Event Poaching with Google AdWords

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February 1, 2019

In a previous issue of The Register, we discussed how poachers are setting up fake websites to mimic your event, registration, and housing sites. There are many techniques used for attracting victims onto these sites, including appearing at the top of Google Search results using your event name and top search terms.

The top results in a search are often filled with sponsored listings. These links, marked with the “ad” tag, have bid on specific words and phrases to appear at the top of the page. Ever since sponsored listings have been available in search results, including competitor names and brand terms when bidding on ads has been an effective way to reach their audience. In the events industry, poachers have latched onto AdWord sponsored listings to appear above the real event during searches for the event name.


AdWord poacher listings appear above the real event listing.

Many CDS registration clients have been spoofed by these illegitimate AdWord campaigns. Our clients have shared different ways they are trying to combat these false listings. Some approaches include out-bidding poachers on key words, adding warnings to emails and event websites, and of course involving their legal team—which you should always do when you have a legal problem of this nature.

Multiple avenues are provided by Google to have these listings removed and suspend the culprit’s AdWord account. Your first step is to complete the Google Ads complaint form: https://support.google.com/google-ads/contact/aw_complaint. This form is for broad complaints about use of Google AdWords.

There is an additional form slightly more specific to the event poaching problem and that is the Google AdWords counterfeit goods complaint form: http://services.google.com/inquiry/aw_counterfeit. While the description on the page delves into trademark infringement and knockoff products masquerading as the real thing, they also deal with the theft of your site traffic by illegitimate players. The key sentence in the Google Counterfeit Goods Complaint form is: “[Products that] mimic the brand features of the product in an attempt to pass themselves off as a genuine product of the brand owner.”

Google Ads Support also investigates fraudulent ads poaching from legitimate companies. The form for Ad Support can be found at: https://support.google.com/google-ads/contact/approvals. Generally, Google replies to this form within one business day. Having fake ad listings removed can take a bit longer as you need to present a case against the poacher, and Google needs to investigate your claim. The email linked to this form is ads-support@google.com.

No matter what approach you take to eliminate these ads, the onus is on you—the show owner—to find and report false ads. This takes time since it is not only Google, but Bing, Facebook, and any other platform that has bidding supported ads allows poachers to use your key words. Check your search results frequently. Fake ads come and go based on demographics, geotargeting, devices and bidding budgets—fake ads disappear when their budget dollars run out for the day. Putting in the time, however, is well-worth the effort for your brand and your attendees.