Google targets UK lead gen firms with the business operations verification process

After it was initially rolled out in the US we knew Google’s audit of adwords advertisers was coming (we wrote about it here, back in July 2020) but we didn’t know when, for which products and how severe the process would be.  We now have answers to all of those questions.

The ‘business operations verification program’ is Google's latest attempt to tackle fraud. Its intention appears to have been to close the loopholes that allow fraudulent businesses to mislead consumers about their links to the products but also to create more transparency about who is actually running the adverts.

Contact State phones started ringing in mid December with reports of lead generators and financial brands having their accounts paused for the audit and it appears that life insurance adverts were amongst the first to be targeted.

We’ve chatted to numerous companies who have been through the verification process and most passed first time and allowed to keep bidding. A notable few failed but were then passed at the second time of asking with a more robust response. The average ‘down time’ for live search campaigns appears to be anything from 1-3 days and most people we’ve spoken to think the questions are standard

One of the expectations of the google process would be that it would close glaring loopholes but as yet, that doesn’t seem to be happening. A source of frustration for many legitimate marketing firms is the manner in which Google turns a blind eye to obvious double serving of adverts. If you review the “Life Insurance” search term right now ranked 1 and 2 is a business with slightly different landing pages, the same logo and offering exactly the same lead generation form. It's less than ideal.

Takeaway:What do you need to know?

Right now Google appears only to be collecting data about firms and then only in obvious cases, suspending accounts if a company doesn’t properly fill the form in. The audit so far is not the sweeping away of bad actors, that we all hoped it would be.

There is however a second step coming. Google intends to start displaying information about where a company is based (some good detail here about the problems this is causing in North America) and that's a step we welcome.  If an advert is offering UK consumers a ‘great deal on your mortgage’ but the advertiser is actually a dodgy company in Bermuda, consumers should be able to see this transparently before they click. 

We think Google is simply collecting a lot more information about advertisers now, to make it easier to take them down in the future. 

This article was part of February's edition of The Leader, Contact State's monthly newsletter which you can read here.

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