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!

[DISPLAY_ACURAX_ICONS]

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

14 replies
  1. D Mitchell
    D Mitchell says:

    I came across your blog when researching HIBU. I’m not sure if you will still see this message, but at least I’ll feel better if I get it off my chest. I could kick myself for not doing so prior to signing a contract with them but I trusted some other business owners I know that said they were happy. I honestly think they didn’t want to bad mouth the rep that is in the networking group. As the above mentioned, their PPC program is crap. I’m 6 months in and in the last 40 days, guess how calls their campaign generated? THREE!!!!
    I am beyond frustrated and livid. The rep will not call me back or answer my emails.
    Thanks for letting me vent!

    Don M Taylor

    Reply
    • Muskrat37
      Muskrat37 says:

      Hey Don,

      Sorry to hear about the issues. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that often the positive reviews that are left about Hibu (or the recommendations from other business owners) are usually out of ignorance. I truly believe that if small business owners knew about the tactics Hibu uses to “prove” their campaigns are working (reporting duplicate calls, hiding stats that would show these clicks are not from quality visitors, hiding the markup they are charging, advertising on crappy unrelated websites etc.) they would never leave a positive review. Unfortunately, most small businesses don’t know which questions to ask and are ignorant to the amount of information that is available. This leads them to mistakenly believe they are getting a positive return on their investment.

      Another big issue is that a lot of times the website that the clicks are being driven to is not properly optimized to drive forms being filled out or phone calls being generated.

      PPC can be very profitable when run correctly by a competent person.

      Good luck, and feel free to reach out if you’d like an honest review of your campaigns and advice on how they could be run better.

      Chad

      Reply
  2. jonathan
    jonathan says:

    Well I live in the UK. I run a small roofing business. So far so good. I have been advertising on yell for three years. Didnt cost more than 300 bucks a month and everything was doing well. We had a head of work to die for. Then a smooth talking SOB walked in my office and sold me a yell website. Not so bad at 60 a month with some SEO (that died off after a month) Then this year another manager took over my account and screwed it up totally. My head of work went to minus 5 weeks instead of plus 4 and beyond. My cash flow was dwindling and I had to shed staff and sell assets to make ends meet. It was at this point I decided to check all those expensive ads I’d been sold by my new manager. What I found was although my budget had increased to $700 per month my ads were nowhere to be seen. It took nearly a month to get them back up and another month to bring the head of work back in to over a week. I couldnt let them take another month without a discount (I had lost over 30,000 in revenue) all I got was an email from their debt department even though I called and explained their errors.I call my rep and I get no answer. However if I ring head office and threaten a lawsuit they ring back within minutes. This company like so many today are a shower of douchebags. But whats the alternative. ??

    Reply
    • Muskrat37
      Muskrat37 says:

      Wow Jonathan – sounds like a horror story.

      I hate these smooth talking salesman, but also don’t blame them 100%. They are taught how to sell, and they go do it. They would like to believe their company is not doing anything wrong, even though they are.

      Hibu is one of the worst companies (right behind DEX) for websites or Pay Per Click or SEO.

      As for who you go to – I would recommend that you work with a local web professional that you can get to know. Someone that has YOUR business interest at heart.

      Good luck in your search – let me know if yo have any more questions.

      Regards,
      Chad.

      P.S. – if you want to reach out to me, I’d be happy to provide you a quote for my services.

      Reply
  3. Daniel Francis
    Daniel Francis says:

    I hate to say this but you are defaming a company’s name. I understand that sales reps come and go but there are always resp that will say or do anything to get a sale it is a matter of money. These are the kind of people that give sales reps a bad names. They are trained correctly but do their own thing. Sales people like that do not stay in the company for long but leave the damaged they cause behind. Before you evaluate a companies programs without adequate information. maybe you should ask the company.

    Reply
    • Muskrat37
      Muskrat37 says:

      Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog. Given that you are an employee of the company, and you found a blog that is all about Hibu and Dex not delivering what they say they will (and in my opinion a total scam), I am curious as to how it is you found this blog?

      As for not having adequate information about Hibu – I actually worked for them and was VERY good at selling their PPC products. I also worked for Idearc Media (who last I heard was now owned by DEX). The programs between Idearc Media and Hibu were identical! I questioned upper management about their clear violations of Google’s reseller program (specifically the not revealing actual PPC cost as required to do so), and I was told directly “we do not tell customers that information.” I was also told that Hibu does not reveal their markups / management fees to employees. That contributed to my list of reasons for leaving Hibu.

      I have first hand experience and knowledge about Hibu’s PPC programs. I also do not publish conjecture. The information I publish is based on my first hand experience.

      Regards,
      Chad

      Reply
  4. Raymond Vasquez
    Raymond Vasquez says:

    Thanks for posting this blog. I wish I had done research before signing up for their PPC campaign. Had I done so, I would not have been paying $1500/month for one measly website click!!! I was told that I would only be charged for clicks that actually went to my website. I got one click and still got charged $1500 which was what I set my limit at. They lied to me about the way this works. They charge your monthly fee regardless of the amount of clicks you receive. The last I spoke with my Sales Rep he said he was going to guarantee I get more clicks next month. Yea right! After reading this blog, I doubt they will be legit! I am extremely frustrated by this and not getting a return call from the reps manager so that I can cancel! The only reason I signed up was because the Sales Rep was a member of my BNI group. He needs to cancel his membership and get out because his company is a fraud! I am going to try and cancel if I ever get a hold of that manager. If not, I will need to seek an attorney.

    Reply
    • Muskrat37
      Muskrat37 says:

      Raymond,

      I am sorry to hear of your struggles with your Hibu PPC program. Thank you for taking the time to comment on the blog as it will hopefully help other unsuspecting business owners from signing long term agreements for, what I consider to be, subpar Pay Per Click services.

      Please feel free to reach out if you need any assistance getting your program cancelled. Hopefully you are in the first 30 days as it will not be a problem then.

      Good Luck.

      Chad

      Reply
  5. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    Chad,
    I sign up every year for Hibu Yellowpages. Misty (salesperson) called this year and said they had free website listing. I asked her to repeat that it was free, she said yes, no charge and they wouldn’t charge for it in the future. She then transferred me to a man who went through my business information and he confirmed that it was free. Two weeks later I get a $30.00 per month invoice. When I called they said I verbally confirmed a contract for it. The only thing I confirmed was the Yellowpages ads. Now, Misty, hasn’t called me back. How do I cancel this fraud from this fraud company?

    Reply
    • Muskrat37
      Muskrat37 says:

      Hey Rebecca,

      First – so sorry for the delayed response – I will also send my answer to your email and try to help out if I can.

      If you are still dealing with this, my advise would be to call and talk with a manager. When you get a manager on the line, ask for the recording of you confirming your “order”. Supposedly, they record all of those calls (when you get to the phone verification / confirmation page. If he won’t give it to you, or won’t look for it, or makes excuses about it – ask him to cancel the order because you were not told about the $30 per month. Remind him to check the records for notes and he can see that you called in complaining right after you got your first bill.

      Odd’s are, for a $30 per month client, the manager will just let you off the hook as digging up the recorded call is probably a pain in his butt and not worth $30 lousy dollars per month.

      As for their “listing service – NEVER pay a giant company for a listing service. There are better services to cover your directory listings, and they cost very little per year and are usually an annual, or 1 time fee.

      I think you just gave me an idea for my next blog post! (NEVER pay a giant company for a listing service!)

      Good Luck

      Reply
  6. Tony
    Tony says:

    Great post, I just stumbled across it while doing some research. I’m actually quite similar to you, a little guy offering internet marketing to small business owners. I agree with most of what you wrote, based on clients and others who have had previous dealings with the Big Names in marketing.

    I do have a question about your call tracking conclusions. Some folks use dynamic number insertion (DNI) to track everything, including organic search. In this case, it wouldn’t be odd to find number swapping on the home page after a google organic search. I don’t actually use this approach because I’m super cautious about local seo and worried about name/address/phone (NAP) info getting polluted and harming seo (although many have claimed the javascript swap won’t harm it).

    So I’m just playing devil’s advocate. As I said, I agree with most of what you said, and I’m quite sure hibu (and others) do charge outrageous rates and show misleading metrics. How else can they afford to pay those high-powered sales people 🙂

    Reply
    • Muskrat37
      Muskrat37 says:

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and GREAT question.

      As you stated, some people use DNI (Dynamic Number Insertion) to swap out phone numbers for ORGANIC search.

      I never do that. I only require my clients have a Call Tracking Line if they do PPC. I get 1 line for Google Clicks, 1 line for Bing / Yahoo Clicks, and 1 line for Facebook Ad’s. This way, we can track actual calls from the campaigns to more accurately determine the customers TRUE R.O.I.

      As to your point / concern about it messing with organic rankings if you use a DNI to track calls from Organic Sources. The reason people are telling you that it won’t impact SEO is because it won’t. The tracking script is just a single line of code (about 60 characters) and it links to the call tracking providers number. Google will not know that the new number is associated with the business, because the number is not in the code.

      The companies REAL phone number is in the HTML on the website. Google will crawl the website, and know what the number is. Even if the Google bot followed the javascript link, I trust Google to know that a javascript line of code (on a site like Call Tracking Metrics) that simply swaps out a number on the website is not the number of the business.

      When you see business that have an old call tracking line listed in Google’s SERPs, it’s usually caused by the customer (or a company like HIBU) purchasing a call tracking line, then INSTALLING THAT TRACKING NUMBER ON THE WEBSITE and putting it on profile pages on their directory site (yellowpages.com). That number get’s indexed, and it can be a pain to fix because many sites might have crawled the directory site and scraped the number that now get’s assigned to the customers business.

      If you use DNI, and you have all the directory sites updated with the correct number (not the tracking number), and you’ve claimed their social profiles and they have NAP info that matches the website, you will be fine and the Dynamically inserted tracking number will not get indexed.

      Hope this info helps.

      Reply
  7. Maraget
    Maraget says:

    Hi I am currently have similar issues with hibu and upon trying to cancel services they are claiming that I cannot cancel with them!!! I am currently in the process of filing a complaint with the attorney general of my state and encourage other to do so I am also looking into a class action lawsuit

    Reply
    • Muskrat37
      Muskrat37 says:

      Hi Margaret,

      I’m sorry to hear about your struggles with HIBU and their PPC program. One thing that you can try to do (their contracts are pretty ironclad) is calling them, advising that money is tight right now, and see if you can get your PPC account manager to pause the keywords that are driving the most traffic. If you pause the top 5 click getting keywords, your monthly cost will be much lower. The problem is that Hibu knows this, and the less you spend the less they make. It is my belief that this is the reason they don’t give customers total control to choose their keywords, pause keywords etc.

      Anyways – if you go that route, I would advise you to try the “compassionate” play. Call them and explain that cash flow is very tight (it is for a lot of small business owners) and practically beg them to pause the campaigns (or at least the top “performing” keywords (the ones that get the most clicks.

      If you threaten to sue them, tell them they are in breach of contract, or try any other strong arm tactic, they will stand their ground and soon you’ll be getting calls from a collection agency.

      Another way to “get out of your contract” is to simply cancel the credit card on the bill. When the bill get’s overdue (I think at 45 days), they will stop all your keywords. Hibu (and other PPC companies) do this because they are still having to pay Google for the clicks. If your budget is set at $1,500 per month, and you don’t pay the bill, they will lose that money. Losing 1 – 1 1/2 months of click cost will cancel out their profits from their markup. I would only advise this if a couple of conditions are true about your situation with Hibu:

      1. You have less than 4-5 months on your contract left
      2. You actually plan to pay the account and settle it

      If you have less than 4-5 months on the contract and you cancel or replace the credit card on file with them, the account will not get paid at the end of the month. It will go into deliquency about 45-60 days after your card doesn’t work. Wait another month or 2 – THEN PAY THE BILL.

      By the time this process takes place, and you pay the bill (which they will use the new CC info to put on file and resume the program), there will not be any time left on your contract and you can cancel.

      As for planning to actually pay the bill. I recommend this because their contracts are pretty iron clad. If you just don’t pay it, and you choose to fight it, or sue them or any other tactic other than paying the bill, you will be dealing with collections for years to come.

      Good luck with your situation – I hope that it works out.

      P.S. As for a law suit, or a class action suit. I have been “outing” these companies that rip off their clients for years. Over that time, I’ve seen many people talk about a class action lawsuit. I’ve even had attorney’s contact me about being a witness in the suit, testifying about PPC and how it works, testifying about Hibu’s practices etc. None of them have ever seem to go anywher. My advise would be to pay the bill as described above, cut your losses, chalk them up to one of those bad advertising decisions that we business owners so often make that turned out to be a bad one, and move on.

      Reply

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