Any post related to Google AdWords Scams that I run across. These Adwords Scams can be anything from entire companies ripping people off to individuals running bogus Adwords programs that give no return on investment. Usually companies that I consider to be a PPC Scam will be providing a level of service that doesn’t even follow basic rules of Pay Per Click.

Dex Pay Per Click Review (video)

Dex Pay Per Click review (video)

I’ve decided to do some of these pay per click reviews as videos.  This way I can walk you through exactly what it is I see and hopefull you can learn from them all the reasons why you should NOT hire Dex to run any pay per click campaigns for you.  In this Dex PPC review – I walk you through a local chiropractor that is paying Dex for a “guaranteed actions” program. For those of you that would rather read – a summary appears below the video.


Dex Pay Per Click review

This particular person that is flushing money down the toilet is a chiropractor in Port Orchard, WA.  The really sad part is that Port Orchard is a small(ish) town on the Kitsap Peninsula.  There are not a lot of chiropractors in the area (it’s not saturated like some big cities are).  A deeper look at the competition for the Google landscape reveals that of the chiropractors in that area, there are not really any that are focusing on their internet presence.  I’m telling you this because it means that with a little effort at Local SEO – a chiropractor should be able to easily outrank their competition in a small town like Port Orchard.

In this Dex “guaranteed” actions program we see all the same garbage that I always see with their horrible pay per click campaigns:

  • Bad ad content
  • Showing up for irrelevant searches
  • Showing up in markets you don’t have a chance to gain a new customer from
  • Traffic from the PPC ad going to a Dex Media “enhanced listing” (the same listings that are on their directory site)

And in this case – it get’s worse for this chiropractor because they are also paying for a website from Dex Media.  You can imagine what a quality website that is!  (If I get the time I will do another video in which I review this Dex website and explain exactly why this is also a waste of money.)

The bottom line is that Dex does not manage pay per click programs at all.  These programs have all the signs of a company plugging in a few broad matched keywords, selecting a radius around your city (too large a radius to ensure that you get a ton of impressions) and then never looking at the program again.  This is a complete waste and when combined with their crazy markups (rumored to be around 50%) – there is no way that a customer is getting a positive return on their investment.


If you are wondering – yes, I provide PPC management.  If you want a program that will CRUSH anything Dex has been doing for you.  Get in touch.



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.


Hibu Pay Per Click - is it a scam?

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?

Pay Per Click Red Flags

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!


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.


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

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.


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?