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Google Account Manager Caught Breaking Terms of Service on Voicemail

19 August 2013 BY

A voice mail recording obtained by Martin MacDonald, Inbound Marketing director at Expedia, appears to reveal a Google AdWords account manager failing to take action against a breach of AdWords terms & conditions.

The voice mail, which is embedded on MacDonald’s site here, is a recording of what appears to be an AdWords account manager bemoaning the fact his client upgraded to ‘enhanced campaigns’ without talking to him. The person then goes on to mention ‘bridge pages’, which are in violation of Google’s terms of service for AdWords, as well as his reluctance to engage in further contact with the client.

The full recording, as published by MacDonald, is transcribed below.

“I’m gonna go go… [inaudible].
Shut your… Oh What the F. Why did you upgrade your account without talking to me? You… They went to enhanced campaigns and did not talk to me.
I’m pissed off.
You said what?
Yeah I know.
This would have been easier.
Now I gotta like pitch call extensions, and sitelinks, and then leave.
Yeah, there you go, Grant knows about them sitelinks! Heheheh.
Yeah, some kind of water pure, portable water purifier.
Those bridge pages or parked domains. Those are pretty bad. I don’t even care, I’m not calling them, I don’t want to get…
I just want to get uhmmm, I don’t care, I don’t want to spend more than ten minutes. I’m gonna do, all I want to do is enhanced, then I’m going to get the f**k out, that’s all I want to do…
No. I will never stop being angry. That’s what I am. When you see Russell here next time ask him what my gamer tag used to be…”

One thing that stands out from this recording is how the account manager is deliberately not acting against what he has identified are ‘bridge pages’. These type of doorway pages are against Google’s own terms of service:

Bridge page - Advertising Policies Help

There have been numerous anecdotal stories in the industry about Google account managers giving their clients advise that seems geared towards enhancing the clients’ spend in AdWords, rather than provide a higher return on investment, and MacDonald mentions a few in his post.

And, as seasoned PPC professionals know, the standard settings that Google uses for a new AdWords campaign are rarely the settings that yield the highest return for the client. Instead those settings seem intended to generate the highest cost for the client – i.e. revenue for Google.

In recent years Google has been burned several times over AdWords malpractices, most notably when they were fined $500 million for enabling and openly assisting AdWords advertising for illegal pharmaceutical goods. In that case account managers were also keenly aware of the violations of the company’s TOS, but seemed intent on maximising Google’s profits rather than shutting down illegal AdWords campaigns.

An in-depth report published by Wired shows just how far Google’s account managers involvement in this illegal AdWords operation went:

“Whitaker recorded a phone conversation with his California Google rep, walking them through the website in real time while explaining how the scam worked. He deliberately showed how PVD was a conduit for the rogue online pharmacies, confirming that his rep was following him every step of the way. At one point, the rep asked if the rogue sites had been approved by PharmacyChecker. Of course Whitaker admitted that they hadn’t been, but it didn’t matter; PVD never lost its approval, and the illegal sites were allowed to continue to operate.”

It appears that, even after that enormous fine, Google has yet to fully embrace the lessons learned from its illicit behaviour. Last year Google was caught facilitating illegal ads for Olympic tickets, cannabis, and fake IDs. This latest revelation seems to show Google has not mended its ways in the least.

In light of Google’s dominance in the search market, especially in Europe, MacDonald calls for regulation of Google’s services. Since the company seems unable or unwilling to improve its behaviour when it comes to AdWords, those building a case for government intervention will have plenty of fresh ammunition.

Follow the latest developments on this story on Twitter via the #GoogleGate hashtag.

AUTHORED BY:
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Barry Adams is one of the editors of State of Digital and is a freelance SEO consultant based in Belfast, delivering specialised SEO services to clients across Europe.
  • studiumcirclus

    This is really interesting. I suppose it shows one way in which target-based work cultures can potentially shift the responsibility of ‘company values’ from the business itself to the employees via unreasonable expectations.

    Companies can operate against their own guidelines (with minimal risk) if they set targets which compel their employees (or necessitate them) to ‘over-succeed’. I guess this is where corruption creeps in – and Google can always blame the employee rather than taking responsibility.

    When you base 90% of someone’s career around targets, they will most often neglect anything (including basic morality) which falls outside of those few given KPIs. Not really amazed that this kind of thing happens but still very insightful.

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