Reach Local & Dexknows – Review of Online Marketing Programs
What passes as a quality search engine marketing strategy for small to medium businesses nowadays is interesting to say the least. If you or a colleague or friend have recently subscribed to an online marketing service that employs the use of sponsored links on Google at a flat cost per month, then the next 800 words or so are highly recommended reading.
On more than one occasion, business owners have described to us the search engine marketing offerings of major print and television advertising purveyors. Dex (doing business as Dex One or Dexknows.com) Reach Local (reachlocal.com) offer a flat rate, blind spend pay per click program as a main ingredient of its Google marketing strategy. In fact, it’s a pay per click program (Google Adwords) where they buy clicks from Google and then mark it up as a flat rate fee and sell to trusting business owners without any cost per click transparency. So, what’s the problem with no transparency?
Let’s rewind for a moment. Pay Per Click (PPC) management companies have been around for years. Jumpfly, Inc. is one such example of a company that is well-known as a solid PPC management firm. Like most legitimate PPC management firms, they charge a flat percentage of a client’s budget. The percentage ranges from 10% to 15% typically. Essentially, they act as an agency and do the work of optimizing the results of a PPC campaign and provide complete transparency and accounting of every penny spent on actual clicks. That way, their clients know exactly what they are paying per click and they know exactly how the campaign is performing and which keywords are generating the traffic – all very important business intelligence today. So, when DexKnows or other flat rate, blind spend PPC profiteers don’t share their actual markup of their service or real cost for every click they buy, they are operating outside the norm of the established ethical parameters that were set in the industry long before they started calling themselves internet marketers.
The fact is that anyone, even businesses with very limited budgets for online advertising, can buy clicks directly from Google (using Google Adwords service). Adwords accounts can be set up in a matter of minutes. Google publishes a number of videos on how to do it yourself without the aide of a third party who might inflate click prices.
What are these Dex, Reach Local or other similar representatives saying in their sales pitch that might make a business believe that their flat rate PPC program is a better deal than buying clicks directly from Google? When that is discovered, it will make for an interesting read for sure. Until then, one can only imagine how a business owner would be dissuaded from buying clicks directly from Google only to choose to have their clicks marked up at an unknown percentage by a media firm that does not specialize in the search marketing field.
In addition to many major print media publishers that masquerade as SEM’s/SEO’s, some TV stations are now arming their reps with this new way of generating more commissions. In one recent instance, we found that a major TV station that actually outsourced the entire flat rate, blind spend PPC campaign to Reach Local. Reach Local is the largest seller of flat rate, blind spend pay per click programs. So, in that instance, the actual budgeted spend on Google’s clicks, which was completely controlled by Reach Local, was diluted by not one seller’s commission, but two seller’s commissions and the corresponding price per click mark ups. After further inquiry, the advertiser informed us that Reach Local wouldn’t so much as provide a list of keywords they were sponsoring or any of the keyword metrics that tell a business their actual dollars being spent on Google, the keywords that are generating the traffic (critical data for all future SEM/SEO efforts), or the historical data of the campaign.
We know very little about TV advertising and production. So, when we begin working with a new customer, we don’t try to sell them TV advertising. Seems logical that TV advertising production and marketing requires a specific type of expertise – even one that might take years to develop. We respect that boundary, but more and more we’re finding that major media is trying to diversify their revenue by offering ersatz forms of search engine marketing to their TV or print advertisers.
It appears that the Reach Local’s and DexKnows of the world are telling the major media channels that want to tap into the burgeoning online marketing industry (in Reach Local’s case, they are reaching out to major print and television media companies as well) that their flat rate, blind spend solution is a viable and effective way to provide search engine marketing for their customers. Sadly, when internet marketing is packaged up in this manner, the potency is do badly diluted that it may have little chance of doing anything more than leave a bad taste in the mouth of unwitting business owners. It’s time for the rest of us – the SEO’s that know better – to step up and educate the community.
So, what does Google have to say about all this? Google is warning people, and Google is right to do so. Here are guidelines Google currently publishes that Third Party sellers (such as DexKnows and Reach Local) are supposed to adhere to: Google Third Party Policy
Note the first section titled: (1) Third parties should at minimum provide advertisers with monthly data on AdWords costs, clicks, and impressions at the account level. In the instance of DexKnows and Reach Local and many other major media sellers who offer search marketing as a sideline service, this required information is specifically not provided. That begs the question: if they are, as a standard method of operating, specifically violating this policy, why then are these companies allowed to resell Google’s service? Great question. Here at Emerge Marketing Group, we’re asking the same thing.