One Disgruntled Consumer, One Effective Solution

Ah, the wonders of SES. The information overload, the alcohol overload and the carnival-like barkers beckoning you to the tchotkes in the exhibition booths. That’s right folks, I’m here in New York City writing this column from the confines of my messy hotel room, praying to the almighty that I meet my deadline.

However, in the midst of the typical SES hullabaloo, I’ve been dealing with a crisis of the client kind – one that brings up an interesting PPC topic.

Here’s the situation – although some of the details have been changed slightly to protect the innocent and the guilty. My client sells things on the Web (no, I’m not going to be more specific). They rely on paid search for the majority of their sales. Their brand is not a household name but their prices beat all of their competition and they sell a superior product.

A couple of weeks ago, an online customer came to my client’s site and bought something. His product was shipped, and unfortunately during the shipping process the product was damaged. This happens to even the best e-retailer. The consumer, who we’ll call Joe Disgruntled, called my client in a huff. He was offered a refund or replacement if the product was shipped back – at no cost to dear old Joe.

Well, Joe didn’t take this so well. In fact, he got rather irate. He threatened to besmirch my client’s name if they didn’t just send him a new product (mind you, the price point of my client’s product is well over $1,000). Obviously, this wasn’t an option for my client. So a lengthy and increasingly heated e-mail exchange ensued.

Then, the other day, we were doing some routine maintenance and noticed a new ad on Google AdWords. This ad was listed under my client’s brand name. It stated “Don’t buy from (my client’s name). Read my report about my bad experience”.

The ad linked to a Web site called “Does Bad Business”. I don’t want to link to them because I don’t want to give them any link love. The ad went directly to a page on the site (a sub-domain with my client’s name). The page talked about Joe’s experience with my client, with some healthy embellishments thrown in.

You might not think this is a huge deal. Every business has some sort of dissatisfied customer and you can’t believe everything you hear. But the problem is my client’s product is a high ticket item. As we all know, high ticket items are products that many buyers will research significantly before purchasing. As people are doing their research and working their way through the buying funnel, they inevitably will type in my client’s name, as well as some of their competitors. So now Joe has effectively blemished my client’s name and potentially caused them damage from his PPC Ad.

What do you do when this happens? I’ll tell you what we did, and it worked. Within several hours, the offending ad was down and hasn’t shown up since.

Luckily, it is standard policy that all of our clients fill out a trademark violation form with all major search engines when they first sign up with us. In this case, it saved us valuable time as we contacted our Google reps with lightening speed. We also managed to have as many people click on Joe’s ad as possible. This may be kind of a weird thing to do, but we wanted to try and blow through Joe’s daily budget as Google worked to pull the offending ad out of AdWords.

We found the ad at 10 a.m. on Monday and it was gone by 1 p.m. the same day. The ad hasn’t shown up on any other search engines, and my client has been working with Joe to try and alleviate his angst (although sometimes I’m just not sure you can make some people happy). So, crisis averted.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with something like this. A while back I had a client that was involved in a class action lawsuit. Tort lawyers were advertising on their brand name like crazy, trying to get people to participate in the suit. While this was going on, we saw conversion rates drop over 10%. Once we were successful at having the ads removed, the conversion went back up.

So the moral of the story here? Make sure you have all your ducks in a row when it comes to trademark violation forms. It could be the difference between many days of brand crisis and just a few hours.

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