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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].

November Mastermind For ER Clients And Friends

Our next Mastermind for ER Clients and Friends will be held on Tuesday, November 24th at 11 am PST / 2 pm EST. Join Tammy Miles, our Director of Paid Search Marketing, and me to explore YOUR landing pages for lessons in how to apply the latest in industry best practices.

Takeaways include:

  1. The 5 keys to creating landing pages that convert
  2. Specific ways to improve your copy
  3. The best practice landing page tools you need to increase your conversion rates

The Mastermind for ER Clients and Friends is a chance to have your questions answered, share your success stories, and learn from others. Send any questions you have ahead of time to your ER Rep, and we will make sure to address them on the call.

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.

September Mastermind For ER Clients And Friends

Our next Mastermind for ER Clients and Friends will be held on Friday, September 18th. Join us at 11 am PST / 2 pm EST to learn how to drive enrollments — at no extra cost to you — with the tools in your Virtual Adviser along with the latest tips on virtual admissions.

Takeaways include:

  • A quick review of the virtual admissions tools you can use immediately to increase enrollments, and how to access them
  • For DOAs: How to get the most from the virtual admissions tools available in Virtual Adviser
  • How your team can collect leads from High Schools even when it is difficult (impossible?) to present in-person

Please note that the login information has changed.

The Mastermind for ER Clients and Friends is a chance to have your questions answered, share your success stories, and learn from others. Send any questions you have ahead of time to your ER Rep, and we will make sure to address them on the call.

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.

August Mastermind For ER Clients And Friends

Our next Mastermind for ER Clients and Friends will be held on Thursday, August 20th, at 11 am PST / 2 pm EST.

This month you’ll learn how you can harness the power of landing pages for your school. Takeaways include:

  • Why Landing Pages are better than your Homepage for paid traffic
  • The specific elements you need in place for high converting Landing Pages
  • How to measure landing page performance with the right KPIs

Bonus Landing Page Review: Send your landing pages to Sterling Simpson and we’ll review them for you live on the call using best practices developed over a decade of testing and research innovation in the EDU space. Send the links to your landing pages my way ASAP!

The Mastermind for ER Clients and Friends is a chance to have your questions answered, share your success stories, and learn from others. Send any questions you have ahead of time to me or your ER Rep, and we will make sure to address them on the call.

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.

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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Three Questions to Ask BEFORE Hiring a Marketing Agency

The marketing agencies available to help you reach your goals are as varied as the schools we serve. If you’re trying to dig through offerings to see which firm is best positioned to help you, you’re probably confused. So many firms talk about your branding, websites, their proprietary software, SEO, Social Media, Paid Search and design management – how do you make sense of it? At Enrollment Resources, we pursue the truth. We think it is important that you get the best service for you. We’ll tell you if we don’t think we can help you and we’re paid on our performance only. Whether you are hiring us or not, we think these three questions are what you need to ask when doing your research.

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