Will Anyone Stand Up?

Clearly the PPC (Pay-Per-Click) strategy is here to stay. Over the past several years, the system has proven to be effective. Marketers are happy with the results they’ve seen thus far and continue to employ this in their overall marketing mix. Definitely not offering any breaking news with this insight.

What is almost amazing though, is that the system is still shrouded in so much mystery and secrecy. PPC providers go out of their way to extoll the virtues of PPC; it’s targeted, it’s relevant, advertisers reach out to motivated traffic, be seen when customers are looking for you, and on and on. Is that really the audience we are getting to though, when we’re paying for ads?

It might be and if a campaign is delivering a positive ROI, maybe that’s all I should be concerned with. At least that’s all the PPC engines want me to be concerned with.

More and more, PPC providers are under attack about the legitimacy of all the traffic they provide. From click-fraud to impression fraud, the crooks are getting more devious and advertisers are demanding more accountability.

And there’s the rub. Accountability. It seems like the engines (and I’m talking about all of them here) don’t want to even crack open a window to let us really understand the traffic that we pay for.

No doubt there are several programs that let us view and monitor the traffic to our site. We can see where visitors come from, how they found us, even what they do once they arrive at our site. My problem lies in the fact that the PPC engines won’t ever allow us to match our traffic to the traffic they charge for. If everything is so hunky-dory, what’s the big deal? Aside from a few minor discrepancies (due to different tracking methods), our traffic information should match pretty closely, shouldn’t it? Why then, won’t my PPC provider show me what I’m paying for?

If I go to the store, I get an itemized receipt. Everything I buy is displayed on my receipt. I’m able to check the math, make sure nothing was double charged, see that the price I paid is the price I expected to pay, and so on. Why then, won’t the engines give me a receipt for my traffic. I want to see what I’m being charged for. Showing me clicks on my keywords isn’t enough. In fact, that barely qualifies.

We don’t need home addresses and dates of birth either. Let’s start with just simple data. IP address and user agent. That’s all. Nothing personally identifiable. Everyone can keep their anonymity and browse with confidence. I just want to be able to go to my logs and compare them with my receipt. Help me make sure that what I ‘brought home’ is what I paid for.

I contend that this kind of transparency and accountability will actually lead to stronger customer relations and increased profits. It will also reduce support time since I will know whether or not to escalate suspected fraud. Instead of the attitude we have to deal with now that goes something like, “this traffic is all legitimate, because we say so. Thank you for the money we’ve already charged you. We may give you an in-store credit if we’re so inclined, but don’t hold your breath.” As soon as I trust you, and I know you’ll work with me, not because of me, I’ll be more inclined to patronize your service.

So the question now is, who’ll be the first PPC engine to step up and be held accountable? (careful you don’t go blue in the face waiting for it)