#GoogleGate – Can you Trust Google?


Google have done an incredible job of portraying itself as a friendly, warm & fuzzy.  A kind of anti-corporation if you will.

From their regular Google Doodles through to hollywood family comedies, it’s marketing and PR departments have really sold us the idea that it can “Do No Evil”.


The problem is, now more than ever there is a changing attitude in Mountain View towards innovation, ethics and profitability.  It was founded on principles of trust, the search engine that couldn’t be gamed, the one that was ethical and spam free.

Those days are firmly behind us.

The Misconception of Account Managers


Time and time again, I have conversations with small business owners.

Big enough to be assigned a Google Account Manager, but not big enough to have in-house marketing resources.

These companies place their trust in Google, after all, an “Account Manager” is meant to help you make the right decision for your business, right?

Let’s be clear, that is not their job.

Google account managers exist to maximise your spend
– even if that is done at the expense of your profitability.



The Enhanced Campaign Swindle

A few months ago, this sound clip was brought to my attention. It’s a recording left on an advertiser’s voicemail, by his Google Account Manager.

He did not however realise he was leaving a voicemail, and is heard talking to a colleague about the account in question:

press play to hear the recording

here is a transcript:
(background talking, and phone covered by something…..)
“Im gonna go go…. (singing trails off)… Cough, cough….
“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! he he he he he….. (cough).
….Yeah, some kind of water pure… portable water purifier….
….Those bridge pages or parked domains…
They’re pretty bad… I dont even care, Im not calling them, I don’t wanna get….
I just want to get uhmmm, I dont care, I dont want to spend more than ten minutes
Im gonna do, all I want to do is enhanced, then Im going to get the F**K out,
thats 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…………. (blah blah blah….)

Our learnings from this message:

Google Account Managers get paid to up-sell new products to advertisers.

The caller’s objective is to up-sell enhanced campaigns, but as that is no longer possible he will instead try to sell Call Extensions and Sitelinks.

That’s not a recommendation for the good of the client, that’s simply getting a sale chalked up.


Google Bridge Page Policy: https://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/answer/190435?hl=en-GB

Google Account Managers are also comfortable breaking their own Terms of Service.  The caller clearly talks about those “bridge pages” being bad, but that he doesn’t care.

This is in direct violation of their own rules, and should have resulted in the account being banned.

The advertiser after all is spamming, with the knowledge and consent of Google.

We shouldn’t be surprised

Google posted lower than expected growth in their Q2 2013 results, citing low mobile CPC’s, (40% lower than desktop), as the main culprit.

Google Enhanced Campaigns were introduced specifically to combat this, forcing advertisers to bid on all devices, thereby increasing competition for the ad spots and artificially driving their cost per click upwards.

Just how important ad sales on Google Search properties are to their core business is clear:


Maximising ad distribution across all devices, and driving up advertisers cost per click is the single biggest thing that Google can do to ensure continued growth.


The Account Optimisation Swindle


Back in my days at Seatwave our objective was to sell tickets for concerts, sporting events, theatre performances and so on.

It is clear therefore that PPC keywords that worked well might have been:

tickets“, broad but sent some conversions,
Lady GaGa Tickets“, less broad & higher conversion,
o2 Arena Lady GaGa Tickets November 17th“, granular & great conversions.

Keywords we were advised to use (or as our account managers defined them: “opportunities”) were conceived with the intent of increasing our spend, with no thought about suitability for our business.

They included the likes of:
Lady GaGa Torrent“,
Lady GaGa Download” etc.
Keywords like this are highly unlikely to ever result in us making a sale of a ticket, but that is not Google’s concern – they were more interested in making sure we spent more money, despite it being bad for our business.

At the time I put it down to a lack of understanding and naivety from our Google advisors.  Now I’m not so sure.

This practice is still rife with Adwords reps…

Every few weeks I get a query regarding PPC campaigns in travel, and the keywords that their account managers suggest generally include the likes of:

“Directions to Hotel XYZ
Hotel XYZ address”

These are not isolated occurrences, I very rarely hear advice from account reps that are obviously for the good of the advertiser.  The only times I’ve seen good advice tended to be when coincidentally it also benefited Google themselves.

Its time to treat Google for what they are

Google have become over the last decade something unexpected. Growing from “just a search engine” it has become the world’s largest media owner.

They drive an overwhelming amount of business in this online world, yet manage to operate with impunity, compared to regulated press and media outlets, who are their only competition in selling ad space.

They scrape (almost) every site on the web, charge companies for sending visitors following a navigational search & if you opt out of advertising for your brand name, they punish you by allowing your competitors to bid against your brand keywords.

Not all Googlers are like this

This is of course true, I have lots of friends that work for the search giant – and all of them are fantastic at their jobs and great sources of knowledge, ethical, and highly experienced.

However, the rank and file google account managers that deal with less informed “long tail” accounts are more likely to be volume driven. Its their accounts that would be most likely to accept their recommendations blindly.


As with any sales org, when a culture of self-interest and commission hunting takes hold, its normally at the expense of the consumer.

Perhaps we shouldn’t blame the staff themselves, considering Google have just posted their first ever quarter with a significant cut in staff numbers.

The recent news that Google are removing the 20% free time for “innovation” products, which brought us genuinely life changing projects like Google Maps, last weeks court filings where Google made it clear that people sending messages to Gmail users could not reasonably expect privacy, combined with this sales driven focus is perhaps a clear indicator of a change in mindset for the tech giant.


My message is clear:

If Google were regulated in the same way as the mainstream press, this kind of behaviour could be monitored and controlled.  


Is it time for search engines to be subject to regulation?

Have your say below in the comments section!



Founder of WebMarketingSchool.com and a career professional in SEO and web marketing. Experienced in travel, gambling & entertainment niches. Former head of SEO for Omnicom UK, Inbound Marketing Director at Expedia & current Senior Director for SEO at Orbitz Worldwide.



Brit in the Bay Area, digital marketer, blog @webmktschool & @forbes & @huffpost 40+ global conference appearances & keynotes.

RT @Tom_Perignon: Will You be an Elite Marketer? Learn how to hide "close" buttons with @stateofdigital http://t.co/YwCnZYk4Kf - 14 mins ago

Leave a Reply

115 Responses

  • Kristof Bernaert

    as banks are/were/still are … is Google already too big to fail … ?

    August 19, 2013 at 8:17 am
    • Bob Rodriguez

      The free markets have a way of correcting material defects over time. It would appear that Google’s time has come.

      August 25, 2013 at 12:40 am
  • Arnout

    Martin, I have quite a few of the same experiences on adwords. As well as former G employees telling me these kind of stories. I guess it is time for Yandex / Bing etc. to step up their games and provide real alternatives.
    Thanks for the post…

    August 19, 2013 at 8:17 am
    • Martin Macdonald

      Absolutely – problem of course is that for Bing/Yandex/DuckDuck etc. to actually step up, they need market share.

      Unless G drop the ball in a big way quality wise, I think its an uphill struggle for any of the rest of them..

      August 19, 2013 at 8:27 am
      • Arnout

        I Guess it has a lot to do with the public opinion.
        Maybe a partnership between Apple and Bing might set things in motion…

        August 19, 2013 at 8:36 am
      • dizzle

        ****** like you are the reason people like me need medication. Stop harassing the whole ****** company for one ******* mistake, I’m sure you’ve made a couple in your life time so don’t be so quick to judge others on theirs.

        NOTE: swear words edited out by Martin M.
        – bad language isnt tolerated, but I dont like censoring comments in their entirety. Ps. I probably think ****** about you as well.

        August 23, 2013 at 7:05 pm
        • dizzle

          actually behavioral studies show that people who swear more tend to be more trustworthy and honest…

          August 23, 2013 at 8:15 pm
          • dizzle

            What i meant to say was, why are you bashing the Whole google corporation over one employees mistakes. furthermore you had no problem posting the voice mail with curse words in it so why are you editing me? doesn’t quite make sense to me bro, just saying.

            August 23, 2013 at 8:20 pm
          • Martin Macdonald

            You’ll notice that I didnt transcribe the swear words – I just *****’d them out. Safesearch…

            Also – if you think this is just one employee, you’re mistaken. Its the “new google”.

            August 24, 2013 at 6:06 pm
    • John Gibb

      Not sure if Bing can ever compete with the big G, let’s be honest….

      I see G plays like the king of the Internet… they give principles on what “quality” content means, yet, they rank sites at the top with below average articles… and spun content…

      They’re playing the monopoly game with their SERP database, as they own it; it’d be nice to see some search engine regulations in the near future…

      August 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm
  • Simon Wharton

    With any organisation of scale, it is inevitable that you will get a few bad apples. An individual at the organisation being found clearly working in an unethical way simply doesn’t surprise me. It happens everywhere. However, the quality of advice that is provided by account managers has, in my experience, been consistently poor. I started off my career in search in the ISP space. In the UK. Our account manager recommended “California ISP” as a such term. this was an age ago but the point is that there has been plenty of time to deal with such quality issues.
    Until recently I was of the mind that Google is what it is. We choose to use it. However the reality of the situation is that its market position is so utterly dominant that there must be some curbs on its power. It is the source of so many peoples access to information that it is more than a risk to commercial good practice, it is a potential threat to democracy.

    August 19, 2013 at 8:18 am
    • Martin Macdonald

      Hey Simon – that example of “California ISP” is EXACTLY what Im talking about! :)

      I used to think that it was isolated cases, and account managers just using the keyword tool.

      Im afraid though, especially after hearing that recording, that its not simply them recommending things naively, I fear its more self serving…

      August 19, 2013 at 8:29 am
    • Frank Watson

      It is more than a threat to democracy – it is a threat to free speech and the dissemination of information – the countries that have tried closing down access to Google (not democracies but official governments) and worse the ones that have deals with Google not to include certain content in the search results – the Middle East has managed to get certain content removed as did Germany with Nazi info.

      As is said we let Google get away with everything, it’s Google the fuzzy bunny (interestingly the name they gave to the beta desktop search widget that sent Google info on what was on your computer as it got sorted in to search results).

      They need regulation but how and by who – this is global and we don’t want the US government getting in there…

      tough one

      August 21, 2013 at 9:42 pm
  • Rob Weatherhead

    Hi Martin,

    In reference to your tweet, I dont think this is career suicide, so good news for you! Unfortunately for those of us working in search I also don’t think this is news, more just evidence of what we already knew.

    We all know Google is a sales engine and its Account Managers are heavily targeted around particular metrics which change depending on the focus at a given time. To me that is to be expected, they are a media owner at the end of the day and need to drive advertising sales like any other.

    The only thing that does frustrate me about the way it works is the client perception of somebody with a Google business card. Clients see them as an authority because of the logo on the card where as in reality, they are very poorly positioned to give advice on anything other than specific account questions and even then they often have a vested interest in a particular solution (i.e. the one that means spending more!) Often clients think they are ‘experts’ in all things online because of the Google brand which is far from the truth. Of course this in itself isnt Google’s fault, unless their representatives leverage this trust to make suggestions they know are not in the clients best interests. which I suppose is the main point you are trying to make.


    August 19, 2013 at 8:24 am
    • Martin Macdonald


      Client perception is a HUGE issue with google “account managers”. Literally every conversation I have with someone who has had this advice goes something like:

      Them: “Google told me to do this, this and this….”
      Me: “Erm, have you thought that those keywords might send traffic that doesnt convert?”
      Them: “Nah, not possible, my google account manager is great, and has access to all sorts of really cool information, he even gave me a lost impressions report”
      Me: “yeah, but lost impressions against rubbish keywords right?”
      Them: “No way! It said I was missing 80% of my potential target marketin, Im going to be RICH!”

      Then two months later:

      Them: “So we couldnt get it to work, must be our site or something”.

      Me: “sigh…………”

      August 19, 2013 at 8:33 am
    • liam

      I agree with Rob Weatherhead – it is the misconception than when someone from “Google” calls a client that they have the clients best interests at heart. Especially when you discover some of the “suggestions” they have made for a client.

      (also annoys me that Google contact clients who are part of your MCC account without your permission – hence why all email addresses for the main contact are redirected back to us)

      I find it laughable that in natural search Google would never show the seatwave website for “lady gaga torrent” however if you don’t put that in as a negative for your PPC, Google will HAPPILY show your ads until the cows come home (despite clearly knowing that you do not have a page that represents that search query)

      August 19, 2013 at 8:43 am
    • Steven

      This is so true, Rob!

      I’ve seen it time and time again in that whatever Google says it is to be taken as gold.

      August 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm
  • Mat Bennett

    The big surprise in this for me is that some people ever though that Adwords account managers were ever on their side. I always thought that it was pretty clear that it was their job to facilitate the spending on your money. Across industries (not just web), that is what account managers do. Good ones will show return and improvement – because then you keep spending. However, that is a by product not their primary aim.

    People do believe otherwise though. I’m not an adwords specialist, but I do know my way around the product. I’ve seem numerous occasions where accounts have gone under Google management and the spend has rocketed for very little incremental gain. Sometimes it almost seems to be a case of just throwing a dictionary at the keywords lists and seeing how much they can spend. It’s not always easy to explain to client that the guy from Google is doing it wrong.

    August 19, 2013 at 8:40 am
  • Rob Duckers

    Having grown up with a slight cautiousness around salespeople, I’ve never been surprised when dealing with AdWords account managers. None of the above is particularly shocking, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.

    What I have trouble with, which is true of other sales-first businesses I’ve dealt with, is that they don’t join the dots: I’ve dealt with accounts that have been banned for “repeated infringement of policy” (mostly pharma words, although a few of the limited number of “strikes” – as in 3 & you’re out – were down to G employees) despite a solid spend over a number of years and for legit businesses (& not affiliates). Despite efforts made to comply, accounts were still banned, a shame because a bit of common sense would see that these are customers worth keeping.

    Anyone running AdWords should be focused on meeting revenue-generating goals, so being misled into using budget where it doesn’t convert is not helpful, but at the same time using new features is part of the testing process.

    August 19, 2013 at 8:44 am
  • Charles Floate

    I think the reason Google isn’t regulated right now is because of the size they are.
    Google own the 1st and 3rd most visited sites in the world, if they want to run a smear/hate campaign against a politician then it’s a lot easier for them to than say a Newspaper who:
    1) Don’t have the outreach that Google has
    2) Has shareholders (Where as Google can make major decisions with just 3 guys in the same room)

    Look at the EU Rulings, they had to get 10 or so countries together to even bring up the “issue” which then got destroyed anyway.
    In my opinion, if the NSA can illegally tap into your private things (This is kind of going off-topic but still related) and not get any sort of punishment/investigation, why should Google?
    I’d prefer Google looking at my emails than some Government ‘Murica fool.

    August 19, 2013 at 8:44 am
    • Mrs Floate

      Charles, please go back to bed. You know you haven’t taken your medicine yet.

      Your arguments are so pointless, I can’t even pick one out. Your grammar is shocking and you make no sense at all.



      August 19, 2013 at 9:23 am
      • Charles Floate

        Fail troll is fail, my mum’s 2nd name isn’t the same as mine :/ (Awkward)
        Also just checked my grammar –

        2 mistakes in a near 200 word comment on a blog post, sorry but I didn’t realize I was doing a 2,000 word document as a guest post =.=

        Also if you’re pointing out grammar mistakes, it’d be:
        (No full stop on that 1 boy’o)

        August 19, 2013 at 10:36 am
        • Mr Floate

          Charles, that is no way to speak to your mother. I wish you would stop playing on your computer all day and find a nice girl.

          I left cookies on the kitchen table for you sweetheart, have a good day.



          August 19, 2013 at 11:49 am
          • Charles Floate

            Again, my Dad doesn’t have the same surname as me and hates my mum, jeez.. You should really get my life story before you try to get on my nerves 😉

            I’m very hard to troll btw, maybe because I’m a troll that doesn’t hide his identity?

            August 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm
        • Russ Jones

          Wow, you picked up some haters fast :-) Don’t let them get you down.

          August 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm
          • Charles Floate

            Comes with the territory of speaking out Russ 😉

            August 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm
          • Uncle Jones


            You get back in here boy and stop playing with cousin Chaz. You got chores to do.

            You leave that dweeb to vent by hisself. You know he’s easily trolled, takin’ everythang serious like.

            You wait ’til yo momma come home.

            Uncle Jones

            August 30, 2013 at 10:28 am
  • Gordon Campbell

    As much as what you have written tells an absolutely appalling story, it’s not surprising as corruption exists in every company, especially if there are sales targets and unfortunately Google’s sales targets are not in line with what their customers want – a good return on advertising spend.

    If Google are advising customers to bid on keywords such as ‘Lady GaGa Torrent’ as this will attract a large number of ‘clicks’ this is a very shortsighted approach as their customer will simply stop advertising with them when they realise that they have been throwing money down the drain.

    It is also important to add that I’ve worked with Google account managers who have been absolutely brilliant and regularly make useful suggestions that have helped improve our accounts.

    I know this option isn’t practical for everybody but companies need to look at getting someone, either an agency or in-house, to look after their account, especially if they have a large budget.

    I started working with a company and within a month I was able to cut wasteful spend, which over the course of a year, amounted to a sum that could pay my salary for the next 10 years. This was because the account was in such a bad state.

    Google are a profit making organisation and they have a duty to their shareholders to maximise profit, and as your post points out, it is important that people understand this when being advised on changes to their account by someone that works at Google.

    As Google have such a huge slice of the PPC market, I would rather see more competition rather than regulation as if they continue to abuse their dominant market positions advertisers will simply move to a service that are more focused on their client’s business success.

    Gordon Campbell

    August 19, 2013 at 8:47 am
  • Noman Ali

    lOl very true inspite if you see Google analytics campaign traffic and clicks traffic from adword account both will be differ, and you will see adword account show more clicks then Analytics accounts. Thats what i faced daily ahhh :S For more business you have to spend more. thats what Google taught us already.

    August 19, 2013 at 8:53 am
  • Tom

    Not surprised by this.

    August 19, 2013 at 9:06 am
  • Nick Broad

    This is all a bit over the top isn’t. “Salesperson is a bit dodgy” isn’t really news is it ??

    August 19, 2013 at 9:06 am
    • Martin Macdonald

      “Salesperson is a bit dodgy” << NO that isn’t news. They aren’t called salespeople though, they are presented as account managers there to help you advertise more effectively. That they are not doing. Selling they are. Big distinction.

      August 19, 2013 at 9:13 am
      • Jonathan

        I think they drop the sales person tag for tax purposes too.

        August 19, 2013 at 9:48 am
      • Nick Broad

        Fair enough, but it just seems to me that there isn’t really evidence of anything other than someone being a bit of a knob. There’s no context to the recording at all.

        I don’t wish to defend Google at all and would certainly love them to pay the tax they should, but my experience of Adwords account managers is completely different to the conclusions being drawn here.

        August 19, 2013 at 10:08 am
  • Ahmed Khalifa

    I should be surprised and shocked by this, but I’m not. For years, the whole “warm & fuzzy” and “do not be evil” image has been disappearing, and disappearing fast, so this is just another step in the opposite direction for Google. It doesn’t seem like they are slowing down either.

    August 19, 2013 at 9:19 am
  • Matthew Barby

    Hey Martin,

    Great post, very well written.

    I think it would be naive for people to assume that Google account managers were solely going to focused around delivering results for their clients. Like with any account manager (SEO is a prime example), upselling is going to be a major focus (Google is a profit-making business after-all). Having said that, there should be a balance. Yes, Google are going to look at ways to encourage you to spend more via Adwords, but should they be doing this by adding keywords into your PPC that you don’t need? No. Should they be doing this by by looking at ways to upsell some of their other products? I would tend to agree with this one.


    August 19, 2013 at 9:20 am
  • Ant Robinson

    As per my tweet to you Martin, it seems what you have here is the first evidence that Google Account Managers have a sales function. This could have significant implications with respect to their position in the UK and their UK position with respect to UK profits and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Ultimately the amount of corporation tax they pay in the UK. Which potentially makes this evidence worth billions to the UK.

    August 19, 2013 at 9:29 am
    • Martin Macdonald

      Hey Ant,

      yep, I was just discussing your tweet here as well, its a very interesting point that I had not considered.

      I guess an argument might be that the audio recording is of an American AM, and they may argue that this kind of practice doesn’t take place here – but we know that to be untrue given the universally low quality level of advice that they dish out in the name of “account management” and “opportunities”.

      Certainly food for thought, thanks for the comment!

      August 19, 2013 at 9:33 am
  • Larry Mullet

    “If Google were regulated in the same way as the mainstream press, this kind of behaviour could be monitored and controlled.”

    [charliemurphy] WRONG…WRONG! [/charliemurphy]

    Morning Martin, just chiming in to say that there is absolutely no chance that, nowadays, a public body would ever dissuade a company from maximising their economic output, no matter how much of a ‘knowledge bias’ they’re unfairly exploiting. It’s called neoliberalism and it’s the reason the whole world is falling apart at the seams.

    Don’t forget, this is the same company that’s draining BILLIONS out of the UK (and other countries’) economy by not paying taxes and simply funneling capital out of the country on some ‘loophole’ shit.

    When a company makes £11 BILLION in profits in the UK, and pays less than £10mil in tax and then turns around and tells us we should be thankful for having them invest in offices in our country, we should have braveheart’ed those fuckers…

    But instead we just sat back and let companies like them, vodafone, facebook and all these other companies (that coincidentally have sweet delicious data on the public) avoid paying tax and apparently our governments can’t do anything about it…

    The time to expect anything resembling corporate responsibility, fairness or ethical behaviour from a business has passed, that goes double for Google.

    They’re past being too big to fail, they’re too big to fuck with now and all us SEO’s are culpable because we’re making their product better every time we come into work in the morning.

    *Also: Simon Wharton, the phrase “a few bad apples” is usually followed by some variant of “ruins the barrel” so you probably need to think about how you use that phrase in the future, because using it to suggest that there is a minimal knock-on effect to peoples unethical behaviour is the complete opposite message that the phrase was supposed to convey.

    August 19, 2013 at 9:36 am
    • Martin Macdonald

      Hey Larry – thanks for stopping by and leaving the comment. I unfortunately agree with every point you make 😉

      Haven’t heard anyone using the term “braveheart’em” before though – love it!


      August 19, 2013 at 9:52 am
  • Yousaf

    This is an open secret, isn’t it? I think only gullible would have believed otherwise?

    August 19, 2013 at 9:47 am
    • Martin Macdonald

      My experience would indicate otherwise mate – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had conversations with people who firmly believe that their adwords account managers are on their side.

      Sad, but true.

      Lets bear in mind here, WE are in the industry, and we know shoddy advice when we see it. If you run a small business and get this kind of advice, you are going to trust it right?

      August 19, 2013 at 9:50 am
      • Yousaf

        You have a point but even small businesses should know that Google is a for-profit organization and adWords is their cash cow and as a result all their advice is going to be biased.

        Does Coca Cola advice parents how harmful their products are to their children’s teeth?

        August 19, 2013 at 10:59 am
        • Martin Macdonald

          Of course, but Coca Cola doesn’t come from a PR background of “do no evil” nor does it employ doctors to tell parents how drinking more coke is good for them 😉

          August 19, 2013 at 11:05 am
          • Yousaf

            That I agree with!

            I wonder what the tax implications of what they are doing is. If all the account managers are up-selling then doesn’t that make them sales people?

            August 19, 2013 at 11:55 am
          • Malcolm Graham

            Hi Martin

            I hope you are well.

            I did a tour of the Coke HQ in Atlanta yesterday. I have to disagree. It is called ‘The Happiness Factory’ and there is tonnes of stuff about health benefits on the tour e.g.) Coke is 90% water. Many Coke drinks are 0 calories, etc. Coke was orginally made by medical people for sales in Pharmacy, etc, etc, etc. There is barely anything on the tour that does not refer to goodness and happiness. How is that different from ‘do no evil’? I actually think on balance Coke’s PR is far worse considering the obesity epidemic, diabeties epidemic and general poor health sweeping the world.

            Just thought I would throw that into this very lively and interesting comments section.


            August 19, 2013 at 5:52 pm
          • Ryan Jones

            It’s not “do no evil.” it’s “don’t be evil.” the difference is, you can still do small amounts of evil without actually “being” completely evil.

            August 20, 2013 at 6:03 pm
          • Martin Macdonald

            Perhaps it could be changed to “outsource evil”


            August 20, 2013 at 6:09 pm
  • Barry Adams

    You’d think that after getting slapped on the wrist for AdWords malpractice in 2005, 2007, and 2009 – and getting punched in the face in 2011 with a massive $500m fine – Google would have learned its lessons and cleaned up its act.

    But no, apparently they still break their own rules in their efforts to chase the almighty dollar. Guess they will never learn.

    I agree Martin, the only instrument we have left is regulation. Google has shown it is entirely unable and/or unwilling to play by the rules. It’s time for proper adult supervision.

    August 19, 2013 at 9:49 am
    • Sabine de Vos

      500 mil is chump change to them. Isn’t it a bit like fight club? You just do a cost/benefit analysis of doing things right vs. paying the fine.

      August 20, 2013 at 9:00 am
  • Frederik Trovatten

    What an epic conversation that was recorded. Just proves what everyone in the industry thinks about the Account Managers..

    August 19, 2013 at 9:53 am
  • Ali Moghadam

    Google relies on people who know no better. We of course spend our days trying to get the machine working for us and have a completely different perspective to our non-SEO friends and family. We can see past it, we are skeptical and always trying to understand more.

    Most of the people I know are not SEOs and most don’t really know the true extent of Google’s reach – it’s just this thing they use on the computer. They don’t see ads until they land on the irrelevant page it linked them to, then just go back and try again. Watch your parents while they search for something – they are Google’s favourite kind of visitor.

    They don’t see a fluffy, innovative company of do-gooders either. They just see it as their home page, the front door to the internet. They have no idea how it works or why it is the way it is.

    I think a public discussion about the power and control that Google has needs to be raised. They are in a unique position and must show at least a shred of responsibility. The general public might not care, but they should at least know that Google does not serve them, they serve Google.

    I know, the info is out there already – but it’s Google’s version of events.

    August 19, 2013 at 10:17 am
  • Kristine S

    Love the voicemail. So agree with you, not sure about regulation, but definitely should be under some sort of review.

    Google was once the company of information, innovation and democratization. They worked to create a world where knowledge was easily accessible to all (in an organized, efficient manner) and their staff was challenged to create and change the world they lived in under the edict “do no evil” and they had just happened to have an excellent way to make money doing so. While some debate how true that was, there were some great things that came out of that Google.

    Then they went public and well on that all things change, don’t they.

    They are now the company who epitomizes “do evil” in the metaphorical at least.

    They are the company of Walmartization, McDonalidization, and data consumption. They no longer produce innovation, they create data points to be easily consumed. They no longer long to help create a democratization, they create monitoring systems and identity programs and are an Federally recognized identity provider for the US Government under the NSTIC.

    They no longer happen to have an excellent way to make money, they are the Wal-mart of the web, rolling in and consuming small to mid-sized websites (their data, product listing and even images) killing off their users and customers all under the guise of bright shiny objects such as the knowledge graph and Google Now (or Answers).

    It is a sad, sad thing to see. Once a company to believe in, now one to be leery of and in all cases edge your bets and suspicions that their one goal is to serve themselves and themselves only.

    Oh how the mighty have fallen, but as it is also said.. Pride always goeth before the fall… and you can never stray so far from your roots and not suffer greatly for it..

    Google jumped the shark in 2011, now the question is, how long til it beaches itself?

    Thanks for the great article Martin!

    August 19, 2013 at 10:26 am
  • Harry van der Velde

    Google has changed my life and the world I live in. I love the way they handled their growth in their younger years and their coming of age. Disruptive, creative, inspiring and very smart.
    They were not greedy, but generous and – as far as I can see or have experienced- not evil in any way. And aware of it.

    But I also felt a change recently. Google is a big mature company now with all the downsides of it. As a result of this it seems to loose it’s differentiating personality. It seems to be changing it’s focus from being a search engine to a profit engine. Willingly so? Eric Schmidt recently enforced this impression.

    Their mission still states: Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. No mention on profit here.
    Yet the conversation in this blog post gravitates around making money and making profit. Mind you, not only Google’s profit but also their role in the profit/greed/need of your sites. Is your website primary a profit centre? Then it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    Gordon Campbell even bluntly states: “Google are a profit making organisation and they have a duty to their shareholders to maximise profit.” This is a total myth. A simple Google search reveals this in one step. Let me just point to this URL: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/corpgov/2012/06/26/the-shareholder-value-myth/

    As soon as money making becomes the first purpose you mix up the means with the original function of a company. Money is just a mean to an end. Sales people, marketing people may confuse this, because within the boundaries of their value system for them they seem the same.

    To me this post is about more about trust, then it is about Google. Should you trust any message that somebody is bringing you, because he of she gets money to do this?

    August 19, 2013 at 10:44 am
  • Jared McKiernan

    It’s hard to bridge the gap between people who believe in google and those of us who have seen exactly what google has been pushing towards for years. They will take every single bit of profit, every piece they can – through multiple and varied means of control, including but not limited to their fantastically effective and (IMO extremely evil) PR propaganda, one-sided edicts forced on customers and users, lobbyist payola, economic manipulation.

    They have all the tools. No competition or regulation is in sight. They have been playing the entire market like fools, as we get sucked into some video by Cutts, and never create the conversation needed to make our voices heard by those outside the deep SEO/SEM circles.

    While I don’t know why you called this GoogleGate (it’s nothing new and a cliche naming convention for such scandalous behavior), props for starting this convo and giving a solid overview of things w/G

    I’ll tell everyone who listens, google account managers are worthless, actually they’re way worse. You are getting money stolen every time you take their awful advice. Google happily takes the cash and shuffles around shittier, newer account managers to your account if you manage to not be a complete noob. Because why waste Gs top sales folks on the most skilled adwords advertisers?

    I wonder if one could sue google for misleading info given by their terrible adwords reps? Probably covered all their bases with the 500 person legal dept, but I can dream…

    So what can we do to fight back? Is resistance futile?

    August 19, 2013 at 11:59 am
    • Martin Macdonald

      Hey Jared,

      Re. the #GoogleGate naming convention, it was mainly to rank for something that stood a chance of being remembered 😉

      The point on suing is certainly interesting – my thinking is that here in the UK at least you could argue that their advice is part of the service paid for, and is not fit-for-purpose which would make it a trading standards violation.

      Problem there is that Trading Standards are NEVER going to take on Google, and to my knowledge 100% of their UK SMB account managers are based in Ireland, so therefore wouldnt be culpable for their actions under British law anyway.

      Its a tough point, but with their internationalisation, its hard to see which bodies could effectively take them to task.

      Thanks for the comment!

      August 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm
    • Larry Mullet

      “I wonder if one could sue google for misleading info given by their terrible adwords reps?”


      “In a submission to the High Court, however, Google has argued that as an American company it is not covered by British privacy laws. It said there was “no jurisdiction” for the case to be heard here because its consumer services are provided by Google Inc, based in Silicon Valley, rather than Google UK.

      August 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm
  • Jasper Vallance

    Ok – time for the [ex] Googler to chime in! Martin, I can see where you and others are coming from. Lets face it Google makes its money from selling advertising and anyone employed to interact with clients is therefore in a sale role and being an American company there is a real culture of doing a pitch! Which to be honest never sat well with us in Google Sydney.

    But I do need to stand up for the quality of service which is delivered by the majority of Googlers. I was Google Sydney for 5 year (originally a Brit) and worked with some exceptional people who were focused on getting results for clients as they knew this would lead to a greater investment. I can see where service levels may drop for smaller clients as Google aims to deliver a more scalable service which could be account managers based out of India for example servicing many clients. I was dealing at the top end of town so our service was more about thought leadership to shift budgets from offline to online. Irrespective of this Google trains is sales people to provide solutions to its clients to get results which should justify the increase in budget. Top down you get a bunch of new features you need to sell in to your client portfolio but you then decide who its relevant for and pitch accordingly. But you can imagine there are cases where you have a sales manager behind target pushing his team to sell in sitelinks or what ever it is! At the end of the day Google’s a sales organisation so you cannot write it off for selling stuff!!

    I did get fed up with selling which is why I left Google to provide independent consulting!

    August 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm
    • Martin Macdonald

      Hey Jasper,

      thanks for stopping by and leaving the comment, really great to get a Xoogler perspective on the piece.

      I absolutely hear you that there are some really good, ethical, top people working in the account management arena. I’ve got quite a few friends that work for G and I’m positive none of them would act like this.

      The weakest clients of course are always going to be the SMB’s, they are always going to be least likely to question any advice, and the corresponding long tail account managers that deal with them (and hundreds of other accounts probably) are the most likely to be numbers driven – as they have little in the way of long term client relationships, but a huge pipeline.

      It’s certainly a case of c’est la vie, but people should take Google for what they are – a highly developed sales org, NOT bastions of the free internet who’s sole purpose is to assist people with their advertising.

      Thanks again for the comment!

      August 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm
    • Russ Jones

      “At the end of the day Google’s a sales organisation so you cannot write it off for selling stuff!!”

      Then Google needs to stop saying the exact opposite. Gopi Kallayil, Chief Evangelist Google+ at Google, said at the Digital Marketing for Business conference in Raleigh that “We [google] are terrible at selling things, which is why we give everything away for free”. He said this minutes after showing us how he used his google android phone to buy music on google play using google checkout. Lucky for him he didnt do it on a Chromebook, or the world would have exploded based on the hypocrisy.

      Google is constantly handing out the kool-aid that they are different. If they don’t want to be held to a higher standard, they need to stop pretending to be one.

      August 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm
  • Mike Charalambous

    This makes me feel very uneasy about a lot of the advice my account manager has been giving me. Especially since certain advice has actually lost us money here and there, only to be told about later.


    August 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm
  • Alex O'Malley

    I’ve been told by people who should know that Google writes off lots of losses by giving away free advertizing to non-profits. This may sound benign but it’s not. What actually ends up happening is that competing non-profits now have to spend even more with Google to compete with the privelaged non-profits that Google bestows free ads upon. So instead of taking a loss for altruism, Google ends up stealing money from tax payers and social services that rely on that tax revenue and in the process make even more money from already disadvantaged non-profits.


    I get that many SEOs aren’t particularly altruistic but consider this. Google’s behaivor is not only extremely unethical, but actually hurts your pocket book if you pay taxes. I, for one, encourage people to switch away from them whenever possible. This latest privacy scare with PRISM is just yet another example of when companies get too big they begin to abuse the market that made their business possible in the first place.

    Great article, Martin!

    August 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm
  • James

    I agree that Google really does push profits with their AM’s and yes if you are not a decent spender you will not get active help from Google employees. The same goes with Facebook and most other big tech companies for the SMB market support is non existant.

    But yeah I once worked in the big spend agencies who pumped millions and millions monthly into PPC, and worked with numerous Enterprise clients. Google was always in to do Top tier “new product roadshows” and what not it was always good fun to ask organic search questions about product roll outs and get a dirty look from the reps that some one from SEO would be in the meeting hehe =)

    August 19, 2013 at 2:06 pm
  • Terry Van Horne

    They included the likes of:
    “Lady GaGa Torrent“,
    “Lady GaGa Download” etc.
    Keywords like this are highly unlikely to ever result in us making a sale of a ticket, but that is not Google’s concern – they were more interested in making sure we spent more money, despite it being bad for our business.
    Ummm actually these are not that bad if you are looking to expand as they definitely show an interest in the product… a bit like mispellings in they sometimes covert well and no so well….I would say they are worth a shot if closely monitored for a time after being added… this is a strategy that could be used after the primary KW terms are set and you are looking for new opps to use unused budget…not something I would add budget for

    August 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm
    • Martin Macdonald

      Erm. Well…..

      …..They aren’t so good if your intention is to try and turn a profit.

      Paying search CPC’s for building awareness would be sheer craziness, you know that!

      If you want to do some brand building, sure, thats fine by me – but go buy ad runs on the GDN by all means.

      Pay $0.06 cpc with a low CTR, and get loads of brand awareness and your logo on thousands of websites.

      Don’t go paying $0.30 for clicks that will bounce in 8 seconds and never bring a conversion!!

      And SPECIFICALLY those keywords (torrent) are what @aaronwall might define as “freetard” keywords, you’d be lucky to get a 0.00001% conversion rate.

      misspellings are 100% NOT the same thing, a misspelling of a transactional search is just that. It still displays a transactional intent, just the person can’t spell.

      August 19, 2013 at 5:16 pm
  • Dan Shure

    At least the guy’s a Drake and Lil Wayne fan

    August 19, 2013 at 4:39 pm
  • Rick Noel

    The recorded call is disturbing on many levels. AdWords won’t survive long-term unless business get ROI from paid search. With analytics, it does not take long to determine ROI, down to the keyword level. Small businesses buying pay per click advertising directly from Google need to be educated on commercial intent and the difference between informational, navigational and transactional queries, at a minimum. There is a market opportunity for online agencies to educate SMBs so that Adwords campaigns reflect the small business interests as opposed to Google’s. What is amazing is that US DOJ breaks up Ma Bell but continues to let Google run at 70% market share with no real, viable competitor in site. The industry is ready for search disruption, but even with deep pockets, the mighty Microsoft has been unable to gain any real traction. We shall see but I am not holding my breath for now.

    August 19, 2013 at 6:14 pm
  • DennisG

    Reminds me of another way to look at these kind of things.

    Your stock broker adviser, will give you plenty of ‘hot’ tips to trade, not telling you that the only way for them to make money is to let you make more trades so they get the buy/sell commissions.

    This is why you should treat every advice of a Google sales rep with the same scrutiny as your stock broker; “Who will be loosing the money on the bad advice..?” Right You!

    August 19, 2013 at 7:19 pm
  • Unknown

    Did someone here actually try Yandex Mail?
    I did and I’m more happy with it then Gmail. Tried lots of others before but always switched back to gmail.
    Until I started using Yandex.
    They also have a browser which I started using but it is very similar to Chrome and I do not like that experience.(works with Chrome plugins too)

    August 19, 2013 at 9:54 pm
  • Ryan Kristo

    That’s what every sales team objective= Increase the sales.

    Yet, Google AdWords still a powerful tools to advertise online. I haven’t got any other tools as good as them.

    So, I won’t trust my account to Google to handle. And let 3rd party pro or agency to work on my account.

    August 20, 2013 at 12:50 am
  • Anon

    For what it’s worth, this isn’t actually a Googler on this recording. He’s one of thousands of vendors with great training but a bad environment.

    August 20, 2013 at 3:54 am
  • Frederik Trovatten

    Argh I had to listen to it again.. I never thought I live to hear a Google employee singing: “I’m on that good kush and alcohol” 😀

    Thank you Google-employee

    August 20, 2013 at 7:29 am
  • dave naylor

    Martin are you sure It’s Google…

    August 20, 2013 at 9:20 am
    • Martin Macdonald

      Well, I dont have sign off from Google admitting it’s them (I doubt I’d get it either ;)) – and it may well be a sub-contractor as opposed to a G-FTE.

      If it is a contractor though, as they represent Google rank and file account management, surely its the same thing right?

      August 20, 2013 at 9:36 am
  • dave naylor

    nah it’s not really I consulted for a company that did something similar they had rouge sales people all the time mainly on commission basis etc, and I can’t understand why a Googler would be pushing enhanced, surely he had the Internal memo ..

    All accounts will be automatically upgraded to enhanced campaigns starting July 22, 2013.

    they would have been stripped out of targets, but agencies I’m not so sure..

    August 20, 2013 at 9:52 am
    • Martin Macdonald

      I’ve been sat on that recording for months mate, it dates to Jan-Mar 2013.

      Not entirely sure of the date, but first time I heard it was April, so it was certainly before then.

      I was inspired to finally publish it, by the continual discussions I’ve been having recently with our managed accounts who have taken advice from their google reps, to the detriment of their (and ultimately our) business.

      August 20, 2013 at 9:55 am
  • AJ Kohn

    Well, I’ve never trusted Google AdWords Account Managers.

    Way back in 2004 when I was running a large PPC campaign it was clear that they wanted higher bids or were suggesting keywords that were clearly not going to be as effective (but would make Google money.)

    Frankly, this seemed like every other relationship I ever had with a vendor, whether it’s the car guy who wants to sell me the luxury sound package or the gal at Best Buy trying to get me to buy an extended warranty. People have this idea that Google is some lovable teddybear and that they’ll take your hand and lead to you the land of low CPCs and high ROIs. #fantasy

    So I think people get more pissed because they had this image in their head that Google was different. But they’re not. It would be nice if they would and I think they could make some changes which would preserve long-term profits instead of short-term profits (which is what AdWords seems to be measured on.)

    I mean, the AdWords interface is a dark pattern for small advertisers to spend money inefficiently. Why exactly is broad match, the shittiest of match types for most businesses as far as I’m concerned, still the default?

    Google just doesn’t seem to care about churn or about the life time value of advertisers. And here’s where I pivot …

    If the paid side of Google took a page from the organic side of Google we’d be singing a different tune. Because the organic side – they’ve drunk the kool-aid, they’re doing work to get people better answers faster. Sure, the end result is Google is more useful which means more searches which means more opportunities for monetization but the intent is to deliver better value to users.

    If AdWords began to take this approach. If they called and instead of up-selling into new products or suggesting new keywords to bid on or cranking out the most abysmal promotional ‘research’ I’ve seen in ages, they sent you a message warning you that a campaign with only broad match terms is dangerous, or to remind you (or even suggest) some negative keyword terms or to send you a sample query report and ask them to look to see if the actual queries that are triggering your ads are the ones you want to advertise on.

    In short, if AdWords was on the side of the user/advertiser, then we’d be having a different discussion. This technique would probably reduce revenue and profits in the short-term but it would be a gold mine in the long-term IMO.

    Google needs to get some advice from … Google. It’s just that different areas of the company function in very different ways. So I don’t paint all of Google with the same brush.

    August 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm
  • Durant Imboden

    In an ideal world:

    “I’d like a Big Mac. Should I have fries with that?”

    “No. In fact, I’d recommend skipping the Big Mac, too, because it’s loaded with calories and fat.”

    In the real world:

    “I’d like a Big Mac. Should I have fries with that?”

    “Sure. Do you want the large size?”

    August 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm
  • Anon

    There’s more going on here than you think. This recording came from a vendor and not a Googler. The account managers with Google have drank the kool-aid, they’re also well trained, and don’t work on commission. I don’t believe that means that they care about the advertiser, but much less likely to make mistakes like this.

    The vendor that this came from is essentially a call center. They handle support and sales for smaller AdWords accounts. The sales team works on a really crappy commission and the focus there is quantity and not quality. Google sets the metrics and the vendor agrees to them…and they are almost unattainable. The employees of this vendor bear the brunt.

    So here you have under-paid and over-worked people in a call center. They are doing very similar work to their Googler counter-parts for a fraction of the pay. So you can imagine the anger and resentment. Doesn’t excuse what happened, but just to give you a little insight.

    Also, just so everyone knows, 2 people have lost their job over this. Honestly, if you screw up like that, it’s only right. But just something to consider when you publish something like this.

    August 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm
    • Martin Macdonald

      Hi Anon,

      first off, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment on the thread – I’d be really interested in corroborating some further details about the audio file, and it sounds like you know what you’re talking about.

      Care to have a chat by email?


      August 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm
  • Anon


    The above Anon and I were coworkers with that young man. However, I left awhile ago. Legally they cannot discuss the vendor relationship, and 2 people losing their jobs is enough damage. You’ve done enough to make a difficult relationship more so. No need to involve anyone else.

    The real issue is that he acted in appropriately, and we get it. He not all Google or Account managers. On the other hand, many agencies make terrible choices for their clients too (and boy, have I seen more than my fair share as a vendor!) you’re point is made, you’ve embarrassed someone and they and another lost their job. Lets move on.

    August 20, 2013 at 9:32 pm
  • Anon

    What you didn’t hear at the beginning of that voicemail is that the vendor said they were from Google, and when prodded by the advertiser, they still have to lie and say they are from Google. Chances are, if you’re a small or medium business, you aren’t working with an actual Googler.

    August 20, 2013 at 11:11 pm
    • Martin Macdonald

      Thats exactly the kind of issue that we are faced with here. Its a shame that there can’t be more transparency, but I guess if there was less people would trust the advice, which is kind of the point…

      August 21, 2013 at 6:01 am
    • Dawid

      Doesn’t matter if it’s actual Google employee or contract worker or 3rd party company – they still represent Google. Customer doesn’t care how it’s dealt – they expect certain level of quality. They TRUST Google to work in everyone’s best interest but we, marketers, know for a fact that it’s not entirely true. We should speak up (thumbs up for Martin!) and make people aware that Google is not a friendly, happy search engine that does everything for the user. They lie, they spy, they are here to make money. There is no sentiment anymore. Board members expect to see growth, managers must make it happen – simple as that.

      August 21, 2013 at 7:51 am
      • Martin Macdonald

        ABSOLULTELY! If this kind of behaviour is common practice for sub-contractors representing Google, then to the general public, its Google that are behaving like this.

        If the sales script was: “Hey Im Mr. xyz, from company abc, we represent Google and would like to discuss some new products with you…..” That would be both honest, and ethical.

        The current system is neither.

        August 21, 2013 at 8:09 am
      • Cassie

        You’re right – it shouldn’t matter if it’s an actual Google employee or a 3rd party employee, the end value to the stakeholder should be the same, therefore the level of representation of the brand should be the same, regardless of the entity delivering it. But unfortunately, that is not the reality.
        The problem is not the employee, the problem is the business model and culture within these vendor companies. How can a company reasonably expect the same kind of representation from a 3rd party provider, yet the only standards set for these companies to meet are the performance metrics? What incentive does an employee have to make the customer, and not their commission, the number one priority when the metrics and the expectations of quality are supposed to be on par with those of the Googlers, when their working conditions aren’t anywhere near theirs?

        August 21, 2013 at 6:49 pm
  • Steve Cameron

    Couple of points…

    Firstly – you cannot hold Google responsible for the behavior of third party companies who resell their products. This would be akin to blaming the New York Times if you had been advised by an ad agency to take a full page in their paper at a gazillion bucks to sell your 10 year old Honda.

    Secondly – I don’t understand your argument about the “up sell” – if you are advised to take sitelink, location and call extensions – this is good advice – certainly something which I would always recommend to my clients. Google charges no additional fee for these so it is not an up sell and makes them no more money.

    Where I would agree wholeheartedly is with respect of the short sightedness Google suffers. I often wonder how many small businesses have tried Google – investing perhaps $500 in a trial month – only to conclude that it isn’t right for them. With a more effective campaign structure it is likely that many of these could easily have been turned into long terms clients spending, let’s say $300 a month – FOR EVER!

    As a Google Certified Partner myself I am regularly approached by people that have been badly burned by AdWords. It is almost always their own fault – not Google’s and often these accounts can be turned around relatively quickly and made to turn a profit.

    What people need to remember is that AdWords is not fairy dust and it will not breathe life into a dying business. It is another advertising medium and should be treated exactly as that – and no more.

    August 21, 2013 at 11:20 am
    • Martin Macdonald

      Hey Steve,

      thanks for your great comment – although there are a few points where I don’t really agree.

      Your point about similarities between this and buying a full page ad in the NYT through an agency: Not at all, you probably aren’t aware but I used to be head of the organic search vertical for Omnicom, so advertising agencies are something Im used to.

      Let me assure you, that if an agency advises a client incorrectly to engage in a large media spend, the media owner could never be construed as responsible – the agency that gave the incorrect advice would clearly be the culprit.

      In this case however, a third party agency (so we understand) is hitting sales targets in the name of Google by up selling services to hit numbers, rather than for the good of the advertiser.

      IF an advertising agency misrepresented themselves as the media owner, that would be fraudulent. That is a closer interpretation to this case.

      Your second point, about advising people to use sitelinks, location and call extensions: You can’t possibly say that this is a good idea for the target advertiser in this case. Saying that they are good products for all advertisers is an incredibly sweeping generalisation. Just today I had a conversation with an advertiser who spent a large amount of money on click to call that was incorrectly sold to him.

      If you listen to the conversation again, you’ll clearly hear that the caller wanted to upsell one service, and seeing as he never got the opportunity to do so he simply moved onto advising them to use other products. There is no way that this behaviour can be thought of in any other way than self serving.

      The point where we absolutely agree however, is that a lot of SMB’s have been burned by setting up poorly conceived campaigns and wasting a few hundred dollars, whereas if they had done so correctly they may well have been ROI positive and been a customer for life.

      As you point out you are regularly approached by people that have made mistakes of their own and wasted money – thats exactly where professionals such as your services come into play.

      What you (nor I) should not have to do however is deal with the fallout from advice from agencies that purport to be Google, who simply use the brand association to instill confidence, then sell more products.

      That is unethical, and inappropriate.

      thanks again for the comment,

      August 21, 2013 at 9:37 pm
  • Gus Ferguson

    Come on now… Whether its Google per se, or a vendor that Google is paying is insignificant. It’s the Google brand, customers think they’re speaking with Google and therefore Google has to take 100% of the responsibility for this. The fact that someone has lost there job is absolutely no basis to criticise this post for pointing out systemic flaws in how a business is being operated.

    August 22, 2013 at 8:26 am
  • Eoin Holohan

    Breaching ethics and bending rules is encouraged by our capitalist system. As soon as investors come on board things start to get judged based on how profitable the company is. People are “incentivised” to act a certain way by bonuses, promotions and other rewards. Employees start to compete with other employees for that slice of the pie and the bending of rules and breaching of ethics speeds up.

    Way of the world I’m afraid. Even a company like Google with the best of intentions that grew so quickly and was influential enough that it was able to operate largely outside the capitalist system gets pulled back in.

    August 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm
  • Ricky Staniforth

    I’ve been revisiting this post a few times over the last few days (cos I spend a not inconsiderable amount on Adwords) and something just occurred to me.

    One of the key ranking signals is bounce rate/time spent on site, right? So by listening to the Account Managers duff advice, and buying irrelevant keywords, I guess we are essentially driving ourselves out of the natural rankings. This then means you need ot go back to your account manager who will again give duff advice and need a higher spend.

    Hat tip to the Googler that figured this out.

    August 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm
  • Martin Macdonald

    Hey Ricky,

    thanks for leaving the comment – and yes, in this case certainly following their advice, if it results in less appropriate traffic arriving at your site, will have a compound negative effect of a lower future quality score, higher CPC’s and less efficiency.

    Good point!

    August 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm
  • Martin Macdonald


    To the person leaving comments under the name “Rolling Eyes”, from San Antonio, TX & connected to AT&T – I’m absolutely against censorship in any form, but Im simply not going to publish abuse against other commenters.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:46 am
  • Hurt

    I have been looking at this article here and there to see the updates for a few days now and I have been trying to find the words to say to you… Now that I am off work and had the time to fully read your article and think it through, I wanted to say how I felt about it.
    I am asking you to first of all stop criticizing me because I truly love my job as a account strategist. I love helping companies to do better than they ever thought they could. My favorite customers are the small businesses because I feel good helping them to put more food on the table for their families. I don’t believe that suggesting to someone to put sitelinks and call extensions on their ad is a sale. If the customer is looking for more phone calls then a call extension would help them achieve just that. If a customer is looking for more website visits then a sitelink extension can help with quality score if you make them relevant to the types of keywords on the adgroup as well as possibly the CTR because it usually makes the ad stand out more and their customers are more likely to click on it and convert into a possible sale for them. I also suggest to use negative keywords and help my customers to save money. I tell them relevant keywords to use that are 2-3 words long and to try match types to avoid irrelevant traffic. I feel very sad by this article because in return you are giving my future customers that may be assigned to me a bad impression of me without you even knowing me. You don’t know me well enough to know that I don’t look at any of them as “sales” and that I really want to help them because it gives me satisfaction to have them tell me how great business has been for them.
    If I lose my job for speaking out on this forum about how I feel then well be it but at least I stood up and said that your accusations are false. Not every account manager is like this and there really are some out there who care like myself and most of my coworkers. I am also usually number 1 or 2 on my team at work and this may be the reason because I not only look at this as money to pay my own bills but I am saving the economy in a way for the small businesses out there who never thought they could. My personal goal is to make customers happy and excite them with telling them about new things that they could try and recommend settings that may be better for them specifically. I really do cater to their needs and don’t categorize any of them as being just a number or the same as everyone else.
    I have this 1 advertiser who I won’t speak internal details of for privacy reasons but I must say that he is my favorite customer I have ever worked with. I built a display campaign for him and showed him the image ads and he got so excited about that and I showed him how to use the display ad builder. He was very impressed by this and although I guess you could call it me selling him on trying image ads in a way but it was something his business could benefit from. I didn’t look at it as a sale but as a campaign that could really work for him and by the way it has. He loves it and he told me that he loves me.
    So there you have it. I give my deep down opinion on this article. I am the type of person who speaks my mind and I will point out what is wrong in this world. I do think that you’re wrong for blaming 1 person who it may not have been his calling in life. But as for me and most of my coworkers, there really are some people out there who care. I am asking you to please take this article down for the reasons that it is making my life hell lately when I shouldn’t have to feel like this. You’re making me feel like a horrible person and that was never my intentions when I started this position. I also don’t understand your motive behind all of this and I am curious as to why you’re doing this to everyone and humiliating someone.

    August 24, 2013 at 11:37 pm
    • Martin Macdonald

      TO ALL READERS: For the record, the comment above from “hurt” is the same person that was previously posting in this thread under the name of “dizzle”, so read those comments first so you have some context…


      Quick question…. Are you the person recorded in the audio clip?

      Would be interesting to clarify that one way or the other.

      To the point about making “you” feel like a horrible person, if its not you in the recording, then you shouldn’t feel bad for being a Google Account Manager / Sales Rep.

      Every job has good and bad folk, when its done at this scale. That goes without saying – and I have no doubt you approach your work diligently.

      If it is you in the recording, contact me via Linkedin and we’ll have a chat. If I can corroborate that it IS you, I’ll take the recording down for your privacy’s sake.

      The purpose in this post was never to make anyone feel bad about themselves or their jobs. The purpose of the article was questioning the culture within Google as it stands at the moment.

      Nothing about the article was intended to start a witchhunt against any individual, it was questioning Google’s priorities, and whether they have changed since the good old “do no evil” days.

      For the record: I’m a big fan of Google, and everything it has given the world over the last twelve years. Not to mention of course that its been my living for the past decade as well, not as a Googler, but as a professional assisting people with their search engine marketing.

      My Linkedin profile is at the very top right of this page.


      August 25, 2013 at 3:06 pm
      • Hurt

        The comments from Dizzle are not from me… I am also not the person in the recording bc I am a woman. Get your story straight. Maybe you should realize that certain internet providers give the same IP address to everyone using that internet connection.

        August 26, 2013 at 7:06 pm
  • Joseph Salamone

    Google is a monopoly that should be broken up. They control basically who is successful and who fails online. If you are a consumer of their products, they inform you that you have no rights when you do business with them.

    August 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm
  • From Hungary with Love

    Can you trust Google? No and No!

    The biggest scam is Google manipulating search results to increase clicks on ads. In countless cases, when typing a transactional keyword the organic results are mediocre and informational. Just so luck would have it (cough) the ads are perfect and answer the question. This scam works for Google but destroys legit businesses and increases the cost on virtually any good or online service. Matt Cutts, Google’s Baghdad Bob, said that Google doesn’t keep track of ad clicks when changing the algo but only a moron believes him by now.

    Coupled with the war on non-brands (or non-advertisers, in other words) via Panda, Penguin and other penalties Google has made their entire search engine Pay-to-Play. Google of today is nothing more but a scam engine, still buying traffic from AOL, Firefox, Chrome and trading on their once good name.

    Countless small businesses have totally disappeared from the web as Google ramped up brands in the few remaining non-paying spots. Brands are being scammed in other ways no doubt, making everyone but Google screwed.

    Do not trust Google, they have no moral compass, their CEO even helped arrange for illegal Adwords drug ads. $500 Million in penalties kept his ass out of jail.

    September 5, 2013 at 3:35 pm
  • Kenneth

    Being a salesman myself, I knew the Google reps weren’t purely calling for my benefit. I have received some helpful tips along the way and they’ve been good with questions I’ve had. But when looking at my CPC apparently they did their job… for Google that is. Comparing Aug 2012 with Aug 2013 my CPC is up 10% for one campaign and up 40% for another.

    I usually make small changes, and then follow the CPC closely for awhile to make sure it doesn’t blow my budget. There have been a couple of changes I would like to take back, but can’t. And there’s the rub.

    Small business owners may not have big budgets or the marketing staff with AdWords expertise, but they’re not dumb. Keep charging us more and more money with less and less results and it will erode the notion that online advertising is a viable option.

    I’m already seeing a tend back to some of the old school methods.

    September 27, 2013 at 8:12 pm
  • Gravymatt

    Don’t worry folks, the tiger didn’t change it’s stripes. My latest Spring 2014 call from a Google rep was pushing hard for New Enhancements – Site Links, Enhanced CPC, all money spenders. I explained I had tried the ENhanced CPC in Fall 2013 and it just ramped up spend, based on the last Google Reps advice.

    I hope that if folks get the call they will listen to the rep and weigh the “suggestions” and then decide if it make good ROI sense to implement the changes into their account. But, it does feel more like sales instead of support after my last call.

    April 15, 2014 at 6:44 pm
  • Andrew

    Thanks for your post Martin!

    I manage paid search campaigns for several clients and I have not been impressed with my interactions with any of the 4 Adwords account managers that I have dealt with.

    I was curious to know if it was just me, so it was great to read your post and hear about the experiences of the commenters.

    For what it’s worth, here is my experience…

    I assumed from the start that these reps are probably compensated based on increasing customer spend, so I was prepared to take their advice with a grain of salt.

    The account managers certainly talk a good game about “being there to help”, so I have gone into these conversations with an open mind, hoping to learn something new and stay abreast of recent changes to the platform which might help me optimize my clients’ campaigns.

    However, each time, their true intentions reveal themselves pretty quickly as they start to make specific suggestions. They will usually start by saying, I’d like to show you this, or let’s have a look at that… but then they make their moves, saying “So, go ahead and change that to +25%” (e.g. increasing mobile bids) The suggestions have always been to increase spend and to do it right now while on the call. They have never just said, hey, here’s the info and maybe that’s something you should consider.

    Usually, I will say, thanks for the suggestions and explain that I’m not prepared to make the changes at this point. This is usually because the sample sizes they use to make their recommendation are way too small, or because I don’t have enough information about the potential impact on ROI to justify the change. On a few occasions, after I’ve said “no thanks”, the Google account manager has continued to argue for the recommended change, and in one instance , the rep became flustered when I had to say “no” a second time. The other interesting thing to note is that the call agenda is always set by the account manager… and when I jump in with other questions they quickly come back to the things they want to talk about.

    I continue to take these calls in the off chance that I might learn a thing or two, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Thanks to LinkedIn, I can share the experience levels of the four reps I’ve worked with:
    Rep A: 5 months at Google. Fresh out of university with a politics degree.
    Rep B: 4 months at Google. Two years out of university. Previous work: ESL teacher and supply chain manager.
    Rep C: 7 months at Google. One year out of university. Previous work as English instructor and retail sales clerk.
    Rep D: 3 months at Google. One year out of university. Previous work as research fellow and tour guide.

    In such a short time, how could these people be trained to do anything other than sell?

    In short?
    When I do take these calls, I keep my expectations low and remain in no doubt about the nature of the relationship. Google is a corporation and these are not customer service or technical support staff – they are salespeople.

    August 18, 2014 at 5:52 pm
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