Increased Spam Leads on Google Paid Search

What “Bad Leads” Look Like Lately on Paid Search & How to Protect Your Ad Spend

For online marketers, garbage “spam” leads pose a significant threat to your bottom line. Left unchecked, spam leads can inflate the cost of your paid search campaigns and dramatically compromise your conversion rate ROI.

Since summer of this year, the Paid Search Team at Enrollment Resources has observed a marked escalation in a variety of types of fake leads through Google Ads paid search campaigns. A top level support Google Manager has confirmed to our team that increased spam is a known issue.

In this post, we will outline:

  1. What the increase in spam & other “bad leads” look like
  2. How it may potentially affect your paid search marketing efforts
  3. What you can look for to mitigate the potential cost

For existing Enrollment Resources clients, we will also demonstrate what’s being done on your behalf to guard against bad leads.

What Increased “Bad Leads” Through Google Looks Like

When we talk about “bad leads” we mean something different than leads that are difficult to contact or real individuals who do not enter truthful information when they complete your contact form. There are two issues are play:

  1. Spam
  2. Search Partner Click Fraud

The spam leads we tend to see right now can typically be identified by the following:

  • Emails from other countries (evident by country web domain codes, for example .id)
  • Foreign language submissions
  • Mismatched city/state/zip fields in form submissions
  • Known “bad actor” spam email domains

Search Partner Click Fraud is when scam advertisers create low cost ads on networks like Facebook or TikTok and funnel those ad clicks to a Google Search Partner page. These scammers make money by pocketing the difference between the first ad and the Google search partner payout. These leads may be actual interested students, but they have come from a “false touch” ad. These false ads often advertise something the school doesn’t offer like a free course or education in a language the school doesn’t provide.

Where the Spam Leads Are Showing Up

Google Ads is a network composed of multiple places marketers can buy ad placements. The cornerstone is Google Search. These are ads that display not only on Google.com but also on Google’s Search Partners or partner sites that have a Google search feed.
In addition to Google Search, there is also the Google Discovery Network, which consists of Google’s own web properties such as YouTube, Gmail and the Discovery Feed on Android. We have specifically observed spam leads coming through these search partners and web properties.

We’ve reverse engineered that the majority of spam issues are coming from the Discovery campaign type, through YouTube as a network and from the “optimized targeting” option.

What Google is Doing

As mentioned above, reps within Google’s Advertiser Management Team have acknowledged the issue of increased spam across their network. The Enrollment Resources Paid Search team successfully lobbied for one time, good-faith credits to hard-hit accounts that we were able to prove have been hit with increased spam. To date we have retrieved over $50,000 in credit across multiple accounts.

What the Enrollment Resources Paid Search Team is Doing

We have worked with multiple teams at Google who have all assured us that our forms are peak performance for anti-spam measurements and that we’ve taken all the steps an agency can take in order to combat spam, including:

  • Enabled RE-CAPCHA system on all contact forms
  • Created a global “Blacklist” option for “bad” emails with a robust Web Application Firewall (WAF) to stop those leads from getting through to the database
  • Server Side Validation – This is a secondary check of leads validated at the browser level to ensure all required fields are completed with accurate information

To further cut down on search spam, Enrollment Resources Paid Search Account Managers have temporarily opted out of ads being served on Google partner sites. To reduce spam from the Discovery Network we have opted out of optimized targeting.

The challenge with any spam filtering is calibration. It’s crucial to find the sweet spot where you tighten the tap on faulty leads without making the restrictions so tight you accidentally discard valid leads. It is our approach to air on the side of caution, potentially allowing a small amount of spam leads to slip through rather than risk a missed connection with a hopeful prospective student in need.

What This Means for You & Your School

For current Enrollment Resources clients, the actions outlined above have been implemented on your account and your Paid Search Account Manager is monitoring the situation carefully in conjunction with the Advertiser Management Teams at Google.

Whether or not you are a current Enrollment Resources client, if you’re concerned about the safety and performance of your Google Ads account, feel free to schedule a time to speak with a knowledgeable Paid Search Account Manager. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have and will even take a look at your account to provide a neutral third party review of the health of your account.

Get Support & Safeguard Your Paid Search Account

If you’re a current Enrollment Resources client with any questions about your Paid Search, please contact your Account Manager directly.

If you’re not an Enrollment Resources client but have concerns about potential bad leads and would like to have a Paid Search expert do a complimentary audit of your account, click here to schedule your Paid Search Audit or contact [email protected].

Enrollment Resources Earns A+ BBB Rating

Enrollment Resources Earns A+ Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rating

Higher Education Marketer Is Recognized For Ethical Business Practices

VICTORIA, British Columbia – Sept. 25, 2020

Enrollment Resources is proud to announce that they have achieved an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). An A+ rating shows that the BBB is highly confident that Enrollment Resources consistently treats their customers in a fair and honest manner, is transparent in their business practices and engages in truthful marketing and advertising.

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How Persistence Pays In Hard Times In Business

How Persistence Pays In Hard Times In Business - Enrollment Resources

Photo by Austin Walker on Unsplash

Right out of college, I worked for a forestry company that specialized in milling cedar logs into cedar roofing products, shakes, and shingles. When I started work, the country was deep into a recession. Not as many people were building or roofing houses, so the cedar shake and shingle industry was in the tank. I was expecting a Shortage of Work layoff notice, but the long-term employees told me not to worry.

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Admissions Relief – Set Up Effective Remote Admissions Fast

As many schools rapidly shift to online operations in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Admissions teams are struggling to be effective when in-person interviews are not possible.

To help schools organize high-performing Remote Admissions Programs quickly, we’re offering free 60-day emergency pilot projects of our Remote Admissions Pathway module in Virtual Adviser on a first-come, first-served basis, with clients given preference.

Contact [email protected] or call 250-391-9494 for info and to coordinate a demo. We’re here to help!

Weekly Client-Only Admissions Huddles

For the foreseeable future, we are holding weekly Client Admissions Huddles on Thursdays at 11am PST / 2pm EST.

We will focus on how your school can keep Admissions functioning during the crisis, including:

  • Virtual Admissions challenges
  • Holding on to enrolled students
  • Any other obstacles you are coming across

Get your Admissions questions answered and learn best practices about this critical topic.

If you are close to becoming even a small-purchase client, you can access this training series for free. Check your email for the login information, or reach out to your ER Rep.

How To Organize A Quality Remote Admissions Program Quickly – Podcast

In this short podcast, Tom and Gregg provide an overview of what your school needs to organize a quality Remote Admissions Program quickly. Listen here.

[Podcast] Organize A Quality Remote Admissions Program Quickly

Enrollment Management Round Table with Enrollment Resources - Organize A Quality Remote Admissions Program Quickly

In this podcast, Tom King and Gregg Meiklejohn of Enrollment Resources give an overview of the pieces needed to organize a quality Remote Admissions program quickly.

Listen Now!

Subscribe to our free Training Library to stream this podcast

A companion white paper to this podcast will be published this week. Watch your inboxes for the link.

For a more in-depth conversation on this matter, please call Tom King or Sterling Simpson at Enrollment Resources at 250-391-9494.

Google’s Mission: Content vs. User Context

Content vs. User Context - The Main Takeaways Of Google Marketing Live, 2019Tammy Miles is the Director of Paid Search Marketing at Enrollment Resources. She recently attended the 2019 Google Marketing Live Conference in San Francisco. The event attracted over 5000 participants from 68 Countries, with most of the buzz focused around Google’s new ad features and artificial intelligence (AI) technology innovations. This is her summary of the main takeaways for schools looking to reach their EDU prospects.

Do You Know Your Prospect? Google Does

Google reiterated their mission: to deliver content that is useful, helpful, and transparent to their users while creating personalized and meaningful experiences that respect the privacy of those same users. To that end, Google advertising is heading beyond content and creative to the vast universe of user context.

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[Bite-Sized Big Ideas] A Peek Around The Corner

Get the big ideas we at Enrollment Resources believe leaders in the Education space should be thinking about in a bite-sized article or audio clip.

2 minute read

Audio available

The US has ratified a travel ban on several countries and it appears, by extension, to be making it tougher for students from other countries to feel welcome in the US. For example, the emerging trade war with China: Chinese authorities are publicly considering popping tariffs on students who want to study in the United States. Also, it appears the denial of US postgraduate Working Visas are making it tougher for grads to stay on and work at externships.

If there indeed is a contraction of international students, how will this play out? Listen or read after the jump! Read more