Pay Per Click Scams

Hey DEX! Tell me, who is the “Best” Plumber in Seattle?

I’m just payin’ some bills with these ads

According to DEX Media’s website, when you sign up for a Search Engine Marketing program with them you get “A team of certified local search experts to monitor the performance of your campaign and adjust, when necessary, for optimal results.”  After what I discovered yesterday, I wonder if this team of “experts” has taken the year off?  I also wonder exactly what they would consider a “necessary adjustment” to optimize the results?

Yesterday (7/8/14) I was researching a company that I was planning on calling to offer my services to.  They are paying Reach Local to run Pay Per Click ads for them, and since my markup is 40% less than the alleged 60% Reach Local charges (shameless plug), they are a perfect candidate to become one of my customers.

Anyways, I digress.  The company is called “Best Plumbing” (Yep, that’s a free link I just gave them.  It might help their SEO a little but secretly, I’m hoping they have their Google Alerts turned on, they find this link, and they call me.  If you are from Best Plumbing you REALLY should call me).

Best Plumbing is located in Seattle, so I did a search for “best plumbing seattle.”  Here are the results (click to enlarge):


7 (the yellow highlighted ads) out of the 11 available ads are Dex Media customers.

4 of those 7 have the ad headline “Seattle Best Plumber”

Of the 3 remaining – 2 use the headline “Best Plumber” (so 6 out of 7 have “Best Plumber” in the headline)

and 1 is a “Quality Plumber”.

All 7 of these ad’s do something that DEX has been doing for years:  They direct traffic to a horrible “profile page” instead of the customers website (this decreases already pathetic conversion ratio’s even more)

None of these ad’s have compelling content written in them


Why all this is Bad, Bad, BAD for these DEX Customers.

These pathetic excuses for an ad are hurting these customers in many ways.  First, the Click Through Ratio has to be abysmal.  A low Click Through Ratio means that, most likely, the keywords that trigger these ads have an incredibly low quality score.  A low Quality Score means that you have to pay more for your clicks, or that your ad is shown in lower positions.  Second, IF (and that’s a BIG ASS IF) these ad’s get any clicks at all, the conversion ratio of these landing pages has to be pathetic.   There is nothing on these Dex Profile pages that would convince a potential customer of these plumbers to pick up the phone and call.  Lastly, if the customer ever decides to leave Dex – they don’t get any credit for the history of the account (in this case, that’s probably good since Dex is doing such a bad job of managing it).

The problem continued onto page 2, 3 and 4 of the Search Results.  On page 2 there are 5 more customers (who’s ad’s didn’t show on page 1).  On page 3 there are an additional 2 Dex Customers and on page 4 there is a final lonely Dex customer.  By the time I reached page 4, I was tired of looking so I stopped.  That’s a total of  15 Dex customers, for one search phrase, in one city.  Most of them use the headline “Best Plumber” or “Seattle Best Plumber”.  A couple of them use the headline “Quality Plumber”.  None of them has compelling content, and none of them sends traffic to a page on a website that might convert a customer.  In my opinion, this is a con of epic proportions!

Who’s interest does Dex have in mind with campaigns like this?  Where is the “team of certified local search experts to monitor the performance” of these ads?

This type of stuff pisses me off to no end.  Every single one of these customers has been suckered by DEX and is wasting their money with garbage programs like this.   I have also heard rumors that Dex is charging a markup of up to 50% on the clicks.


Pay Per Click Red Flags

Pay Per Click Red Flags

I’m just payin’ some bills with these ads

One of the sure fire ways to get on the first page of Google is to pay for it.  Google AdWords (or Pay Per Click) program can have some very good results, and it can be a money pit.  Learning to navigate the waters of Google AdWords is something most small business owners don’t have the time for, or just don’t have an interest in.  Many of these small businesses are left with no choice but to trust someone to run their AdWords campaigns for them.  While there are many good AdWords companies out there, there are also many more bad ones.

How do you distinguish the good from the bad?  It’s tough, but these red flags should help.  If someone approaches you, and 2 or more of these red flags pop up – DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH THEM!  It will cost you a lot of money, and you will NOT get a return on your investment.

  1. Markup
    • Companies are required to share Actual AdWords Click Cost – but most of them only show you a report with the Price they charged you for the click.
    • Ask the representative point blank “what is your companies markup for managing my AdWords Campain?”  If they won’t tell you, run!
  2. Lack of Access
    • Ask if you will be given access to your Adwords Account – and all the information it contains.  The fact is, any AdWords account manager can authorize any email address to have “read only” access to the Adwords account.  If a company will not provide you with this access, you should not do business with them.
    • One of the tactics companies will use to divert your attention away from this point is to tell you that they provide “custom reports.”  They might say that you will get “proprietary reports”.  What these reports (or report access) really are is a summary of some of the information that is available to you.   In their version of your reports, you will never see things like Bounce Rate, Time on Sight, New vs Returning visitor and many other valuable bits of information.
  3. Lack of information
    • Restricting your access to available analytics information is a BIG RED FLAG.  Ask yourself, why would a company not want you to see all available information?
  4. Promising you top postion
    • The top position is not always the one that provides the best return on investment.  Their are a lot of things that go into determining who get’s that number 1 position in the ad’s section of Google.  One of which is your bid.  If a company promises you the #1 position, they are just bidding super high to buy it.  The problem with this is that your R.O.I. from this high bid will most likely be negative.  If someone promises you the number one position – kick them out of your office.
  5. Letting you sign up with too small of a budget
    • First – the budget recommendation that these companies give you INCLUDES THEIR MARKUP on the clicks.
    • Second – Let’s say they tell you that to “Dominate” your type of business, you need to spend $2,000 per month, to “Compete” you need to spend $1,500 per month and to just “Show up” you need to spend $1,000 per month.  You say “I only have $600 per month.” – if they are willing to take your money anyways – run.  You will just be flushing $600 per month down the toilet.  For more info on why this is, see my post “Why a small AdWords budget is a waste
  6. Long Contracts
    • I hate contracts with a service like AdWords.  Sure, in order to dial in an AdWords account, it takes a few months worth of data – but if you are in a popular category (plumbers, electricians, hardwood flooring etc) a good AdWords Account Manager should already have an idea on what types of ads work, how much they cost, where to put them etc.  They can also do a lot of research on the industry before launching your campaign.
    • My motto is “people don’t mind giving me money, if I’m making them money”  Good campaigns should make you money, but if something were to come up for you and you needed to pause your campaign, why would I not let you?
    • Pausing an AdWords Campaign (and re-starting it) is as simple as clicking a button.  Why would a company not let you pause and resume it at your discretion.  After all, IT’S YOUR ACCOUNT!   The only reason I can think of is because THEIR REVENUE IS TIED TO YOUR SPEND, hence the contract.

In the beginning of this post I stated that if 2 or more of these red flags pop up – Do NOT do business with them.  After reviewing this list – I would say that if ANY of these AdWords Red Flags pop up – do not do business with them.  Shop around – you will find someone that will not have any of these red flags.

I hope you found this information helpful.  Feel free to let me know in the comments below if I left any “Red Flags” off the list.

Shameless plug: 

I charge a flat 20% markup, give you full access to your account, and do not have minimum term contracts.

100% transparency – 100% of the time.

P.S. - (if you think I wrote this JUST to get business - check out my "Bashing the Competition" page, then decide)


Why a small AdWords Budget is a waste

Why a small AdWords Budget is a waste

I’m just payin’ some bills with these ads

A Deadly Pay Per Click combination:

Low Budget + Bad Management + High Markups = Money in the Toilet

In most cases – and underfunded Pay Per Click Budget is a complete waste of money.  Not because you can’t have a successful campaign on any budget, but because of the way that most companies run AdWords Campaigns. When you combine a poorly ran campaign with huge markups and a low budget, you might as well be flushing your money down the toilet because you are NOT going to get any customers from your investment.

Companies that have ridiculous markups don’t usually tell the customers their markup at all.  Most customers are not educated enough to know that Google actually requires AdWords re-sellers to share this information, and that Google goes so far as to warn the small business owner about companies that do not share cost information.  (Google Advertiser Guide)   (Google Third-Party Policy)   (Google Third-Party Policy FAQ)

Three of the biggest offenders of mixing under funded campaigns with poorly ran campaigns and having ridiculous markups are Dex Media, Hibu, and Reach Local.

Pay Per Click Example:

Here is a hypothetical, but VERY MUCH a real world example.  Suppose you are a plumber in the city of Seattle, WA.   The sales rep from a Pay Per Click re-seller tells you that in order to “Dominate” the competition – you need to spend $2,000 per month, in order to “Compete” you need to spend $1,500 per month, and in order to just have a “Presence” you need to spend $1,000 per month.  You reply – “I have a budget of $600 per month”.   The Sales Rep says “Great” and signs you to a 6 month contract @ $600 per month.

Now let’s apply some basic math to this equation:

$600 per month – 40% (their markup*) = $360 left for ads

$360 / 30 days per month = $12 per day

Most clicks come from the word “Plumbing” so that word is “broad matched” in your campaign.  (this means that any time the word “plumbing” is in a search, it can trigger your ad to display.

According to the Google Keyword Planning Tool – as of today (7/9/14), they recommend a bid of $11.92.  That does not mean you will pay that – it’s just the suggested bid from Google.  If you bid $5, your ad probably doesn’t show up, if you bid $50 – your ad will show up – but will cost you way more than you should have to pay.

Someone at home types in “plumbing company, Seattle WA” and an auction is triggered.  You ad shows up in the 4th spot and the cost is $5.

If your Average Cost Per Click were $5** – you could get 2 clicks per day.

2 clicks a day = 60 per month.

60 clicks per month X 1.5% (average conversion ratio – conversion = phone call or contact form filled out)

If you are lucky – you might get 1 conversion.  This may or may not be an existing customer, and it may or may not lead to a new customer – it just means they contacted you.

If you land the customer AND your profit per customer is over $600 – then you got a positive return on your investment.

If not – then you got screwed.

* the big companies have markups as high as 60%
** average cost per click for a plumber in Seattle for the keyword "plumbing" is likely to be way higher that $5.

There is just no way that the small business, with a small budget get’s a positive R.O.I. from Dex, Hibu, or Reach Local.

It is possible to take that $600 and turn it into a successful campaign, but it requires choosing specific “exact match” or “phrase matched” keywords, setting up the campaign to only run during periods of lower competition, and narrowing down the radius where the ad shows to a very specific target.

If you factor in that companies like Dex also send all their traffic to a profile page and not the actual website – the problem get’s even worse.

Are you a customer of Dex, Hibu, or Reach Local?  What has your experience been?



Top 8 things every small business should do, but doesn't

Top 8 things every small business should do, but doesn’t

I’m just payin’ some bills with these ads

Each and everyday I talk to business owners that have not done the basics to be successful online, yet they say to me “I show up on Google.”  I’ve got news for you – NO YOU DON”T!  The really sad thing is, most of “the basics” are FREE.

If you Google your name, and you don’t OWN the homepage of Google, you are NOT doing it right.  If you can’t even show up for your own name, what the hell makes you think you are showing up for keyword searches related to your industry?  If you are not showing up for keywords related to your industry – you are missing a lot of your business opportunities!

 Take, for example, “Denver Dustless.”  They are a hardwood flooring company in Denver Colorado (and a long time client).  Check out this screenshot when I searched their name.  I didn’t even put the city they are located in into my search.  This is highly relevant because Google uses the searchers physical location to determine the results they show.  Since I’m located in Gig Harbor, WA, a search for Denver Dustless (without their city entered) could have potentially showed me no relevant results as there is not a Denver Dustless anywhere near my physical location.  But it didn’t – DENVER DUSTLESS STILL OWNED THE FIRST PAGE! 

Running an AdWords Campaign?  

If you own the first page when you search your name – you don’t have to bid on your business name in your AdWords campaign.

Now take a look at what happened when I searched “Denver Dustless” but with the city the business is located in. Notice anything different?  The top 4 results are all pages from their actual website!

Are you a “word of mouth” business?  Then you definitely better own the first page of Google when someone searches your name.  If you don’t, the competition will be showing up for your name, and YOU ARE LOSING BUSINESS!  

Are you paying to drive business to your website?  Then you better own the first page of Google when someone searches your name because if you don’t – someone else does.  Especially if the main keyword for your industry is in your name, I.E. “Bill’s Plumbing”.  I guarantee your competitors are showing up for your business name search.

8 things you should have done by now:

I don’t know why it is that business owners don’t do the things on this list, but they just don’t. The fact that you are reading this should give you a leg up on your competition, because if you do these things, YOU WILL INCREASE YOUR WEB TRAFFIC.

  1. Build a QUALITY website
    • A Quality Website does not have to cost you a fortune, but you also should not go with the cheapest person out there.
    • Do not just focus on how the site looks – often the people who build the prettiest looking sites don’t code it properly.  Find someone that can make it look good and code it right.
    • Basic coding should include, at a minimum, appropriate title tags, heading tags, image alt tags, page names that match the subject, and relevant content.
  2. Install Google Analytics – and regularly look at the reports
    • This a free software that most business owners never look at.  You can see your visitors, where they come from, how long they were on your website and a ton of other valuable information.
  3. Install Google Webmaster tools – and link it to your Google analytics
    • Another Free software that provides insights into your website performance.  What keywords does Google see when it looks at your page, errors, dead links, sitemaps etc.  A must do for anyone that cares about their website’s performance
  4. Claim your Google Listing
    • Again – totally free.  Notice the information about Denver Dustless on the right side of those screenshots?  Valuable info like phone number, hours, pictures all right there on the first page of Google?  If a customer clicks on the Google Listing, they will see pictures, video’s, a short description about the business and what it does – ALL TOTALLY FREE to list on Google.
  5. Setup a Facebook Page – and keep it active
    • Completely free to setup.  You should be asking EVERY SINGLE CUSTOMER to “like” your Facebook page, to “plus one” your Google Business Page (aka listing), and to leave you a review on Google.  This will help you immensely.
  6. Claim your Yelp Listing and add info to it.
    • Referrals from Yelp may not be in the thousands per month, but I have regularly seen that visitors who find your website through yelp convert at a much higher percentage than visitors from either Organic or Paid traffic.
  7. REGULARLY add content to your website
    • Now that you have a website – add a page or two per quarter.  Google Love’s content that changes and is current.  Your business will not be the same in 2 years – neither should your website, since it represents your business.
  8. Advertise your website and TRACK the advertising
    • If you Advertise – watch your reports like a hawk.  One of the things that large Pay Per Click companies like Dex Media, Hibu, and Reach Local do to ensure your budget is spent is they will bid on your business name.  I just showed you 5 things you can do to OWN THE FIRST PAGE of Google for a search of your business name.  There is no reason to pay for clicks on your business name.

Short on time?

See just how INEXPENSIVE it can be to OWN THE FIRST PAGE of Google when someone searches your name.