“This is your Google Ads rep speaking. Please fasten your seatbelt—it’s about to get reeeeeal bumpy.”
No, that’s not a real message anyone’s ever received from their ad rep. But after reading some of the news headlines and PPC practitioner stories in recent months, you can’t fault them for expecting a message like this next.
Between dubious advice and pushing automated recommendations that prioritize Google’s bottom line over account performance, it’s understandable that many agencies and practitioners have grown wary of speaking to ad reps.
But it wasn’t always like this, especially before ad revenue saw a few consecutive quarters of decline.
I’ve heard firsthand accounts of reps taking agency owners out to dinner, getting them into beta tests and events, and of course conducting deep strategy sessions with agency and client goals at their heart.
Unfortunately, those new to paid search missed that “golden age” of Google Ad reps and only know the sales-aligned approach.
What exactly does a Google Ads rep do?
When a Google Partner agency reaches a certain threshold of managed spend, they gain a degree of importance. Given how much revenue contribution they influence (and how much more they could), it’s no surprise that Google would want to stay in their good graces.
Part of this process included assigning a dedicated product expert—someone with a deep understanding of the Google Ads product as well as marketing objectives—to manage the relationship with an agency and keep the money flowing (and growing).
Critically, these reps’ goals aligned with those of the agency.
Clients who got great results with Google Ads would be happy to keep spending (or spend more) instead of diverting any budget to new platforms. And this would keep agencies invested, since many of them would bill based on the amount of ad spend managed.
But somewhere along the way, Google Search and its adjoining ad products became too important to revenue generation and too big to ignore. With the balance of power now in the ad engine’s favor, everything became about tech adoption and revenue maximization.
The difference between in-house and third-party reps
Today, ad reps are split between those employed full-time by Google and those who work for third parties contracted by Google to manage client relationships.
Paid search specialists and agency owners report a stark difference in approach between the two types of reps, with the latter typically focused on increasing spend and hitting adoption metrics with little concern for what best benefits the account.
This prioritization of “quota attainment” over a product-centric one is the source of agencies’ frustration, along with some unprofessional responses when practitioners choose not to align with their goals.
Unfortunately, Google measures the reps based on the OptiScore in their book of business. They have no choice but to push it. 😢 (It's only one of many KPIs, to my understanding)— Menachem Ani (@MenachemAni) January 26, 2022
To truly understand the two reps’ difference in approach and knowledge, you have to first understand what motivates someone employed by one of the companies to which Google outsources this function.
When a vendor is told that they will be measured on certain numbers and targets, that’s what they’ll put first and get their people to prioritize as well. One independent Google Ads expert’s foray into that world reveals more.
How third-party reps are incentivized
Boris Beceric is a freelance Google Ads consultant. Like several of his colleagues, he faced issues with Teleperformance, one EU-based company that handles partner agency relationships on behalf of Google.
Being the mad scientist he is, Boris decided the best way to get to the bottom of why Teleperformance does what they do was to interview with them and get a job offer.
I’ll let you go through this Twitter thread from Boris explaining what he discovered.
What happens when ad reps go rogue
Most complaints about ad reps these days center on them being pushy or unaware of the Google Ads product. Sometimes, reps will go further and disrespect the sanctity of the business relationships that have existed in advertising for decades.
They push too hard on communication
The PPC practitioners and agency owners I know are busy folks, managing multiple accounts and servicing those clients on a daily basis.
It’s unrealistic for them to get on calls that don’t actively move those goals forward—and unwise when those calls are aimed at achieving adoption and increasing ad spend with no consideration for whether those are the right actions for the account.
I understand their frustration with third-party ad reps whose own performance is measured by how many calls they book, how many automated recommendations they enable, and how much additional ad spend they influence—conversions be damned.
From an actual Google rep - Email subject line "Let's Chat and 10X the Results On Your Google Ads Account".— Lawrence Chasse (@lchasse) October 9, 2023
Of course results more than likely mean spend, impressions and poor conversion performance, but hey it makes a great email subject line. #PPCChat
They make questionable requests (and demands)
With ad engines obscuring more data than they show, it’s understandable that agencies and the advertisers they represent don’t want to provide them with any more information than is absolutely necessary.
But even in the best of times, asking for client data that has no bearing on campaign performance or account security is a dubious request. That goes double when the ask comes from a third party acting on behalf of the ad engine, and even more so when they already have read-only access to what they need to see.
Got my first Google Ads outsourced rep call from Accenture...asking for CIDs of our accounts so they can add to their support roster? 🤨 #ppcchat— Gil Gildner (@gilgildner) July 11, 2023
They disregard the relationship between agency and client
So the partner agency says “no” to calls and “no” to requests for client data. What’s the right thing to do here?
If you said “back off”, you won’t make it as a third-party ad rep.
Truly unfortunate PPC practitioners like Jonni Lomax have to deal with reps who break the sanctity of the client/agency relationship, choosing to bypass the service provider and go straight to the folks who pay the advertising bill.
It’s a bold move, Cotton, but one that’s sure to tarnish an ad engine’s reputation.
Teleperformance threatening to contact our clients directly when we told them we don't want contact!!! @adsliaison Is this true? @googleads Where is the respect for Partners? #googleads #teleperformance #threateningemails pic.twitter.com/glMIyoBASY— Jonni Lomax (@theblindking88) July 5, 2023
How top Google Ads practitioners work with ad reps
As much as it surely bugs them to have to fight this fire on top of the many others raging in PPC land, the best practitioners know that it’s a battle they must face. More importantly, they have a process to address issues and maintain client trust.
But not all of it is bad. Several practitioners have good stories and praise for their reps, even if there are conditions and limitations attached.
“Everything we do had better relate to our goals”
If ad reps are going over our head, we often don’t hear about it. When I get emails from a rep, I often don’t reply. I let the client know the first few times and tell them why I won’t be talking with them. I’ve never had an issue in seven years of running the agency.
A few Facebook reps went directly to the client. One client met a few more times with the rep last year, but I’m unsure what happened after. Another met them a couple of times and then stopped as they found it to be a waste of time.
Regardless of where the rep works, if they want to have our clients’ best interests in mind, having us in the loop is key. When you are managing 10-20 clients and each client is on three or four platforms, it can be hard to do two hours of calls a month with reps. I think that is the part each platform does not take into account.
If I do meet with a rep, I state our goals, why they are what they are, and what our focus is. Everything we do from that point had better relate to our goals; I won’t accept anything less. If reps have an issue emailing ideas, I won’t talk with them either. No one has the time to do two hours of calls a month per client, and that doesn’t even take into account all the reps from ad platforms who want our business.
Since our clients trust us and we have shown what we can do, we don’t have an issue with them letting us lead. We don’t take on clients who want to micromanage or have ad platforms call the shots; there would be no reason to have us.
We do work with a few members of Google’s growth team who have helped with industry reports, getting access to betas, and sometimes coming up with campaign ideas for brands. Even Google’s support team has moved fast to add a client’s GMC to our agency MCA when onboarding a client.
Duane Brown, CEO, Take Some Risk
“Our rep is focused on our client’s goals”
I want to offer praise for our Google Ads rep, who has worked hard to try to resolve an issue that we’ve been having with remarketing campaigns serving to expanded audiences despite that setting being turned off.
From the beginning of our relationship with this rep, prior to the expanded audience issue, he’s been helpful and valuable. Stories abound of Google reps who just want to push auto-apply recommendations and higher budgets, but ours has focused on our client’s goals and offered useful recommendations to achieve them. He’s been a great partner in working with us to get results for the client.
When the expanded audience issue cropped up, the rep jumped in and escalated the support ticket immediately. He’s followed the issue all the way to a (less than ideal) resolution, and has continued to fight for us to get a refund despite the official word from Google support saying we are not due one.
All in all, we’ve been extremely happy with our Google Ads rep!
Melissa Mackey, Director of Paid Search, Compound Growth Marketing
“The higher the budget, the more experienced the rep”
When getting in touch with Google reps, I’ve had both positive and negative experiences.
In one scenario, a representative caused issues between the marketing agency I worked at and their client. Without ever getting in touch with the PPC specialist, this rep directly emailed the client stating that they found very important issues in the account that need to be resolved as soon as possible: “Poor ad strength”, “Poor ad rank” and “Selected features that are impacting the performance of the campaign”.
Obviously, the client got very upset and emailed the agency demanding answers.
An email that’s been signed by “Google” has stronger authority of expertise over a PPC specialist, and it’s easy to harm the client/agency relationship this way—especially if it happens in the early stages of the relationship, as it was in this case.
But I’ve also dealt with an ad rep who was knowledgeable and provided recommendations relevant to the business. A few months ago, I had a discussion with a Google representative who took the time to understand the client’s business and main goals.
Based on the discussion, the representative suggested relevant optimizations that could be implemented in the account, while also mentioning that things like Broad Match keywords (recommended in every other instance by every other rep I’ve talked to) should be avoided in this specific account considering the niche terms that were required.
Even when going through the Recommendations tab, there was no pressure to select all of them. Instead, they explained each of the options while insisting that I should avoid most of them.
I should note, though, that this client has a significant budget. I’ve learned that the more spend a Google Ads account has, the more experienced its allocated representative.
Sofia Akritidou, PPC Director, ThinkWise Digital
“Exceptional dedication helped navigate peak ecommerce season”
If you have been in paid search as long as I have you, you likely remember Google actively assisting agencies with tasks like campaign uploads and account restructuring, relieving us of significant workloads, particularly during periods of substantial account expansion.
Though such services have become rarer, there are circumstances where having Google perform a task is advantageous.
During a frenzied Black Friday and Cyber Monday, our strategist went above and beyond, offering unwavering support, budget reports, and projections related to search volume. This exceptional dedication helped our advertiser navigate the peak demands of the ecommerce season.
Acknowledging the natural skepticism within the paid search community regarding this partnership, it’s essential to emphasize that successful collaboration can indeed thrive. In this case, the balance struck between strategists and advertisers—combining support and sales—proved not only effective but helpful for our collective success.
Sarah Stemen, Owner, Sarah Stemen LLC
A partner who’s always got your back
Dealing with pushy ad reps can be frustrating for agencies, but open communication with clients and firm boundaries can reduce some of the stress. And in the instance that you stumble upon a rep with your genuine interests at heart, do everything in your power to hold on to them.
Because when you add in the black box nature of auctions and the motives that drive Google Ads as a product, it can feel like it’s you against the world’s biggest ad network.
After all, there’s a fundamental clash of business priorities.
If you’ve ever wished you had a buffer, consider managing your campaigns via a third-party platform like Optmyzr. Not only will you save time on investigations and apply custom strategies at scale, but you’ll get a partner with an outstanding reputation for support; one whose growth goals align with your own.