What Every Attorney Needs To Know About Fake Google Ad Traffic
The Wall Street Journal reported today that Google is issuing refunds to advertisers and agencies that it has identified as victims of click fraud. It is also working to influence its ad networks to publicly agree to return the ad spend when fraud is detected. This is a strong and ethical move by Google to protect its customers and the integrity of its ad business.
For attorneys who rely on disposable ads for their businesses, this should be of real concern. You may already suspect that marketers and competitors are clicking on your ads, draining your budget. And you’d be right. But this goes even deeper. If you’re a small law firm managing your own Google ads, it’s easier to see the impact and make healthy choices because you have access to your account and can see where the money is being spent. However, if you pay a marketing company to manage the ads for you, there is often less transparency as to how the ads are being spent, and who is clicking on them.
According to the article, agencies may get refunds from Google. But what about their clients?
The choice agencies may face.
If you are paying an agency that gets a refund from Google, it puts that money back in their pocket. But will they use that money to make you whole?
If they decide to return the money to you, they will need to know the correct amount attributed to fraud on your individual account as opposed to their other clients. This will be some fraction of the entire amount they receive back from Google. Depending on their configuration, they may or may not be able to ascertain this. To make matters even stickier, you likely paid the agency a commission, typically between 15% and 30% on top of your money they spent on those fraudulent clicks. An ethical marketing company would obviously want to return not only the amount that was paid to Google, but also their commission on those clicks.
However, they will understand that, if they don’t disclose the refund to their clients they will receive a significant windfall. You paid commission on the fraudulent clicks, plus you paid the agency for the actual ad spend. The agency passed the actual ad spend on to Google. If Google then returns the actual ad spend to your agency, they could simply decide to keep it. The effect would be you paid them 15% – 30% to keep your money.
If you’re using a marketing agency that does not permit you to access your actual Google ad account (as opposed to reports they generate and provide you), you can protect yourself:
- Ask them whether they got or will get any refund. If they say their accounts were not affected, encourage them to go on record with that statement to give you and all of their clients assurances. This can easily be done by them posting a simple statement to their blog or social media, and would provide you with assurances that they are being truthful because Google would obviously be able to see it too.
- If they say they received or will receive a refund, ask them to provide you with an accounting of the amount that is attributed to your account along with the records supporting it.
- Ask them to disclose the fee (they may call it management fee, commission, premium, carry or any number of other things) they charged you for those fraudulent clicks.
- Ask they to return your ad spend and the corresponding commission to you.
At LawLytics, we are not against disposable online advertising per se. It can work over the short term for some lawyers in some markets. However, we are against attorneys wasting their time or money in any form. And it’s rare that a PPC-first strategy will provide the most efficient and enduring revenue growth for lawyers. Our system has features to support attorneys who decide to engage in PPC marketing, but we have always refused to insert ourselves as a middleman in the process due to the ethical implications of doing so. For a deeper dive into the dynamics of paid online ads, watch our webinar “PPC Advertising For Lawyers.”