The Google Ads system has rules in place for companies that benefit from paid promotion on Google and for online marketing agencies that offer Google Ads campaigns. However, many entrepreneurs do not comply with them 100 percent. Let’s check which practices used by some Google Ads agencies are illegal or belong to the “gray area” and may be considered not entirely ethical.
Google Ads and law and ethics
When the Google Ads system entered the market, there were not many advertising rules, and the search engine itself was responsible for the supervision of advertisers’ activities. For this reason, entrepreneurs decided to implement many potentially suspicious practices. Many of them could become the subject of litigation, but in the absence of regulations, it was difficult to enforce any consequences for people breaking the law or acting in an unethical manner. The first legal regulations appeared only in 2008, thanks to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and concerned the advertising of pharmaceuticals. However, there are many practices that are not prohibited theoretically, but which are ethically questionable to implement. Nevertheless, some agencies to this day use not fully transparent and ethical practices in advertising unaware customers.
Ethics in PPC advertising – what is it?
While SEO has created a certain pattern of quality and authenticity, according to which it is worth conducting SEO activities (Search Quality Guidelines), in Google Ads there are only some general principles implemented by Google. They state that:
– the content must not mislead potential customers,
– some products and services may not be advertised on Google or may, but to a limited extent,
– it is not allowed to hide costs from the user,
– it is not allowed to advertise paid products as free,
– the use of clickbait ads is not allowed,
– it is not allowed to create advertisements whose product resembles a warning, etc.
In practice, even some agencies use unfair practices against their clients. How to avoid it? Look for a proven agency. In this article, you will learn what to look for and which unethical actions should raise your vigilance as a contractor. Let’s check what actions to avoid if you want to advertise on Google Ads in cooperation with the agency.
1. Renting a lease or buying an account from an external source and Google Ads policies
Leasing external accounts in Google Ads is highly unethical and potentially illegal depending on the source of funding. Avoid these practices and don’t take advantage of social media groups that rent, sell, or lease Google Ads accounts. Also verify that the agency you work with does not use such practices. Act on your own account or possibly an account created for you by the Google Ads agency. Only in this way you have full control over the campaigns conducted and access to the necessary data.
Does Google control the rental, sale, and leasing of accounts? Not completely. Admittedly, the necessity to verify the advertiser has been introduced, but due to the lack of internal legal regulations in various countries, in practice this activity will be difficult to stop.
2. Suggestion of work for Google and Google Ads rules
Some Google Ads agencies mislead their customers by implying that they are working with Google or that their team members are working for Google. This is unethical behavior that can distort the rules of competition on the market. This often applies to agencies with the status of Google’s partners. Unaware customers may believe that their campaigns will be led by people from Google. This is not true – the status of a Google partner means that the agency meets Google’s high standards in terms of campaigning and cooperates with specialists who have appropriate certificates confirming their competence and knowledge.
3. Formal valuation before getting to know the scope of work and the Google Ads rules
It is not an illegal practice, but it can expose the entrepreneur to large losses. Providing a quote by the Google Ads agency before getting to know the scope of work, the expectations of the entrepreneur and his financial capabilities, can lead you to serious losses. In practice, the price for servicing Google Ads may be understated or overstated in relation to the scope of work. These types of problems often arise in the case of offers targeted at small or medium-sized companies. Therefore, watch out for offers from various agencies and look for one that provides a quote for campaign service only after initial business talks, when they know your goals, opportunities, historical campaign results, industries, etc.
4. Calling yourself “the best agency” and Google Ads rules
Many Google Ads agencies use slogans such as “the best Google Ads agency” in their advertising messages. While this is not completely prohibited, it may be unethical. On what basis do you claim to be the best agency, and what aspects do you consider when drawing these conclusions? If it is just an advertising slogan that does not rely on any parameters or indicators, it means little to the customer and may be misleading. In practice, such passwords violate Google’s policy on customer misleading. You can use such slogans provided that there is an objective reason to do so.
5. Lack of transparency and access to the account and the ethics and principles of Google Ads
Some agencies create a Google Ads account for the customer, but do not grant access to the customer. These practices are happening less and less as customers and entrepreneurs are becoming more and more aware, but they nonetheless occur. They are not illegal, but they are certainly unfair and unethical. Running the campaign on an account created by the agency without access means that the client has no control over the activities carried out, and cannot independently track and verify the effectiveness of advertisements and work performed by the agency. Good Google Ads agencies give customers access to data or create ads on customer accounts. While important changes and optimizations are being implemented, you can lock the customer’s account as “read-only” to ensure that the customer unknowingly does not cause any damage to the account and makes changes. Why do some agencies operate this way? Because they manage campaigns of different clients on one account. If you are looking for a proven agency, at the interview stage, ask if the advertisement will be run on your account. This way, you will gain control over how your funds are spent on advertising.
6. Copying the content of advertisements and the rules of Google Ads
Some advertisers create an advertising message that is confusingly similar to advertising content of other companies. In practice, a Google Ads ad differs only in the landing page URL. This is a gray market activity, but you can prevent it by registering your company or brand as a trademark. Advertising supervision can do little if your business does not use proprietary trademarks in ad content. It’s just as legal to advertise under the name of a competitor, as long as you don’t use that name in ad text.
7. Using tools from agencies and Google Ads rules
Some Google Ads agencies or freelancers work with developers of various digital software, tools and platforms and automatically implement them with customers, often without their consent. In this way, they often receive additional remuneration. As an advertiser using the services of the Google Ads agency, you may object to these practices, ask where they came from, and request an RFP. Refusal is an unethical act that may be the basis for termination of cooperation.
8. The use of cooperation with the client for advertising purposes and the principles of Google Ads
Many Google Ads agencies want to show off their results and cooperation with a specific customer, especially if there is a large and well-known brand. It is quite natural to act, but only ethical if the customer agrees. Some agencies, without the client’s consent, place their company logo on their website or boast about the results of case studies, using the client’s full name. If the agency wants to carry out such activities, it should first ask for consent both for changes to the website and for the use of client data in case studies. In the event of disagreement, you can generally describe the client as, for example, a beauty salon in a specific city (no name), a company offering photovoltaic panels in several provinces, etc. At Paraphrase Online, we prepare Google Ads success stories in cooperation with our clients, and take up the topic, the content of the story is consulted with the client each time and accepted before publication.
9. Unethical settlement model for running a campaign and Google Ads rules
There are different models of billing for servicing Google Ads campaigns by an agency or a freelancer. Most of them are based on payment for actions performed and campaign optimization. This is the best way to reward the agency for its activities. However, many of them use unfair practices and some settlement models are abusive. For example, an agency deliberately increases website traffic by employing less than fair practices in order to earn more because it receives a remuneration based on the generated effects.
10. Bidding on competitors’ brand slogans versus Google Ads rules
Many companies decide to bid on competitors ‘brand slogans to attract traffic to their website of users who are looking for competitors’ services. In principle, such action is possible and Google Ads does not prohibit it, provided that the content of the advertisement does not use registered trademarks and the name of a competitor, which could mislead users. An advertisement based on competitors’ brand slogans can be compared to a traditional advertisement, in which a company places an advertising billboard for its restaurant on the highway right next to the competition’s premises. There is nothing illegal about it as long as it does not mislead users. Remember that you can limit this procedure in relation to your own brand by investing in Google Ads for your own brand slogans.
11. Lack of information about advertising restrictions and Google Ads rules
Google Ads policies place advertising restrictions on certain industries. A good Google Ads agency will inform you about them during business talks and maybe recommend a different type of promotion on the Internet, even at the cost of your own earnings. Unethical internet marketing agencies are silent on this aspect and can create an ad that will expose you to a warning from Google, or even block your account. Restrictions apply to advertising for products and industries such as:
– erotic industry,
– alcohol products,
– drugs and pharmaceuticals,
– financial, banking, insurance etc. services,
– fireworks, explosives,
– psychoactive substances.
If you want to make sure that your ad does not violate Google Ads policies and complies with the latest guidelines, look for a good and proven Google Ads agency. During business talks, find out if the agency has the status of a Google Partner (remember that this does not mean that your campaign will be run by a Google employee), what billing model and campaign fees are used. Also, make sure you are informed about your willingness to use your brand name in case studies. Then you will avoid problems with the ethics of the agency’s activities and gain an effective campaign.