What to expect from your AdWords Company. Google’s Third-Party Policy

screenshot of google advertisers guide

It can be hard for business owners to know exactly what to expect when commencing work with an AdWords company, and even harder to understand exactly what Google does to police the exploitation of its platform.

To understand what to expect and what standards of quality are put into place you have to know a bit about the Google AdWords certified partner program.

The Google AdWords certified partner program is a certification that can be achieved by any organisation that has an individual who can show their expertise at manipulating the Google AdWords interface, and to a lesser extent the API which runs it all. The requirements for the certification are:

  •  Have an MCC (or “My Client Centre” – multiple accounts linked under one umbrella account) with a total spend $10,000 over 90 days,
  •  Have at least one individually qualified employee (pass a test) and,
  • Adhere to the terms and conditions associated with being an AdWords certified partner. (http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=18572)

Once a company is an AdWords certified partner, they are required to maintain an employee with up to date individual qualifications and are required to comply with Google’s third party policy.

Since April 1st 2011 Google, has been auditing AdWords partners at their own discretion. These audits may be initiated by complaints received against an agency or by Google themselves. The penalty for not completing a satisfactory audit against the third party advertising policy can be the removal of the AdWords partner certification.

The Google AdWords third party policy:
http://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=152979

The Google AdWords advertiser guide:
http://www.google.com/adwords/thirdpartypartners/

This  advertisers guide is required by all partners to be shared to clients on both sales and renewals along with being available on a clearly discoverable part of an agency’s website. This has been in place since February 2011.

Breaking down the third-party policy and advertisers guidelines.

In Google’s own words:

“We’re always working to improve advertisers’ ROI and experience with AdWords, and we want to make sure advertisers — whether they work with AdWords directly or not — understand how AdWords is performing for them. We believe accountability is a core feature of AdWords. Focusing on what’s best for the advertiser is ultimately the best long-term course for third parties working with AdWords.”

From: http://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2417693#0002

Put simply, the policy is in response to a problem that previously existed (and still does though to a lesser extent) where agencies would not disclose actual expenditure on AdWords. In extreme cases, agencies would mark up clicks into website by up to 100%. This gives advertisers a poor indication of how well AdWords is working for them and reflects on the platform itself, resulting in many advertisers abandoning the channel completely.

Google on how to work with a third party partner.

The third party policy encourages potential advertisers to search through the AdWords partner search database when selecting an agency to work with along with explaining that AdWords costs and management / agency costs are different charges.

Google recommends selecting an agency based on experience, which is a no brainer, but importantly suggests checking the agencies case studies from similar industries and audiences. Google warns against running multiple agencies against each other due to double serving rules, however this can still be done by allocating different agencies for specific states, services or products to run and checking performance against each other.

Google on what to look out for.

Google warns to watch out for agencies that will not share the actual costs of a campaign, make any guarantees to ad position, are over aggressive in getting you to sign up, claim they are from Google or offer ‘deceptive pricing’ (eg: packages and volume discounts on clicks).

There was a darker past to AdWords management companies where agencies would cold call people, say they are from Google, tell people they are selling number one position for $x per month then send them though a six month contract that collects credit card details.

Back then if you were a business owner this would seem like a great deal, but it would leave you with little understanding on what is actually happening and zero understanding on how it works. Margins on these deals were also very questionable, reporting was non-existent and the platform was rapidly getting a bad name.

Although this kind of selling strategy is nowhere near as prevalent in today’s market, it does still occur – so if you get one of these calls my advice is to run as fast as possible in the opposite direction.

Third party partner requirements.

Please check the third party policy, but here are the main points to look out for from your AdWords company.

1. Reporting is non-existent or not clear.

Google requires third parties to report at minimum to report on the actual AdWords cost, clicks and impressions at the account level each month.

Joe’s Plumbing — AdWords report for July 2010
Clicks: 1,400
Impressions: 12,000
Cost: $700

This is a very basic reporting requirement and you should either get access to the campaign yourself or receive a breakdown of account / campaign / adgroup and keyword levels of your campaign.

2. Engaging in deceptive or harassing sales practises.

If an agency is not spending the agreed amount on AdWords or are moving the budget into other channels without notification.

Claiming to have special pricing for keywords, auction, set position prices and bulk discounts.

Purposely not utilising AdWords features that were agreed by the client eg: location targeting.

3. Claiming to have a special relationship with Google.

Either claiming to be Google to implying a preferential relationship or influence with the organisation.

4. Making improper guarantees about Google.

Selling ‘permanent positions’, representing free services such as Google Places as having a cost, implying certain features of AdWords as having an additional charge from Google.

5. Improper use of accounts, account data and Google’s marketing.

Using one account for multiple advertisers, selling coupons, erasing or destroying account data of a client an AdWords company is about to lose.

6. Actions for Immediate suspension.

Phishing, any attempt to acquire credit card, usernames, passwords by misrepresentation. Essentially sending spam ‘Google AdWords warnings’ that attempt to collect this information.

Pretending to be Google, deceptively using the Google logo, contacting people saying you’re from Google.

And any other actions that Google deems to be harmful to Google’s advertisers or users.

How to complain about a Google Third-Party Partner.

The following link allows advertisers to submit a complaint about a third party partner: http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/request.py?&contact_type=gap_complaint

I hope this information has been helpful and has given you an understanding on how Google goes about ensuring the quality of its partners. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below!

This information has been provided as an overview; please refer to links for actual details on the documents / policies mentioned. Post is relevant at time of publishing.

Posted on October 23, 2012 by

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