Google Has Become Yahoo

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Google Adwords has been in the headlines a lot lately, and not in a good way. For some time now, PPC advertisers have been complaining about Adwords reps, and the lack of good ones. I even got in on the action back in May, complaining about a rep who reached out to us, only to turn out to be a thinly veiled sales guy. In that post, I lamented the good old days, when we all had Google reps that cared about our business and were there when we needed help or had questions.

That post is the most-commented post on my blog to date. It clearly struck a chord, with many other PPCers chiming in with their own horror stories.

Well, this week it got worse. Search Engine Land covered a story recounted by Martin MacDonald, who posted the audio of a Google rep who thought he’d hung up on one of his client’s voice mail, but really was being recorded the whole time. The story has been dubbed GoogleGate by the SEM community.

The audio is pretty damning. In the SEL article, Google came out and admitted that they use outside contractors. As an agency PPCer, I’d be the last person to complain about outsourcing. But if you’re going to outsource, it helps to use competent and professional people. And the idea of using outsource reps is to supplement your service, not do away with it altogether as Google has seemed to do. True Google reps who are marketing partners have all but disappeared in favor of hard-sell shills.

Read the comments on both the SEL and Martin MacDonald’s posts. They’re rife with accounts of people who had no option but to call Adwords general support, only to have the Adwords Help files quoted to them. I’ve had this happen many times myself. It’s frustrating as a PPC professional to have to educate the Google staff, instead of the other way around. After all, I wouldn’t call if I already knew the answer!

Ever hear the saying “Everything old is new again”? That’s what it’s looking like in search these days. Yahoo took the #1 spot in search in July, for the first time since 2011. How retro.

But I’m not bringing that up to reminisce. I’m bringing it up because Google is starting to remind me of Yahoo back in the old Yahoo Search Marketing days.

Back in 2009, I wrote a rant about Yahoo’s “optimizations.” To summarize, they were making changes to accounts without permission, and (supposedly) telling us after the fact. It caused quite a stir in the PPC community. And we all know what happened to Yahoo not long after – can you say Bing-Yahoo Alliance?

Well, if you read the comments on the SEL and MacDonald post, a lot of people expressed concern over outsourced Google reps contacting them for “optimization” help, and then asking them to sign a list of T&Cs that, among other things, allows Google to make changes “on behalf of” the advertiser without advance notice. I had to read those comments twice, because it sounded so familiar.

Yes, Google has resorted to the same tactics that got Yahoo in hot water 4 years ago. I sincerely hope that they don’t have the same outcome that Yahoo did. I guess time will tell.

What’s your prediction? Is this just a bump in Google’s yellow brick road, or is it a sign of serious troubles ahead? Share in the comments!

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  1. jon cottrell says

    I agree. Google has been “owning” Paid for a while now, and although I have complained in the past about Bing/ Yahoo search traffic quality/ volumes, the customer service with them is excellent. I spent £500 on a new account the other month on AdCentre, and I had a rep/product manager phoning me up to ask how I thought it all went, etc and how to move forward in regards optimisation/ suggestions etc.
    I have friends working on some big accounts at the larger agencies, spending £500k a month with Google, and they don’t even get a product manager!!
    If we start seeing this transition to the UK (may take some time), it will definitely be interesting to see how Google react.

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Totally agree that Bing customer service is excellent. They are real people with genuine interest in advertiser success – and that doesn’t mean just increasing spend. Maybe this incident will get Google to rethink their customer service strategy?

  2. Mel:

    The parallels are pretty amazing.

    Being an optimist, I like to think that it cannot continue in this vein for much longer. But, the cynical part of me realizes the immense pressure companies like Google face to consistently out perform earnings expectations. There are long-term and short-term ways to do this. Unfortunately, it seems like our current system really rewards the short-term approach.

    It is a shame. Instead of really working to create value for customers and helping them to succeed with AdWords, they seem more interested in churning. Not every business can afford to hire a PPC consultant or agency. They should at least have a fighting chance to see a positive result.

    Time will tell! You know I’ll be paying close attention.

  3. This is what happens when you have a company with near-monopoly status in an industry. Google needs to beat Wall St. expectations through increasing revenue or decreasing costs. “Hmm…we’ve got all these reps sitting around. What if we got rid of them?” Will advertisers stop using Google? No. EC are further proof that Google can make changes that users don’t want and they’ll still keep spending.

    The only way to truly “tell” Google you’re unhappy with their offering is to take your money elsewhere. Whether that’s BingAds, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or somewhere else, the bottom line is the only one that Google seems to care about these days.

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Sadly, you’re right. Google answers to Wall Street, not its advertisers. Who, by the way, are the reason their stock prices are what they are.

    • jon cottrell says

      Exactly. There are more and more ways of efficiently spending money now, so Google need to start upping their customer service if they want to keep the advertisers/ clients happy.

      • Except that they don’t actually have to do anything as long as they maintain market share. Just look at Microsoft – everyone complains about their operating systems and their total lack of customer care. It has not really shaken their dominance.

        Kind of depressing.

  4. I think it really comes down to whether Google is willing to listen. I completely understand outsourcing, but doing so for something like adWords seems a bit asinine. I am sure this all boils down to dollars and cents (as it always does). It’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to outsource, but when the product is something like your platform and the people need an insiders mindset, I doubt that there is ever a good reason to do so.

    The only thing we can hope is that enough people will complain that they see the error in their logic here. Definitely going to be interesting to see.

  5. I actually worked at Yahoo when that happened and remember it well. I would say it was a very brief and failed attempt. Since that time, and especially since the launch of the Search Alliance, i would say that the Yahoo Reps have been top notch. I know when i was there last (about a year and a half ago) a lot of effort went in to providing meaningful recommendations based on Bing best practices and client needs.

    I can not say the same for Google reps, however. I have not found them near as willing to help.

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Interesting insight, Joe. It’s good that Yahoo saw the light so quickly. Not sure whether Google will.

  6. Kayla Hiller says

    I just wanted to chime in and share that over the last 6 months I have seen a tremendous swing in my Google reps and the quality of their service. Let me start by saying that my company is not an enterprise company. Our spend is in the low 6 figure area; we are not a large account.
    I was recently assigned a new Google team and they have been nothing but fantastic. Extremely helpful with relevant pitches that align with our business goals and profit objectives. When we tell them “no” to certain pitches they drop it and offer us other things that are more up our alley. When testing out their “sells” my reps check up on how the testing is going and are immediately available to trouble shoot if I have problems. If I get wind of a beta that I want, they jump at the opportunity and push me in if they can.
    I understand that I am the minority but I thought I would share my experience to shed a light of hope to all those “burned” by reps in the past.

  7. Hi Mel, great site! I found you via Brad Geddes.

    Interesting topic.

    I have been an adwords consultant (agency-level for 7 yrs, working for a private firm now) for over 8 years, and this last few weeks is the first time I have actually had an account rep who makes an effort to call and keep in touch. Sadly, he is a temp while my normal rep is off due to illness.

    Yes, his initial call was to essentially get me to spend more money (!) but I quickly stopped that, and pushed back at him with account issues that may be due to “enhanced campaigns”…

    While he’s not gone so far as to turn off EC for me (wonder if that’s even possible 🙂 ), he HAS made an effort to help me troubleshoot the issue and try and improve results.

    Any reps I have had in the past were infrequent with their contact and never had as much knowledge or experience as I did (which makes it annoying when they start recommending stupid things that will blow my budgets sky high and reduce my leads, etc.)

    Google is “better the devil you know…” for most of us.

    However, I am expanding my repertoire now (facebook ads, PPV, media buys, etc.) so that I do not find myself obsolete when the machines rise up & take over 😉

    Anyway, keep up the good work. I’ll be back to read some more of your blog.



  1. […] They have quotas to fulfill. (Of course they don’t tell you that part.) If you haven’t read this great summary by Melissa Mackey, you […]

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