Online Advertising Guarantees Are Just Tricks

Let’s say you’re an appliance repairman. If you were to install a new part in a washing machine, you would most likely guarantee the quality of your handiwork, but you probably wouldn’t specifically guarantee how clean your customer’s clothes would come out of the wash. Why not? Because there would be too many variables out of your control, like whether the customer added enough detergent, whether they packed the machine too full, or how dirty the clothes were when they were put into the wash. While you can advise your customer on how to best use a washing machine and explain what normally happens when clothes are put into a washing machine, you can’t actually guarantee specific results. A lot of that is up to the customer and the washing machine itself. Man lying with fingers crossed This scenario translates to online advertising. Advertisers are the appliance repairman, Google is the washing machine, and quality lead generation is the clean clothing. While it may seem reasonable at first to ask for guaranteed results from your advertising provider, it’s just not something we can do because there are so many variables that are out of our control. We can give you a ballpark estimate of results based on the typical trajectory of a campaign, but we cannot guarantee you specific results. And you should question any provider who does. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the most common types of online advertising guarantees and explain why you should think twice before believing them.

Guaranteed Number of Calls

There are plenty of online advertising providers who guarantee you’ll get “X” number of calls through their campaign. But here are some questions you should ask:

  • What kind of calls count?
  • Are they counting unique calls or repeat calls?
  • Are they counting existing customers?
  • Are they counting misdials?
  • Are they counting solicitation calls?
  • Are they counting calls for services you don’t offer?
  • Are they counting calls from totally different geographic areas?
  • Are your calls being sent to multiple other businesses at the same time?
  • What kind of timeline are they using to count the calls? Is it per month? per year?

Providers may guarantee a certain number of calls, but when you start digging for answers, you’ll usually see that their guarantees mean nothing. Even if they do fulfill their guarantee of “X” number of calls, they could be sending you lots of calls unrelated to your services, calls from outside of your service area, or calls that have been shared with your direct competitors. And unless they say otherwise, it could take the entire span of your campaign to reach the promised number of calls. In short, a certain number of calls does not guarantee success for your business.

Guaranteed Number of Leads

Meanwhile, some providers guarantee that they’ll send you a certain number of leads. In this context, the difference between leads and calls is that leads are sent to you in the form of a prospect’s contact info, and they require you to track down that individual in order to obtain their business. If an advertising company guarantees you a certain number of leads, here’s what you should ask:

  • Are they sending live leads to you?
  • Are they also sharing those leads with your competitors?
    • If so, how many?
  • Are they sending leads that aren’t actually relevant to your service offerings?
  • Are they sending leads from the wrong geographic areas?
  • Are they counting leads from existing customers?
  • Are they counting leads from repeat customers?
  • Are they counting spam e-mails?
  • What kind of timeline are they using to count the leads? Is it per month? per year?

Just like providers who guarantee a certain number of calls, providers who guarantee leads will always find loopholes to get around their own promises. To satisfy their guarantee and provide you with the highest number of leads possible, they might just send you leads for any old service, even if you don’t provide that service. They also might be sending you leads that are simultaneously going to other clients, who are most likely your direct competitors. By sending you poor-quality leads or leads that aren’t exclusive to you, they’re able to fulfill their promise without actually helping your business.

Guaranteed Search Engine Rankings

One of the most common guarantees floating around the online advertising industry is for “first-page” rankings on search engines. If they say that they’ll put you on page one, there are a lot of technical loopholes that they might be going through in order to make that happen. Here’s what you should be asking:

  • Are you ranking in organic search results, as a sponsored ad, or in the maps section?
  • Who is performing the search?
  • Which search terms are you ranking for? 
  • Which search engine are you actually ranking on?
  • If they’re using Google, are they searching while signed in to their accounts?
  • Will they clear their own search and browsing history before performing the search?
  • Do they turn off their browser cookies?
  • Are they using a proxy server?
  • Are they always using the same IP address?
  • Which web browser are they using?
  • What location are they searching in?
  • Are they searching from a desktop computer or from a mobile device?
  • How long will the page-one ranking last?
  • Are they just going to take over your existing Google My Business listing?

As you can see, these guarantees can get extremely complicated because there are so many technical factors that play a role in rankings. It’s easy for a provider to work around their page-one guarantee by simply manipulating all the right variables. Normal searches aren’t going to produce the same results. For instance, if it’s a PPC campaign, then it won’t take much–aside from a lot of money–to get your business on the first page of Google, as sponsored results automatically display at the top of the first page. The specific search terms that they’re using to determine your ranking also matter: Are you ranking for natural search terms like “appliance repair in Albany, NY,” or are you ranking for Bob’s Appliance Repair, 123 Main St, Albany, NY 12203″? You’ll probably rank at the top when someone searches for your exact company name and location, but that’s not what makes an advertising campaign effective or successful. The final bullet point is especially important. If you already have a Google My Business listing in good standing, there are many providers who will seek you out because all they have to do to satisfy the guarantee is take over your listing, even though most of the SEO work was done before they even got there. It’s a dishonest tactic, but many providers fulfill their guarantee this way.

Guarantees Are Traps

Providers offer guarantees because they know how to grab your attention. But the takeaway from this post should be that online advertising guarantees, when boiled down, mean nothing. Just like with every other form of advertising that has ever existed in the world, online advertisers can’t actually guarantee results that are ultimately out of their control. If a provider does guarantee you specific results, you should be very, very skeptical.