• Justin Sous

    Brad, this post was so easy to relate to, and I echo all of the above. My experiences with small businesses is pretty much identical to what you have explained. It was refreshing to read!

    Something I’ve been seeing recently that is starting to bug me in adWords for local businesses is double serving. It’s something that I have addressed with Google more times than I should have, and it seems as though these businesses are finding some sort of loophole in Google’s TOS. Google does say there are some exceptions which allow certain advertisers to double serve. There are two versions of this I’ve been seeing:

    1. Double serving traditional adwords accounts with differing domains, bidding on the same keywords in both accounts
    2. Double serving an adwords account and an express account paired up with a Google+Local rating (like a rich snippet).

    What light can you shed on this? Are you seeing this type of activity as well? How do you recommend handling it? My clients see this and get frustrated by it (as do I). It’s becoming harder and harder to recommend white hat strategies when Google seems to be turning a blind eye to double serving. The other thing that’s aggravating is Google saying they cannot and will not tell me the status of a double-serving investigation I file, so I never know if they came to a conclusion or not. Any advice you have on this would be great! Let me know if you would prefer to email me directly.

    Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/DavidKyle David Kyle

    Solid post, Brad!
    Wanted to share my experience with the extensions.  The phone number one for local campaigns didn’t work very well for me.  The fact they are toll free, and not local numbers was a likely contributor to this.  I find that if your QS is high enough you can get location and sitelinks  displayed together. It makes for a stand out local ad that can deliver a detailed message that a standard ad could not.

  • http://twitter.com/DavidKyle David Kyle

    Hi Justin, will share my experience with double serving.  I know Google doesn’t like it, and they certainly don’t turn a blind eye to it. The exceptions you mention really can’t apply to local accounts.  There is not a legitimate reason for a local biz to double serve.  

    One of the main causes of what you are seeing are 3rd party resellers.  Once local got big, a big grey area developed in respects to DS. These resellers would actually own the Adwords accounts that would have 100s to 1000s of clients.  It was common for resellers that solicited a biz that already had their own account to say, “we’ll run our campaign against yours and prove we can do it better.”  Their were obviously multiple resellers like Yodle and Reachlocal doing this. So I actually saw instances of triple and quadruple serving for certain businesses.

    The grey area here is that even though it was the same biz being advertised, it was different businesses owning the various Adwords accounts that did so. 

    If you were Google, how would you enforce that situation?  It’s not the same as finding the guy with 3 different accounts using the same credit card to pay.

    I’ve honestly seen a decline in this in the cities and verticals I’m involved with.  Part of it might be from some effort by Google. I think the main reason is because it doesn’t make financial sense for the average local business, especially with the space becoming more competitive in recent years.  Your case may be an exception. Certain verticals will always have a shady element, i.e. locksmiths, carpet cleaners, etc.

    Keep doing the right thing. I’ve been managing local campaigns since 2007, and have never seen a biz brazenly violate TOS do so for very long.

  • Justin Sous

    Thanks for your input, David. There are actually a number of reasons why small businesses would double serve. I guess it depends on the vertical, but regardless, this is what I see:

    1. High traffic keywords which aren’t all that specific. For ex. a keyword like “pest control” doesn’t indicate which pest the user has an issue with, so I see a lot of pest control companies advertising multiple accounts (multiple domains) so their ad copy can target the general query of “pest control” as well as specific pests that may be “hot” that time of year. They’re taking up more real estate on the search results page and are well aware they may be paying a premium for it. 

    2. Certainly a domain that looks more local could have an effect on CTR. I see a lot of advertisers with domains for every major geography in their territory. They run ads in accounts such as these while also managing an account for their main domain.

    I’m glad you’ve noticed the amount of DS going down. I suppose each vertical is on it’s own pace. When I said “turning a blind eye”, sure Google may be trying to eliminate DS behind the scenes, but with my experience, bringing individual cases to them has been dealt with horribly. In fact, not 1 case of DS I’ve brought to their attention has been remedied. In all instances, the Google rep agreed it was DS but had to pass it along to the team that actually deals with the issues.  I understand what you’re saying – it’s very difficult for Google to find these cases of DS. BUT when cases are brought to their attention, I can’t let them off the hook :)

    Thanks again for your response!

  • http://twitter.com/bgtheory Brad Geddes

    Just to add my $0.02 – Kyle is 100% correct.

    What I often find is that if a reseller uses the client’s website, then there is very little double ad serving due to how Google doesn’t show too root domains in one SERP.

    But I often see resellers build their clients websites, landing pages, or use reverse proxy to new URLs; this is where its almost impossible for AdWords to police. I’ve tried to think of non-burdensome solutions to this – but its just not an easy issue to solve.

    I have seen a bit less of this in the past couple years, but it does still happen. 

    The main rules around double ad serving for a while were for a reseller to serve multiple ads when the landing pages were different companies. There’s not much of this anymore as Google made a strong effort in the reseller channel a few years ago to push to resellers using individual domains for each clients.

    But it still happens. In most cases its just because of the system. When its a company deliberately trying to get around the rules (multiple credit cards, domains, etc) then Google usually takes a stronger stance. 

  • Matt Cooper

    Hi All,

    Great article Brad!  Thanks for the heads up on double serving Justin and David,  I hadn’t run into it where I am yet, but I’ll be looking for it.   One service I wanted to recommend for Call Tracking is http://www.twillio.com This allows you to not only easily track the number of calls but call Google Analytics and Adwords conversion code with out needing much input from the client.

    There are a ton of example pieces of code you can have the client upload to their domain and that’s all that’s required.  In addition to being extremely cost effective, it allows for a number of the features you mentioned Brad.  SMS, email, and call recording are features you simply turn on.  This allows you to not only report on the number of calls but also conversions and even quality of sales conversation.

    The most recent setup I have running for a local business has the campaign using a very narrow combination of phrase and exact match for each of the services that this business offers.  From there they are directed to a landing page we designed using http://www.unbounce.com  this service allows the A/B Testing of a number of the landing page experiments.  They also offer templates for mobile. This makes it super simple to have multiple versions of the landing pages running separate calls to action depending on the day and time of the week.  Mobile and desktop landing pages emphasize calling and evenings, and weekends promote versions of the pages that have contact forms when no one is there to answer the call.  

    So far, this approach is working extremely well.  We are noticing conversion rates well into 30%+ and the ROI is over 2000%+ Because calls are recorded and sent to the business they can easily determine which turned into business and which did not. This makes the offline interaction super simple to measure

    Thanks for validating the approach we have been using, I hope the tools I mentioned are useful. I’d love to hear any other tools you guys find work well for you.