If You Are a Small/Medium Business Do Not Let This Happen to You

I recently rescued a small Irish business from a paid search agency in the UK whose business practices border on being criminal.  (I’m not kidding, there should be laws against what this company does.)

The experiences of my new client inspired me to write an article for BizStartUp.ie, entitled Measuring Online Advertising Effectiveness. I kept the article dry and appropriate for the publication, but I’m picking up the ball here because a lot more needs to be said about what happened to this client and why it is so egregious.

When the business owner first contacted me, she knew something wasn’t right with her paid search account. The agency she was using (I will refer to them as ‘Agency UK’) had upgraded her account to run on mobile phones but she never saw her ads run.  (This is a Google AdWords account as Bing and Yahoo! do not currently offer paid search in Ireland.)

The previous month, Agency UK, had sent my client a savvy email to up-sell their mobile search offering.  For a one-time activation fee of £100+VAT and no additional monthly fees, her current Google ads would run on mobile phones across the UK. They were also throwing in 2 additional premium keyword phrases taking her total keywords up to 9 phrases.

The first thing wrong with this for my client was running the ads across the UK.  Her business is a home improvement firm in Dublin – running ads across the UK does her no good.  After reminding Agency UK that hers was an Irish business, they said they geo-targeted the campaigns to Dublin, but she could never find her own ads when searching for any of her exhaustive list of 9 keyterms – and was constantly getting calls from home owners in the UK.  This was when she came to me.

I’ve been reserved up until now, but here I’m going to let loose.  I have never been more enraged by an agency abusing their clients than I have by this one.  In order to run mobile ads through AdWords all you have to do is tick a box in the Campaign Settings Tab.  It takes a nano second.  A NANO SECOND, and this agency charged £100+VAT??!!  Even if the agency took that extensive keyword list of 9 and created a dedicated mobile campaign (which is best practice in most situations), that would take no more than 15 minutes or half an hour.  I thought I would lose my mind.  My hair got kinkier in a matter of moments.

I asked my new client to send me everything she had received from Agency UK about her account to show that her ads, where in fact, running in Dublin – performance reports, additional communications, everything.  What this agency has been sending this business and calling them ‘reports’ is horrendous.

Their performance reports – sent in the body of emails – consisted of this:

Key Phrase Average Position Status
keyterm 1 Dublin Page 1 Premium Link Live
keyterm 2 Dublin Page 1 Premium Link Live
keyterm 3 Dublin Page 1 Premium Link Live
keyterm 4 Dublin Page 1 Premium Link Live
keyterm 5 Dublin Page 1 Premium Link Live
keyterm 6 Wicklow Page 1 Premium Link Live
keyterm 7 Dublin Page 1 Premium Link Live
keyterm 8 Dublin Page 1 Premium Link Live
keyterm 9 Dublin Page 1 Premium Link Live

(I’ve removed the keyterms for obvious reasons.)

For this, my client was already paying £100 per month.  (If you can’t immediately tell why this is horrifying, please call me at 086-772-8672 or email me at Stephanie.courtney@icommunicate.ie.)

There are so many things wrong with this agency, I don’t even know where to begin.  The cost of the ‘media’ for these keywords was probably no more than £20 per month (if that) meaning that this agency pocketed about £80 per month for doing absolutely nothing.

The keyword strategy was atrocious and not truly viable in the Irish market – and that’s part of the problem of using a UK agency for business in Ireland – almost every UK agency I’ve come across doesn’t have a clue how to create a keyword strategy in Ireland.

They never even showed my client the ad text they were running for her campaigns.

Then they had the gall to ask her for a testimonial!!!  You see they aren’t Google certified so they are relying on businesses not knowing about Google certification (meaning Google can’t take action against them) and they are trying to build their reputation through testimonials of clients they are fleecing – yes, fleecing to high heaven.

The thing that makes me so crazy about agencies like this is that they prey on business owners who don’t know about paid search – and paid search is the silver bullet of advertising for SME’s.  It is cost effective, spends are completely controllable and everything can be tracked and optimised for optimal ROI no matter how small the business or the budget.

I’ve just taken this account live so I don’t have any comparative stats, but there is another client I recently rescued from bad account management in the US, and the results are actually amazing (even by my standards).  Within a matter of weeks, their click-thru-rate went from 1.33% to 2.74% and is climbing – but the better stat is that I’ve reduced the average cost-per-click by $0.64 per click across the entire account and their conversion rates are increasing as well.   At this point this client is literally getting 25 – 35% of his clicks ‘for free’ based on his old campaign costs.  This is what paid search can do for SME’s if it’s administered well – and I am on a crusade to make sure that SME’s benefit from all of the cost savings and advertising advantages Google has to offer.  To this end, if you think you’re getting taken for a ride by your paid search agency, I will happily take a look at your account (free of charge) to makes sure you’re getting your money’s worth – call me at 086-772-8672 or email me at Stephanie.courtney@icommunicate.ie.

One thought on “If You Are a Small/Medium Business Do Not Let This Happen to You”

  1. So true Stephanie and sadly happens a lot to SME’s who arent web-savvy. For a small business, £100 sterling a month is an awful lot of money so this is pure charlatan behaviour! Good to see you rescuing SME’s who have limited budgets and help them optimise their online advertising with the best ROI. Keep up the good work!

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