My monthly paid search column at SearchEngineLand in case you missed it: In the US our most basic rights as citizens are codified in the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to our Constitution. James Madison, known as the father of the Constitution, actually opposed adding this Bill of Rights. Madison believed that the Constitution itself made it clear that the government lacked the power to abuse its citizenry, and that the Bill of Rights was therefore unnecessary. 200 years of history suggests that having an enumerated list of rights was probably a good idea. In a similar vein, 10+ years experience in online advertising suggests to me a need for an Advertiser's Bill of Rights. Too often we encounter horror stories of abuse suffered by advertisers at the hands of the agency charged with managing their paid search efforts. This space has been the Wild West for too long. Advertisers have been misled, mistreated and overcharged; the standards of service must improve lest all firms -- good, bad and indifferent -- be tarred with the same brush. The Paid Search Advertiser's Bill of Rights We, the third party managers of paid search programs, hereby promise to abide by the following expectations for transparency, service, and contractual understandings with our client advertisers. The advertiser shall have the right:
- To access any and all data associated with their account. This includes impression, click and cost data from the engines at the most granular level as well as any and all post click behavior tracked by the management firm;
- To access their accounts with the search engines. Ideally, the advertiser should own their accounts so that transition to another management firm does not involve loss of Quality Score history. When ownership is maintained by the management firm unlimited access to those accounts must be granted to the advertiser.
- To be free to leave with reasonable notice. Absent extraordinary circumstances, an advertiser should be able to part company with their management firm with 30 days notice or less. The management firm is entitle to compensation for the extra work associated with starting a new account but for long-standing relationships 60 or 90 day notice is absurd.
- To be charged reasonable fees. A management firm is entitled to fair compensation for their work, and the advertiser is entitled to service levels commensurate with their fees. Fees should not be based on sales driven by other channels (brand sales, broken attribution systems), nor should fees scale without limit at the holidays;
- To revealing reports. All performance reports should separate brand/trademark search performance from non-brand/competitive keyword performance. Keyword level data should be provided over requested time periods for any and all keywords in the account. Truncated "top keyword" performance reports should be the top spending keywords, not the top selling keywords.
- To be told the truth. Management firms will not knowingly spread misinformation under any circumstance. They shall provide data to back up any dubious claims about the the buying cycle, the display to paid search spillover, etc.
- To responsible promises. Management firms shall not promise massive improvements to a prospect's paid search program without seeing data from the advertiser's existing program. They shall not promise massive improvements if the data suggests limited opportunities for improvement.
- To attentive management. An advertiser should not have to hire someone to manage their paid search agency. The point of hiring an outside manager is to outsource management. This implies proactive attention to the account, and -- minimally -- demands prompt responsiveness to requests, commensurate with the management fees paid.
- To a clear understanding of a manager's capabilities. An advertiser has a right to a solid, accurate understanding of the capabilities of an outside management firm. Whether this is an issue of managing huge keyword lists, bidding frequency, algorithmic sophistication or reporting capabilities, transparency should be the rule;
- To a clear understanding of the agency's business model. Are the account reps commissioned based on the amount of advertising they sell to their clients? If so, they may be working as much for the engines as they are for their clients. What is their client retention rate? What is their analyst retention rate? Just as a real estate buyer must be told that "their" agent is actually paid by the seller, advertisers have a right to understand whether the agency is providing marketing services to them, or simply selling advertising on behalf of the publishers.
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