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When I ran a brick and mortar business, we ran Google Ads to get bookings, and we could always tell when our ads weren't running, met their budget, or were not running for some reason because our bookings would effectively drop to zero since 2 other companies had better organic SEO than us.

THEN, one of our other competitors started outspending us a bit in Adwords. It hurt, but wasn't the end of the world because we could afford to spend just a little more.

However, it seems that as soon as we went over a certain amount, our budgets started getting exceeded by about 10am in the morning.

But our competitors ads kept going.

We contacted Google to find out what was going on. None of these clicks were even resulting in business, contacts, nothing. So we assumed the worst, our competitor was having someone click all our ads.

This process started the downward spiral for our business. Not being able to stay live in Adwords long enough to get any new business was devastating and I sure as heck wasn't going to participate in clicking on my competitors ads because that's fraud as far as I know. SO, we just suffered and I couldn't get any support from Google.

In other news, the business has been closed for a year and Bing still lists it as open with photos, etc. We've tried marking it closed OVER AND OVER again and nothing is changing. We finally got on the phone to them and they actually said they can't change the search results. It's irritating to see a year old business open on Bing that's closed everywhere else.




Clickcease.com is an Israeli company that helps prevent this. It’s a common tactic in high cost keyword industries like lock smiths.

Sorry to hear about your experience. That sucks.


https://support.google.com/adspolicy/answer/7520318?hl=en

Locksmiths are now a restricted business as grey hat marketers figured it was an industry with a high ticket price and autonomous demand, and the search term was always "locksmith <city>" - so they set up sites that would flood the results, demand payment upfront for a call out, and then have a virtual assistant forward the business on to an actual locksmith in the city - essentially scooping hundreds of dollars for doing nothing but obfuscating who the real locksmiths are and forwarding the leads on them.


Even the real locksmith businesses are pretty shady. CBC Marketplace recently had a story about fake locksmiths in the GTA.

Flowers are the same as you describe. It's depressing to see how easy it is to make money if you're a total scumbag.


So I get that this is sleazy, but why is it google’s job to stop this? How is this different from any other type of middleman living on referral fees?


It's Google's job to make sure their customers (people using the search engine) have a good time. If they're getting scammed after clicking an ad, people will learn not to click ad links and/or migrate to a different search engine, which will hurt Google's business.

Disclaimer: I work for G, but not in search or ads. Opinions are mine.


> customers (people using the search engine)

That's their product. Their customers are the people buying ads.


That is a popular soundbite meme but "product" is a mislead conflation as a rhetorical bludgeon.

The people using their search engine are really more customers who pay input for service. The company sustains itself by processing the product and selling it to another group of customers pay- which is a significant difference as they have agency.

Look at the game free to play model and why pay to win is doomed to failure. There may be "whales" - the customers who pay signficant ammounts of cash but the demand the free players as content effectively. If a pay to win content is sold and drives off the free to play the whales will follow for lack of content. Proper "product" would be game AI or employees as a "rented" or "spoiling" product equivalent. The free players are customers who provide input mediated through the game server to create a product which is sold to cash customers.

Despite the dystopian rhetoric the input customers aren't like livestock because they aren't transfereable, have the agency and can meaningfully opt out.

Bing can't just buy 10 m billion users from Google to try to improve their user base. They need to get their user base directly no matter how they reach them.


That doesn't change the argument. If their products get scammed after clicking an ad, people will learn not to click ad links, and Google loses their product.


This doesn't refute the argument at all though. Regardless of what you want to call people surfing the web and the companies buying ads, it's a problem if ads are scammy and fewer people start clicking them.


Is it really that sleazy? Any service-based company is built on charging their customers more than what it costs to actually do the service. In this case, the service is finding a locksmith and directing them to your location. If someone can find a way to get in front of customers for that, then more power to them - that's the business model for any directory.

Google itself is doing much the same thing and profiting from it. They have become the go-to source for many people looking for a locksmith, when there are other ways to find them.

Maybe there's more to this than has been described, but on the surface, it seems like a common business model.


So if Clickcease.com can help prevent this, why on earth can't Google itself help prevent this?


According to ClickCease:

> Doesn't Google prevent click fraud?

> Google does detect click fraud, but does not prevent it. Instead, Google will give back credit to your account days after the fraud took place and only after you claim it. The immediate result would be that your ad budget would be exhausted and your ad will not be online for hours or even days. In addition, Google's click fraud characteristics are identical for all advertisers. While 10 clicks from the same IP address in a period of a day is completely normal for one advertiser, another might see this as nothing but click fraud. ClickCease will keep your ad online and will configure the service to best suit your business needs.

http://docs.clickcease.com/en/articles/101633-doesn-t-google...


While this might be true a percentage even maybe a majority of the time, in my experience they don't just send money back to you. I had google's adwords people tell me it's not certainly click fraud, there are all kinds of possibilities where actually different people are clicking on the ad like if an article goes viral lots of people could be clicking over from there..

These were clicks I knew well, as we ran groups of ads from several businesses in the areas that all did the same thing. I knew by the pattern, there was no way 200 people from 8a -9a clicked over to this business's ad, and could also tell by the lack of calls / appointments.

The real kicker was these ads are limited to only show basically along a 5 mile path of highway, very few rooftops in that area - as to get mobile searchers on that side of town - so they were convinced hundreds of people driving down the highway had all clicked over for info and no appointments while driving.

They said no proof, no refund, have a nice day.


Clickcease has an incentive to prevent this, as it's their entire business model. Google has an incentive to let it happen, because it makes them more money by forcing people to keep outbidding each other. As long as Google ads are so ubiquitous that it isn't very feasible to just stop using them, then Google has no reason to stop this abuse.


Google has a very strong incentive to stop fraud and has entire departments dedicated to fighting ad fraud.

Rampant fraud = lack of trust in your product/service, which can destroy your whole business. The internet fraud you hear about is only the tip of the iceberg, and there's much more of it that is prevented by various companies (either Google, Cloudflare, etc.)


I think you're overselling how much Google cares (or needs to care) about trust.

They dominate search traffic (in the markets/countries they exist for). Businesses don't use AdWords because they "trust" Google. They suffer through using AdWords because it's the only game in town.


This article is from 2015: https://adage.com/article/digital/inside-google-s-secret-war...

"If advertisers believed the company's operation were fraud-filled, they could take their money elsewhere and the business would falter."

That's it, in a nutshell.

(and if they had 100 people working on this in 2015; you better believe that number is much higher now)


> This article is from 2015 ...

Maybe Google had more competition in 2015.

Although I find even that difficult to take seriously.

Where else would they "take their money"? Facebook? I doubt that Facebook ads show up in web searches.


A lot of people probably see more Facebook ads than Google ones. And Facebook knows a lot about users, probably including some things that Google knows less reliably. The relevant problem is, do they seem any less scummy?


> elsewhere

And where would that be, exactly?


Google really doesn't care as long as they get paid. They only self-regulate the absolute minimum. I just got this ad in gmail (presented as an email except for the little 'ad' badge): https://imgur.com/xHr7E3e

It's in in Dutch, but it's the typical misleading, copyright infringing ad you would find on shady porn sites.

Why does Google allow this ad? Don't they have the competence to filter it? It's the same company creating a great spam filter on gmail and leading in a lot of AI fields. Surely they could. But they just don't care when they get paid for it.

On the other hand, when they don't get paid or it negatively affects them, they're always happy to make changes "to protect the users" (e.g. changing chrome so adblock plus stops working etc.)


> Why does Google allow this ad?

The most simple explanation is because they make money with it, and get away with it. A good question is why they get away with it.

As for people in The Netherlands, my mother got scammed by a fake locksmith. He asked her to pay with PIN, and he did not fix the problem (which we found out eventually). Total scumbag, yet he was first hit on Google. Here's some good advice on how to find a good locksmith (slotenmaker) in Dutch [1].

[1] https://www.consumentenbond.nl/inboedelverzekering/slotenmak...


Stop looking for a neck to wring for a minute and think about the problem. Manual filtering is just plain not viable period. Spam is very different from arbitrary image formats and potential text analysis across language. Nobody really wants ads so spam filter feedback mechanisms of "everyone says to stop sending me this shit" are fundamentally incompatible.

Think about it would take to detect it algorithmically. Even if an image is copyrighted there is no mechanism to tell if the source actually has permission from it especially with the "born copyrighted" doctrine. Even if there was some vast self defeating registered copyrighted images database (containing images of everything copyrighted) it woukd be possible to distort images to be human recognizible but not machine recognized.

The "alternatives" of demanded manual ad control would mean massively disadvantaging smaller business by marginal costs. Oops.


You really think google doesn't have the capability to create a system to detect these ads? This is Google's core business and they do far more impressive stuff in the AI field. I'm not talking about a 100% bulletproof all-copyright-in-the-world solution. If it would be able to detect logo's from the top 1000 brands and some OCR would already go a very long way. Sure ads would try to outsmart it, just like spam it would be a cat-and-mouse game.


The problem is that they don't have time or will to help the small guys.


Google almost certainly can, but probably has no incentive to do it for whatever reason.


> Google almost certainly can, but probably has no incentive to do it for whatever reason.

This has been my conclusion several times after digging deep into some weird data and discovering one of these...'grey areas' where it seems like if they cared about their customers they'd be doing something about it, but presumably they prefer having revenue from unsophisticated ad buyers.

Some of the things they turn on by default are straight up rackets, "Search Partners" for example. Companies like ask.com are arbitraging keyword traffic by buying ads to their own search results pages. These are "Search Partners" that show the ads you're paying Google for, but they're full of dark patterns to make you click the ads, and cost the same as a click directly from the Google results!


> Some of the things they turn on by default are straight up rackets, "Search Partners" for example.

Could you elaborate?


I realized I should have elaborated and edited the post with more information.


FWIW it’s worth, have tested most of these companies and the only one who backs their promise is PPCProtect. But like any good soldier, talk to these companies and you’ll find out who is legit and who isn’t


FWIW the “it’s worth” in “FWIW it’s worth” is redundant.


This brings up an unsatisfying conversation I had with an ex google person. I've worked in the embedded/industrial side of tech for most of my career. And the ratio of customer support vs the amount of money google is charging is utterly shit from my perspective. My friend tried to explain why it needs to be shit for vague security reasons but I'm unconvinced. Company collects thousands of dollars from customers and can't be bothered to give them a phone call when something goes sideways? Give me a break.


You get better support if your $15 hamburger meal is missing cheese. It's weird that companies that operate at scale get a free pass to ignore smaller customers just because they have bigger ones.


You get better support if your $15 hamburger meal is missing cheese.

That's a great way of putting it and 100% accurate. Fast food joints set a minimal customer service level magnitudes better than Google.


They don’t really get a free pass though, maybe in their monopoly market of advertisement, but their poor support is one of the primary reasons google cloud isn’t earning any of the European public cloud money while Azure and AWS are having a party.

Google has a lot of really good tools, that they could sell to enterprise. You could argue that they have the only viable Office365 alternative for non-tech enterprise. But they just don’t seem to know how to sell it because their advertising monopoly infects everything they do.

The single place they’ve been successful is in education, and even there they are struggling to keep supplying what schools actually want + privacy. So I fully expect to see them driven out of this space in the coming decade.


The reason lack of support works at scale is that they are successful with resources channeled places other than direct support so their strategy doesn't need it.

It is sort of a "cars don't handle rugged terrain as well as horses" thing, it isn't crippling when the use case is paved roads. It may suck for your use case but it makes sense.


I'm becoming more and more convinced that Google employees don't give out reasons for their decisions because they can't! They trust too much in their machine learning and there's no way for employees to know why this event triggered over that one.


If your ml model is a magic black box and there's zero visibility into the system, even internally, as to the signals that resulted in a decision, you've hired a monkey that can run a tensorflow tutorial, not actually someone that understands machine learning.


Or (more likely) because they are not allowed to by policy.


Or because the machine won't tell them why because privacy. (Although this applies less in the ad side of the business than consumer facing bits)


Google support is non-existent. One of the reasons, why I stay away from Google Cloud.


The other reason of course being that any given Google product may not even exist a couple of years from now


I don't know about Google Cloud as a whole but I've contacted Firebase support a number of times and they have always answered promptly.


This may be the difference between an acquisition vs a homegrown product at Google


I'm a paying customer of firebase & google maps and both helped me promptly on technical issues.


Not true... you just have to pay for it. I worked for A fortune 100 company that was moving some things to Google App Engine, and paid for the highest level of support. We had a list of guys we could get on the phone whenever we needed, including the main guy in charge of everything.

I helped them fix a lot of bugs and broken processes, but I'm better than most at making reports. If they had to deal with bad developers blaming Google for problems that had nothing to do with Google, that would waste a lot of time. But on the other hand, if we didn't pay for support, those problems probably never would have been fixed, and I don't think we were ever compensated or given discount support for helping.


We pay for the highest level of support on Google Cloud and it isn't worth shit. I'd say it actually provides negative usefulness, as usually their support folks just waste our time and not do anything.

The only place I've gotten actual support from Google was with Ads and my company at the time was spending 9 figures.


To the rude as hell tone of the reply beneath this: The GKE control plane failed. There's no quality improvement that I could have made on a bug report about their shit being broken.


> Google support is non-existent.

> Not true... you just have to pay for it. I worked for A fortune 100 company

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that there only about 100 companies who can afford Fortune 100-ish level support..............................................


I don't see "Fortune 100-level support" listed on Google's website. How do I purchase it?


Presumably, by spending enough money to get an account manager, then asking them to sell you a support contract.


Account manager and support contract are sold together... $150,000/yr paid up front + 4% of yearly spend.

Seems insanely high, especially compared to the next step down which is only $250/mo per user... you could get by with a separate account with a single master user that controlled all the deployments and billing and only pay $3,000/yr. What you get for that extra $147,000+/year is that you talk directly with the lowest level engineer actually working on the problem rather than relaying messages that lose context... but you'll still need to know what you're talking about and be able to actually help the engineer rather than spin them in circles, or you'll be kept at bay.


https://cloud.google.com/support says the highest plan promises 15-min response and a dedicated account manager.

For consumers, https://one.google.com/about/support is the way to pay for the support, since they claim "Cross-Google" support. I haven't used Google One support (even though I am a member as I have a subscription to their storage plan), so I don't know how good it is though, and it's not super clear how "cross" it really is. https://one.google.com/support says 2-3 min response for phone/chat though.


Last time I filed one of those P1 tickets, it was assigned to someone immediately but we didn't get any useful help from the support people for 7 hours.

It took multiple escalations to people responsible for the specific service and the issue was entirely Google's service having an error. Meanwhile production was hard-down that whole time.


What happens to my Google One plan if my account is banned for a TOS violation?


I don't know - I'm just a Google user, and I haven't gotten my account banned. I presume it won't work ?


So the reason I would want guaranteed human support from Google is in the event they mistakenly ban my account of 13 years. If it also bans me from the support product then it’s completely pointless.


I think many here are missing the real problem: Why should customers have to pay for support to fix problems on Google’s end?


yeah, in my exp in industrial you can get a applications engineer on thr phone and even an office visit if you pay enough


Sounds kind of like monopolistic behavior or something


it feels like, if your entire business rests on online bookings, you should have created alternative mechanisms to access your customers, via subscriptions or other kinds of promotion


There was no other marketing channels you could use than Google Ads?


I think you've identified the root cause here. The single point of failure for the business was it's reliance on a tech giant and it's fickle algorithms. Even if google were perfect that's a precarious position to be in.


Especially for a "brick and mortar business" I can't see why you couldn't try other things - direct marketing, cold calling, events, cards in doctor's offices, whatever else.


Generally, you can, but they are a different beast. You have little way to measure them, they are very time consuming, high risk compared to Ads (because you can't change your cards when you notice a week in that customers don't like some word etc). That's a valid long-term strategy, not something to get you business next week when you're starting.




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