It's not widely known, but Google has appointed an official search agency. At least, this search agency works with Google in the United Kingdom, though not globally.
The problem over the last year or so has been that scammers have known about this agency and have made several attempts to impersonate them.
First up: a pretty heavy disclosure; the agency in question is called Ventura and I’m writing this post without speaking to them first.
I went to Google. I searched for Ventura. I found a whole heap of sites but in my 14.5 seconds of searching I didn’t find the site that is conclusively Ventura’s web presence. So I gave up looking.
Okay; that might be the difference between a casual blogger like myself and a proper journalist or professional blogger but I’m sure it’s also why scammers have had some success in pretending to be Ventura.
Perhaps the biggest single factor the scammers have been able to use was Google’s official “Why am I being contacted by Ventura?” page.
You see, in Google’s official help articles there is a page that says Ventura is the only organisation in the UK working on behalf of Google. The good news for SMEs that have to tell the difference between Ventura and the scammers is that Google’s somewhat recently updated this help page to offer some guidance on telling the two apart.
You can read Google’s "Why am I being contacted by Ventura?" page here. However, here’s the updated text.
Ventura works with Google AdWords to help establish initial online advertising campaigns and provide customers with related support and services.
While Google has many valued partners and resellers of Google AdWords in the UK, Ventura is the only organisation in the UK working on behalf of Google to help new advertisers start and optimise their campaigns. Always be careful about checking the identity of people claiming to be operating on behalf of Google. The simplest way to do this is to ask them to send you an email to verify their credentials - Google representatives, like those at Ventura, will always have an @google.com email address.
This blog post isn’t intended to start a debate among agencies that offer PPC and AdWords services to SMEs, although I fear it may be unwelcome news to some of them, but as a note of caution that there are those who will make use of this page (or indeed anything Google might say) for a scam.
I first became aware of Google’s deal with Ventura a few years ago when an affiliate client of bigmouthmedia’s had been approached by someone claiming to be Ventura. In fact, they had a “googlemail.com” address which included Ventura in it.
They were not suspicious of the email address. They were suspicious that Google would have a page supporting a single agency in place and had thought they’d had their network hacked perhaps (and if you know about hacking changes into the hosts.txt file then you know this is possible). Imagine their surprise when I had to explain that the page was real but the email was fake.
In recent months, I’ve encountered far less pretenders to the role but one popped onto my radar at the start of the month to remind me the problem still hasn’t completely gone away.