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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.

Andrew Girdwood

Published 27 July, 2010 by Andrew Girdwood

Andrew Girdwood is Media Innovations Director at DigitasLBi and a blogger for Econsultancy. He can be found on Twitter here and Google+ here.

41 more posts from this author

Comments (14)

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Eloi

If an agency is in bed with Google, why would one choose it ? Clearly the adspend will not be optimised...

I mean, Google sold the agency they owned in the past specifically because it was a conflict of interest : You cannot claim to give advice on adspend when you ARE a marketing channel ..

almost 6 years ago

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Eloi

Mark thanks for your comment, I didn't know they were an outsourcing company, thought they were an agency, my first comment is therefor invalid

almost 6 years ago

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Richard Dale

I recently received a couple of emails from Google or rather Ventura and they did indeed have a @google.com extension. However I found the emails to look particularly unprofessional (http://i31.tinypic.com/xeo1on.png) signed by a person I never dealt with.

Whilst I understand from a spam point of view why the Google logo is text, the use of colour for each character really does not work. It seems to me that Google needs to provide Ventura with much better guidelines.

almost 6 years ago

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Mark, Digital Media Monkey

@Richard Dale Yep, I just got one this morning. Unprofessional looking indeed. But then again actual emails from Google AdWords support always were too - plain text, copied and pasted support from the AdWords help pages. If I could get all the answers from the help pages I wouldn't be emailing!!!

almost 6 years ago

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Martin Cozens

I've worked with Ventura as an out-sourced support for Adwords etc, when I was at Latitude before the latter went into administration.  Ventura has carved a healthy niche - supporting search agencies by supplying cheap labour for repetitive manual tasks from their base in India.

I was surprised to hear that Google has partnered with Ventura to provide optimisation services for the UK market and more surprised that Ventura is working directly with end customers.

As a specialist Search Agency in the UK like Big Mouth Media, we at Banc Media battle every day in our sales endeavour to convince prospects of the virtues of using us for competitive advantage against a plethora of 'box shifters' selling a diluted, often damaging service at impossible prices.  Now Google is wading in with its Size 12s with Ventura to carve a segment of our prospecting landscape out from under our feet.

I don't mind competition, but Search Agencies are Google's channel for growth.  They shouldn't be biting their nose off to spite their face.  We need a pat on the back, not a slap in the face.

All that aside, choosing Google and/or Ventura as Eloi says to optimise your ad spend is a fool's errand.  Their only goal is to increase your spend.  As a specialist agency, our goal is to increase ROI.

almost 6 years ago

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Sam Hamilton

Yep you just need to google Ventura call centre and there they are

almost 6 years ago

Ian Harris

Ian Harris, CEO at Search LaboratorySmall Business Multi-user

I don't think this is a sinister as everyone is fearing.  Ventura are simply an outsourcing partner for Google.  The job they do is to contact people who have had problems setting up AdWords accounts (set up an account and never set live, set up an account badly and then paused quickly etc.) and help them set up an account properly (not optimally, but properly).

They only work with the clients for a matter of weeks and then the client is left to manage the account themselves.  I do not see this Ventura team as competition in any way (we are a search agancy).  They do a very basic job to get people on their feet.  There is a huge leap between what they do and what companies like is and BigMouthMedia do.

almost 6 years ago

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Tom Doyle

The fact that Google themselves feel it's a good idea to have agencies like this working on their behalf is beggars belief.

It seems like such a simple and obvious opportunity for rogue traders to take advantage of such a scenario and its no wonder we have 100's of companies claiming to be Google's partners and working on their behalf.

almost 6 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

I wasn't aware of Ventura and it is a little odd. I suspect Google saw a real need for clients to have this extra 'support' but, given they are a technology company (so they say), they didn't want to have what is a service business muddying their own accounts? So better to keep separate and, at some point, possibly detach from. 

It is also odd how unprofessional some of the "faces" of Google can be. I'm not sure if it's just us but it you want to invoice Google (yes, we do!) then the accounts people you deal with seem to be in Eastern Europe (Czech Republic from memory?) or, occasionally, Ireland, but the whole look of the correspondence and branding looks more like spam/scam than most real spam I see. I'm sure it makes business sense (resources cost less, tax 'benefits' etc.) but it certainly doesn't do the Google brand any favours. 

almost 6 years ago

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Neale Gilhooley

I would be interested to know at which point am I a Client of Google and at which point am I a Competitor?

I too get bucket loads of SEO offers from India but prefer to use a UK based agency who understand our customers’ business needs and also the audience behaviour.  I'm surprised that Google want to be Sellers & Affiliates.

almost 6 years ago

Ann Stanley

Ann Stanley, Managing Director and consultant at Anicca DigitalSmall Business Multi-user

Want help creating an account - phone Google (well Ventura)!! 

You can use this "Google service" by phoning the 0844 338 0341 number where you sign up for AdWords. They offer you 30 days support if you want to spend more than £30 per day and will help you set up the account. We have secret-shopped this service twice now and although they definitely have some knowledge (the guy we spoke to said he had passes his GAP exams), when I asked some more awkward questions they got their facts wrong!

However, the main problem was that when we asked them to give us some recommendations of keyphrases and costs they came in very high. They asked us to use the keyword tool so they could show us examples of the phrases and the costs. In one case they were trying to recommend £2 per click for phrases relating to local builders. They did not suggest dropping positions so the cost would be nearer to 50p. They did not take into consideration cost per sale or CPA.

This would indicate to me that they are probably on commission - which means that they are not providing independent advice and they could still potentially give misleading advice, if it means they get paid more. One point I would like to add; is that when they emailed their contact details it had the Ventura at the bottom of the email - so they were not pretending to be Google. However this was not the case during the call and they did not volunteer this information.

Your account is not live - Google can help you (well Ventura again)!! 

Another worrying feature is that delegates on our training courses are also being contacted by "Google" with actual details of their login and accounts. This tends to happen when they have had trouble setting up. When they told me this I immediately thought that they were being scammed. However it is obviously Ventura that are contacting them.

Scam agencies and telesales!

We have so many problems with scam agencies phoning clients that this latest development is really confusing for advertisers - who do they believe! This is not helped when other Adwords certified partners are using heavy handed phone sales techniques and are also acting like scammers.

We need to protect the value of our accreditation and make sure that anyone acting as a scammer or hassles clients over the phone are reported (via their accreditation page link) and preferably lose their accreditation.

almost 6 years ago

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Christopher Rose

Ventura aren't all that really. They only work with new clients for a maximum of one month and require MCC access, which prevents a company's long term partner having that access. Lazy agencies could get Ventura to set up campaigns and then take control after one month, but personally I prefer to work on my own campaigns from the beginning rather than get "sloppy seconds"...

almost 6 years ago

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Andrew Redfern

To my knowledge Google having been providing this top up support for around two years.

Great point about spammers taking full advantage and its something that our industry needs to address sooner rather than later.

over 5 years ago

Naval Kumar

Naval Kumar, Founder & CEO - ABSEM Limited at http://www.absem.com/

I'm going to go on a slightly different tangent here and pick on a part of the quote:

Ventura works with Google AdWords to help establish initial online advertising campaigns and provide customers with related support and services.

What we find slightly annoying or confusing is that Google is appointing such agencies whilst it is not only cutting down its services/support for a Search Marketing Agency like ourselves with a note to the tune off that you as providers of PPC or Search Services are quite capable to do things on your own. The other side is, they are also setting up a massive presence in India and for one of our clients my only point of contact in the US is that of an Account Director level (who essentially is a project manager) whilst all the other work is being done by the people in India (although outsourcing but not really). 

Point over here being on one side they don't want to help other agencies or companies manage their PPC accounts beyond a certain level as much and cut costs by transferring services to India (fair enough, every business has the right too and should) but on the flip side they are hiring or rather appointing these agencies which would cost twice as much or the same for them to hire someone in the UK or US themselves. 

Why these mixed approaches is beyond our understanding.

over 5 years ago

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