Yup, but I’m not the first or the only one to say it. It’s very likely that Facebook is participating in planned mass click fraud. This topic is only top of mind because of the post I read a few minutes ago about how 80% of clicks on Facebook ads are bots. Since that was a Facebook post and the author claims to be deleting the page/account soon, I decided to add the text here as well for archiving purposes. This isn’t something I’ve worried about in years primarily because I swore off Facebook ads (except in very rare cases) back when Facebook ads were still in beta.
I wrote about a very similar experience I had just a few months ago with click fraud at Shopzilla. I hate click fraud. If you read my post about Shopzilla, you’ll also get some of my memories about dealing with Yahoo when they used to get a ton of invalid click activity (that’s the PC way of referring to click fraud) from publishers on their network. The good thing about Yahoo was that they used to give refunds if you could prove that the activity was “invalid”, that is if you even payed enough attention to your analytics to notice. Yahoo wouldn’t call it a refund though, that would be an admission of guilt. They’d be very clear when referring to the monies paid as a “courtesy credit” even though, I’ve actually gotten them to send a check as opposed to crediting back to the account balance.
At least Yahoo had the courtesy to refund fraudulent click spend. Facebook & Shopzilla, well, it seems as though they’re in denial mode.A Different Perspective…
I think that most of the people who write about this in the coming days will be bashing Facebook over this. They probably deserve it. Also, I bet there are a few who will take Facebook’s side and defend them. However, there’s a third perspective that I’d like to share. How digital marketing agencies fit into the mix.
Most large online, digital marketing agencies make their revenue based on a percent of the client’s advertising spend. The more their client spends on advertising, the more the agency brings in for fees. This is logically defensible because if the agency wants to convince their client into spending more money on advertising then the agency must also have to return more sales for that client. You know, provide them a good return on investment.
Here’s the thing about ROI… a good return on investment is different for every business. One of the accounts I manage every day would be doing poorly if the Google Paid Search account returned less than 1000% ROI averaged over a week. However, I’ve managed plenty of accounts over the years where 200% ROI was a frigg’n miracle. The agency trick is convincing the client that 500% ROI is some how better long term, even if 1000% is possible now. Who would deny that a return of $5 dollars for every $1 dollar spent on advertising isn’t an amazing return? If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t.
If you’re currently working with an agency to takes their fee based on percent of ad spend, keep your ears open for terms/phrases like this:
- “Cast a wide net”
- “Long conversion cycle”
- “Building awareness”
- “prospecting keywords”, usually referring to broad match keywords in AdWords.
I’m not saying all those are bullshit, I’m just saying that you need to be able to definitively track and prove results. You owe it to yourself as the client to hold the agency to a high standard/burden of proof. If you don’t care, they won’t either. In my experience, more often than not, those strategies are birthed by pressure to grow client budgets.Agencies Care More About Their Own ROI
Advertising account managers at agencies are pressured by those above them to grow budgets to increase ROI for the agency. Imaging that. Yeah, I said it.
As long as the client is happy, grow spend, work hard to justify it (consulting), twist the graphs and grow those budgets. What happens if client’s become unhappy, convince them they’re wrong. How do I know this? I’ve been there. I was the guy who cared about my clients and took shit from my superiors for it. I don’t believe that the agency I came from was unique. I took over many accounts from bigger, more well known agencies that were being blatantly negligent with account management. And why, because it benefits them. As a matter of fact, I was just talking with a friend who’s also an ex-agency guy/girl about me writing this post and this is a quote (I cut out a couple of name…):
“I wasted thousands of dollars “testing” FB ads for clients. They don’t work after three months? “Keep testing and trying new ad copy.” Roger that
“FB ads for the most part were the biggest goddamn waste of time and money ever.
<redacted> seemed to like them. I think because they burned through available budget.”
I left the agency world (in part) for that reason. I went to work in-house for a company who needed a full time online marketing guy. It was the best move of my life. I’m now truly incentivized to optimize advertising accounts for ROI. I’m rewarded when I kick more ass. I like that arrangement.Why Throw Agencies Under the Bus?
I think they deserve it because they’re trusted advisers and they should know better. In many cases, it’s like taking candy from a baby. Agencies are the ones who know about click fraud. They’re the people who’re the experts. They see the large data needed to pick out the oddities in analytics that just don’t seem right. Agencies should be advocates against shit bombs like Facebook, Shopzilla and Yahoo (like I was and still am). But, more often, agencies are too busy writing blog posts and whitepapers about how social media is the next big way target prospective buyers. Agencies citing one another’s published “research” about how social media “advertising” will “grow your brand”. These agencies have one interest in common - getting more of your ad budget.
If you’re a smart brand, small business or startup then you should tell agencies to DIAF. Hire a consultant who trains you or someone in your company who has a vested interest in your success. Hire someone who has real experience. Don’t be pushed around by buzzwords and skewed market research.
Take control of your advertising spend and make it return for you.