this data is almost useless in telling you how a campaign is performing.  But – forgetting that for a minute – let’s use 225 calls as our number.  Is that worth over $12,000 that the customer spent?  Maybe, maybe not – but doesnt’ Hibu owe it to it’s cusotmers to report ACCURATE #’s and let the custoemr decide?  Even if EVERY one of the phone calls was from a paid click visitor – the real “Cost Per Call” reported by Hibu would be over $53 (and that’s giving them credit for EVERY SINGLE CALL).  The reality is, I doubt even 30% of those calls are from paid visitors and an even smaller percentage of those calls are from potential new clients that were also from a paid source.

Conclusion: 

I realize that this is only one example from one Hibu customer.  It may be jumping the gun a bit but I can’t see how this is an accident.  It is my opinion that Hibu is intentionally misleading customers with these monthly reports in an effort to make customers believe that they are getting great results from these poorly run campaigns.  Do you have a Hibu Pay Per Click Campaign?  What are the click to call ratio’s?

The bottom line is this – if you are paying Hibu to run a pay per click campaign you should seriously consider cancelling your contract as soon as possible.

Disclaimer:  if you are wondering – yes I offer PPC services to my clients.  No I didn’t write this just to get business.  I wrote this so that you will have the information necessary to make good decisions about how you spend your hard earned money – whether you do business with me or not.  That said – if you are interested in how it is that I crush Hibu Pay Per Click campaigns (in both price & performance) – feel free to reach out to me.  I’d love to talk more.  

Chad Musgrove

Big AdWords re-sellers set their own rules!

When it comes to re-sellers of Google Adwords, there is a “strict” set of requirements that we have to follow but for some reason (cough, cough – MONEY), it appears as if Google turns a blind eye to the largest of the re-sellers which begs the question “Why”?

The first of these “requirements” that Google seems to ignore is the requirement to share, at a minimum, “AdWords costs, clicks, and impressions”.  (Notice the distinction between Cost & Price here)  I have covered this topic thoroughly on this blog and the Pay Per Click Truth website so I will not bore you with that info here.

This post is to write about the other way that large re-sellers violate the rules that that rest of us have to follow.

AdWords Violation #2:

Google clearly states on it’s AdWords support forum that The display URL in your ad must match the domain where users will land when they click on your ad” but if you look at my examples below – you can see that Reach Local and Hibu are exempt from this requirement.  (Dex does something even worse)

(click image to enlarge)

In the first example (a Hibu PPC campaign) the display url is for the customers website, but when you click the ad it takes you to Hibu’s cloned version of the customers site (which happened to be down when I clicked on it). This cloned website sits on HIBU’s servers @ Hibu’s domain “clickforward.com” NOT the customers servers for his domain “greenplanetplumbing.com”.

In the second example (a Reach Local campaign) the display url is for the customers website “www.oneillplumbing.com” but when you click on the ad it takes you to Reach Locals cloned website for the customer which is sitting on Reach Locals domain on Reach Locals servers at “reachlocal.net”.

Why is this bad?

A) Because it violates the rules that all the little guys have to follow.  Is it really an advantage?  Probably not – but this is an example of how Google let’s big AdWords resellers bend the rules.  To me, that’s very relevant in establishing a pattern of behavior for both Google and the big re-sellers.  Especially when you look at how re-sellers break the rules with regards to disclosing the actual AdWords cost, and they get away with it.

B) This hurts the customer (which is why I believe that Google has the rule in the first place).  From Google: Account history is a core component of AdWords Quality Score”.  This means that if you were to leave Reach Local, Hibu, or Dex – you would have NO ACCOUNT HISTORY and would be starting over from scratch.  By default, your Quality Scores would be lower than they might have been, which will cost you money in the long run. 

The bottom line is this – why on earth would you let someone that breaks the rules run YOUR AdWords account? (these accounts belong to you, not the re-sellers).  Why pay someone thousands of dollars and not have access to all the information, pay a huge markup, and then if you leave (eventually you will), you get no credit with Google for the thousands of dollars that you spent with them already?  It just makes no sense.

Here’s where I will undoubtedly lose credibility with some people: (if you question my motives, I request that you read my “bashing the competition” page)

 

I charge a flat 20% fee to manage YOUR campaign.  NO contracts, NO minimum terms, 100% transparency 100% of the time, and I setup YOUR account for you.  You will be billed by Google – so you know your EXACT COST.  I invoice you after Google does, and I invoice based on the amount you actually spend per month.  IF you ever leave me – you take your account and it’s history with you.  What are you waiting for?  Click the button!