Integrated Agency Blog

My Experience with PPC Fraud

I’ve worked at marketing and advertising agencies for years and know everyone does pay per click a little differently. Some agencies might charge 17.5% commission on PPC spend, and some may charge 15%. Some require a $750 setup fee, and for others, it’s more like $2,500. The price to outsource your online advertising depends on the agency and the scope of work.

I’ve always worked for reputable marketing and advertising agencies, but I’ve seen clients experience bad things with other vendors that make me shake my head and wonder how and why they let it happen.

Is your business handing over a budget and just hoping your staff and vendors manage it conscientiously? If you’re not actively engaged in reviewing advertising performance, you’re leaving yourself open to abuse by in-house staff and outside vendors.

Here’s a recent situation I experienced that helps illustrate how busy people can be abused by inexperienced staff and shady advertising companies.

How to (Not) Get Scammed by Your PPC Agency

Three of us were huddled around the work phone on a conference call with a client’s interim marketing director and the VP. Apparently, the last marketing director was recently let go and the company was trying to sort through what the advertising budget was spent on—or overspent on, I should say.

The VP was kinda freaking out—he couldn’t get into any of the business’s online accounts—he didn’t have the logins for their Google or Facebook account, and he was asking us, his website agency, if we had access.

Um, no, we are the agency you hired to do your website. While we do offer online advertising services, we don’t do that piece for you—you are doing PPC and the rest of your marketing and advertising in-house and with a couple of outside vendors. We can’t really help you access those accounts.

They did, however, have a report from their PPC company, so we offered to take a look at it. The report was very impressive looking—24 pages of pretty spring colored-graphs and solid percentages on intricate pie charts.

We weren’t seeing any dollar signs in the report. We asked what their spend was—how much did it cost to get these impressions and clicks? They didn’t know. Did they know what they were paying in commission? They didn’t know. We flipped through the report again to double check. There really were no dollar signs on any of the pages.


Not only had the brand grossly mismanaged the company budget, but their outside PPC vendor was the one pulling one over on them.

When we called their PPC vendor, surprisingly, their account manager was out of the office on maternity leave. It took some doing, but ultimately, we figured out that they were spending $10k/month on AdWords. Well, that’s not exactly true—they gave their PPC company $10k each month but who knows how much AdWords real estate they were buying and how much commission was going to the PPC company. We never did find out. The PPC vendor wouldn’t tell us and I have a hunch that the client found out but was too ashamed to admit the truth to us.

The sad thing is, even though we managed their website and were a reputable agency that also offered PPC services, we never got their PPC business. They were so jaded by their painful experience with their marketing director and scummy PPC company, that they discontinued their online advertising altogether.

I get it. If someone stole a huge chunk of my money for 38 moths in a row, my first reaction would be to freeze all spending. But then you have to learn from your very painful mistakes, thaw out the bank account and simply pay attention next time.

Online advertising is ripe for abuse. Don’t be a victim.

No one is excited at the prospect of getting to the office just to be stuck reading vendor contracts, reviewing PPC reports, and calling their online advertising agency if something looks off. You don’t want to be so afraid of getting scammed, that you do absolutely nothing to advertise your business online. Feel safe with your advertising budget by doing your research and finding an agency you can trust—but always follow the money, read the contracts, and consistently review the reports with an eye for cost per result.


Sarah Skidd


Brian Fabiano