If you are serious about growing your business in the competitive online world, then you understand the importance of advertising on search engines. You should also be taking advantage of advertising space on social media and other authority websites in your industry, but for the most part, Google Ads should be your primary advertising platform.
You can also advertise on Amazon and other popular marketplaces to maximize your reach and boost sales across the board, but all that advertising can put a big dent in your budget. That’s why you need to prioritize and manage your finances wisely.
For one, you need to know if you can get a refund from Google Ads and the short answer is yes – but there are some criteria you’ll need to meet first. With all of that in mind, let’s take a more granular approach to Google Ads and how you can get a refund if you think you’ve been a victim of invalid clicks and traffic.
What Makes a Winning Google Ad?
First things first, let’s talk briefly about what makes a Google Ad stand out and how you can optimize your ads to maximize their potential. This will help get your ads in front of the right people and will minimize the risk of you ever having to file for a refund. That said, keep in mind that there are some things you can’t control, such as ad botnet attacks, click spam from competing advertisers, or accidental clicks.
What you can control, however, is how you place your ads in the digital space. You can start by doing some research to understand the key drivers and motivators for your target demographic. It’s important to understand the buyer’s journey and to learn to write web copy that sells based on their interests and desires.
On top of that, you need to optimize your ads with the right keywords, headlines, CTAs, visuals, and audience-specific parameters. Make sure to optimize your ads by testing them for specific locations and countries, unique demographics, and age groups.
What you might not have been aware of, though, is that branding plays a big part in advertising, so it’s also important to invest in building a brand that people will recognize. This will boost your CTR and minimize the right of error.
With that said, let’s move on to what you can do if things go south with your ad campaign.
Can You Ask Google for a Refund?
Given the widespread statistical reporting that a significant portion of Google Ad clicks are fraudulent (meaning ads are clicked by automated bandits called a bot) running Google Ads can be a costly endeavor. So, it’s important to monitor and audit your ad spend carefully. You can definitely ask for your money back for fraudulent clicks and invalid traffic, but first, you have to have the right documentation and proof on hand.
Whether you are focusing on B2B sales or you’re in the B2C realm and are experiencing a high CTR on your ads, you need to keep a detailed record of all clicks and traffic in order to identify fraudulent activity. And no, don’t just send Google your entire ad click history, this won’t work.
So before you get in touch with Google, you’ll need to sift through your click history and hand-pick the clicks you think are suspicious. You can do this once every 60 days, so be meticulous in your approach!
Identify Invalid Clicks
For one, it’s important to note that while you can do this manually, you’re far better off using a third-party IP tracking tool to analyze your ad traffic. Using a dedicated tool is more cost-effective and efficient, but if you don’t want to pay for third-party software, you can do this the old-fashioned way.
Google wants you to provide very specific data in order to qualify for a refund. This data includes:
- Your customer ID
- IP addresses from fraudulent clickers
- Start and end dates for fraudulent clicks
- The campaigns affected
- Ad groups and ad keywords affected
- If you’ve opted into Display/Search networks
- The ads you’ve had approved in the previous month
- If you’ve increased your bids or budget
- Whether you’ve checked your account for invalid traffic
- An explanation of the issue
- Suspicious display placements
The most important requirement here is the IP address list, and while posting ads online is difficult enough, sifting through your server logs manually is a whole different story. When going through your logs, look for suspicious clicks coming from IPs that repeat several times a day – that’s how you know it’s a bot.
Filing Your Complaint with Google Ads
When you’ve compiled all the data and you’re ready to file a refund claim, then all you have to do is visit Google’s official refund page. You will need to fill out all the fields and give a summary of the issue.
When it comes to your summary, be as concise as possible. Leave everything you know about blog writing for your website and your SEO efforts, and focus on providing concrete information that Google can use to help you get a refund.
Simply follow the form and attach your weblogs so that Google can sift through the clicks and IPs. As you may have guessed, this is a lot of work to do manually, so let’s finish up by taking a look at some handy tools you can use.
Use the Right Tools to Prevent Fraud
When investing in Google Ads, you want to avoid the hassle of filing refund claims and prevent fraud in the first place. One of the popular tools you can use is PPC Protect, which prevents click fraud through advanced cybersecurity and real-time data analysis.
This tool will also help you automatically sift through your server logs to prep your IP logs for Google. On the other hand, you also want to quickly identify fraudulent and blacklisted IP addresses by using a dedicated IP analyzer.
There are many IP lookup tools out there, and some notable providers include WhatIsMyIP.com, Blacklist Master, and IP Tracker. These IP analyzers will give you the location of the IPs in your log and tell you if they have been blacklisted anywhere else on the web.
If you see that an IP has been blacklisted, there’s a good chance that it’s tied to nefarious online activity.
Over to you
You might notice that you’re losing a lot of money on your ads without converting. If you find out that you’ve been a victim of fraudulent clicks, you can request a refund from Google.
Follow these tips to file a successful refund claim and use the tips at the beginning to make sure you’re optimizing your ads properly in the first place. If you want to go in-depth on ad optimization and how to set up the perfect PPC campaigns, feel free to read our other blogs as well!
The Art and Science of PPC Account Structures
With the rise of machine learning and the relentless march toward large-scale automation, digital marketers are now finding themselves in the middle of a perfect storm where they have less control over their campaigns, higher costs, and lousy results.
To state the obvious, Google’s goals are not your goals.
Over the last few years, Google introduced and pushed PPC automation while also removing many of the controls marketers typically used to prevent wasted spend.
Here’s just a small list of what they’ve done:
- They killed off match types – As a result, keywords are no longer granular enough and Google’s understanding of “close” variants and “similar” intent fluctuates between terrible and horrific.
- They Added Audiences – Google has made significant efforts over the past few years to replace keywords as the primary PPC control lever; audiences (+ the derivatives thereof) have been the most successful of these so far.
- They introduced and pushed “smart” features – Google’s “optimization score” and “smart shopping campaigns” were the first major efforts; now, we have Performance MAX, the end of ETAs, and much more on the horizon.
- They introduced auto-applied campaign changes – because who doesn’t want a Roomba running their account?
- They removed the majority of search term data – of course, the claim was that this was for “privacy”…but does anyone believe that?
As a result, CPCs and CACs are spiking across the board and we’re left with the perfect recipe to waste a LOT of money.
The pace of change has left many PPCers wondering how to adapt to this brave new world, with a few approaches becoming more and more pervasive:
- Lean Into The Automation – give the machines what they want – control and volume! Consolidate everything into a couple of campaigns, turn on Broad Match, and away we go.
- Old School – focus on keeping granular control with a rigid, EM-based structure and negatives everywhere.
- Shanty Town – some weird fusion of the two – where there are some EM campaigns, some full broad, maybe some audiences or DSAs sprinkled in…, and a heaping helping of confusion.
Unfortunately, the automation approach will have you wasting money, the old school approach will have you going crazy trying to maintain control in the face of RSAs, bidding strategy, and match type changes, and the Shanty Town delivers the worst of both worlds.
The only thing that HAS stayed the same is the desire to find the right account structure that balances scale with control, spending with results, and predictability with discovery. Too much to ask for? No!
Six Things to Keep in Mind When Setting Up PPC Campaigns
Automation is here to stay. The increasing role of automation will have an impact on PPC account structures, and this isn’t good or bad – it just is. Our job as marketers is to set the machines up for success and defend against their flaws.
The structure is about people. Campaign structure is the “how” you connect your organization’s marketing to the people you want to target. Keep your audience in mind when you structure your PPC campaign and put yourself in the mind of the audience.
Better Data = Higher Probability of Good Outcomes. Don’t focus only on conversion data. Make sure that each platform you use (not just Google, Microsoft, and Facebook) has the business and financial data it needs to maximize your chances of a good outcome. In short, efficiently leverage your data and help the machines be smarter!
Exclusions are more important than inclusions. Be liberal in your campaign exclusions to ensure machines focus on what you want (and don’t make bad inferences that blow your budget).
Be Machine Learning-friendly. Resist the urge to hyper-segment everything. Build a structure that is ML-friendly while still being sufficiently refined. You might end up with fewer ad groups, but that’s ok!
Be brilliant at the basics. Do the little things extremely well – align your ads to the intent of the user, deliver a relevant message and have a delightful on-page experience.
Want to learn more? I’ll be speaking at HeroConf London on July 18 at 10:15 am on the Main Stage. During my session, “The Art and Science of PPC Structures,” I’ll dive deep into the essential account and targeting structures and how they can be used to prevent automation from running wild.
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