PPC buyer beware: 3 seedy tactics agencies or consultants use to scare you into services


Most PPC agencies or professionals who want to get more business have some form of marketing in play. And many of us have come across the more questionable methods.

You know the kind I’m talking about, those unsolicited emails and calls with one goal: to scare a business into thinking there’s something terribly wrong with their current pay-per-click program.

These ploys can easily confuse well-meaning businesses and leave them second-guessing their strategy. This is fear-based marketing, and we run into all kinds.

In this post, I’ll walk you through three scare tactics that are used on businesses right now (compiled from current clients), so you can keep an eye out for these and know how to respond.

Tactic 1: ambiguous pot-stirring

This tactic centers on a vague suggestion that there is something wrong with the business’s AdWords account and a promise to cut their current ad spend.

I saw that you were spending approximately $9,879 every month on various marketing channels. I spotted some concerning issues in your AdWords campaigns and website that you’ll likely want to know more about (since they’re limiting your return on investment).

I have an idea to increase your sales volume and cut wasted marketing spend by at least 25%. Are you the right person to share my idea with? Please reply back and let me know!

What’s hilarious about this one is the very precise figure this person invents out of thin air that the business is spending on marketing. There’s just no way for this person to know the amount this particular business spends on marketing in the first place.

Second, this person claims to have spotted a concerning issue in the business’s AdWords account, to which he has no access. So (surprise, surprise) this person couldn’t be referring to a real account issue in this email.

If this person did have access to the AdWords account, he would have, in fact, seen that the very day before this email was sent, the account was performing swimmingly.

Takeaways from this email:

  • Don’t trust someone who throws out figures that seem very specific but are not rooted in fact.
  • Don’t be fooled by the “concerning issue” angle when people don’t have access to your accounts and can’t articulate what that issue is.

Tactic 2: wolf in sheep’s clothing

This tactic is all about citing a very specific issue within the AdWords account while trying to build rapport by phone and creating the appearance of taking an educational approach.

This scenario involved an agency representative calling up the business and saying something to the effect of:

“Your default settings in AdWords are not set up correctly and costing you money. It has to do with your search partner sites.”

On the receiving end of the call was a client of ours. They usually brush these types of calls off, but when they went to the company’s website, it looked like a reputable PPC agency.

When this client told them they were already working with a PPC agency (us), the woman on the phone gave her number, and told our client to have us call them to discuss the problems with the account!

Needless to say, it was simple to reassure the client that it was a misleading ploy by showing them how their search partner performance was actually measuring up.

My guess was that the search partners angle was a blanket statement this person used on all their calls hoping it would stick.

Takeaways from this call:

  • The specificity of the problem they are presenting can make it easier to fall for this ploy; again, there’s no way a person would know if something was wrong with your account unless he/she had access to it.
  • Looks can be deceiving; even the most reputable-looking companies can have shady dealings, so it’s important to do your due diligence. (See more tips at the end of this article on how a reputable operation might approach a PPC strategy.)

Tactic 3: success beyond your wildest dreams

This type of tactic relies on wild promises that guarantee so much success that a company doesn’t have to do anything else but this one thing to succeed with digital marketing.

I know you get a lot of emails like this, but please take a minute to read this one because I promise it is different. I am a real person and I have worked with attorneys for many years. I’m contacting you because I’m aware of your reputation, and I can provide you with excellent references. Your website is not ranking on the first page of Google for the main keywords that potential clients search, such as [omitted], and it could be.

There are a lot of reasons why you aren’t ranking, and just so you know this isn’t spam, I had my SEO team perform an audit on your website. The report is attached to this email.

I’m sending an email like this to you and about 20 other attorneys in the area who need help, but we offer exclusivity to our clients, so we’ll only work with one.

We specialize in attorney marketing, no one can beat our services or price, we offer exclusivity (we won’t work with your competition), our clients’ websites rank on the first page of Google and they have stopped paying for directory listings and/or AdWords.

This one makes me cringe because this person claims you can and should put all your eggs into one search marketing basket. This is never a great idea. As a PPC professional, I always get nervous when potential clients approach us wanting to invest all their efforts in just PPC and no other marketing channel.

Every business should have a holistic approach to their digital marketing. SEO and PPC are different animals, operate on different cycles and are good for different things.

Then, there was this follow-up email from the same person:

I never heard back from you so I figured I’d follow up. I went back through and it looks like most of the issues with your website from the initial report are still there. You really stand to benefit from talking to me, even if you never hire us.

Also, just an FYI, I’m not some person in [country omitted] spamming you — I’m a real American actually looking at your website. Here’s a picture to prove it:

Woman Making Telephone Hand Gesture

OK, that wasn’t the real image this person used (I took that out for the purposes of this article), but it might as well have been. This follow-up screams “unprofessional” and should be a red flag in and of itself. Who sends a picture of themselves to prove they are not spammers?!

Takeaways from this email:

  • Be cautious of those telling you that you should ditch all your other marketing efforts because this one solution is a cure-all.
  • Be sure to scrutinize the actual content of the email and ask yourself if it’s a professional approach that’s starting you off on the right foot.

How to evaluate PPC professionals

Every PPC agency or consultant is going to market differently and have a different approach to getting started with clients. In general, though, reputable professionals don’t resort to scare tactics. Instead, they work to educate their target audience.

Strategic PPC professionals and agencies will want to go through methodical steps with you before they can even begin to tell you what’s working or not working with your current PPC strategy.

At the end of the day, most of these cold calls and emails are a result of misguided intentions for getting more leads. Frankly, they give search marketers a bad name and work on fear rather than teaching.

If you face any solicitation that looks like what you saw here today, take a moment to pause and critically assess the situation, ask strategic questions and even get a second opinion before you proceed.

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