Yesterday there was an article published on BBC entitled Boy racks up 100,000 euro bill advertising his brass band. Unbelievable – some 12 year old kid in Spain opened an Adwords account and racked up 100,000 euro (about $111,000 in US dollars) on PPC ads.
Here’s the kicker: “he was under the impression people clicking on the adverts would earn him money.”
First off – parents, don’t let your 12 year olds sign up for Adwords. Monitor their internet usage, for Pete’s sake.
OK. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, here is where I think this kid went wrong. Here’s the Adwords home page (and yes, I realize this is the US, English version, but I have to believe the Spanish one says the same thing.)
It seems clear to me that you’ll pay when someone clicks, but read that sentence carefully: “And only pay when they click to visit your website or call.” I can see how an uninitiated user, especially a child, could think it means “And Google only pays you when they click to visit your website.” It’s a stretch, but I can see it.
Google, in their attempt to make the Adwords barrier to entry very low, has oversimplified things. I’ve written about this before. There’s no shortage of stories about people who have wasted thousands of dollars, or more, on ill-advised Adwords ads. There’s the small business owner who didn’t keep up with his campaigns and competitors. Once upon a time, 10 or more years ago, it was possible for novices to run a fairly successful Adwords campaign. Those days are long gone, just like the days of fixing your own car are long gone. Nowadays, you need a good mechanic for your car, and a PPC professional to run your Adwords campaigns.
And yet, there’s obviously still a lot of waste in PPC. I see it every time I do an audit. Surprisingly, many people running PPC campaigns still don’t follow best practices. A simple Google search gives me an idea of the scope of the problem:
755,000 results for a long-tail search about wasting money on Adwords, and a ton of blog posts in the top 10 results. Clearly it’s not just this poor Spanish kid, who luckily got Google to credit him back (or I think his mother did – go Mom).
Does this mean no one should ever try to run their own PPC campaigns? I’d say no, but I hesitate in giving that answer. With all the complexities in PPC these days, it’s wise for small business owners or individuals to at least have a professional look at their account. It’s worth paying someone a couple hundred bucks to avoid losing thousands, in my opinion. Or, consider hiring a PPC professional to run your account. I know plenty of PPC pros who take small side jobs, or who will perform audits for a nominal fee. It’s worth it.
I also take issue with Google making it seem so easy. It shouldn’t be so simple for a 12 year old to open an account:
I’m not sure what that something would be, and it’s probably easy to game. I know plenty of kids who signed up for Facebook well before their 13th birthday, simply by lying about their age. At least with Facebook, there’s no money at stake (although there are plenty of other things at stake, like privacy, self-esteem, cyber-bullying, and general tween-age shenanigans – but I won’t get into that here). The point is, situations like the one with the 12 year old simply shouldn’t happen. There should be some warning button that outlines the risks or at least says “Are you sure? Your credit card/bank account/whatever will be charged every time someone clicks on your ad.”
What do you think? Should Google somehow “gate” Adwords to keep the kids out? Or is it ok the way it is? Share in the comments!