In a sense, this is nothing new – Google has had guidelines in place about misrepresentation for some time and AdWords community managers have posted updates about their enforcement.
However, the issue was in the spotlight last week, thanks to a tweet from Joel Klettke, who was surprised to see an agency’s AdWords account suspended, something he has ‘never seen’ before.
Given that Klettke works as a copywriter on landing pages, amongst other content (including for Case Study Buddy), it’s perhaps worthy of note that this is his first experience of a Google suspension for misrepresentation.
An agency’s Adwords account got suspended because their landing pages had case studies/testimonials on them. Never seen anything like this. pic.twitter.com/qF1jyA9dY1
— Joel K (@JoelKlettke) March 8, 2017
As you can see from the text in Google’s response to Klettke, the main points of contention when it comes to misrepresentation are that:
- testimonials with claims attached need disclaimers
- no claims of exact results should be present outside testimonials unless linked to a peer-reviewed journal
- any claim that is general needs a disclaimer
Furthermore, and fairly obviously, no guarantees or claims of permanent results are permitted.
The tweet caused surprise for a few, with @lakey suggesting that enforcement could lead to rather absurd or unnecessary disclaimers.
@herrhuld @stephenkeable @LordManley Are we to expect this kind of thing… pic.twitter.com/l6mdsUENI0
— Chris Lake (@lakey) March 9, 2017
Whilst Google’s own examples of where these guidelines apply are consumer-facing, such as for weight loss treatments, anyone with knowledge of the martech industry knows that testimonials and cases studies abound.
That means companies need to be careful when making claims about the impact of their services. For case studies claiming an uplift in sales, for example, this means a simple asterisk and some copy indicating results may vary, often found within terms and conditions.
However, if a company is making general claims on a landing page, perhaps arising out of specific case studies, a definitive study needs to be referenced. Klettke’s experience comes as a welcome reminder to agencies and martech companies to get their landing pages in order.
Consumer watchdogs are having to catchup with malpractice such as quiet renewals and surcharges, and last year the UK Government announced its intention to crack down on fake reviews. There’s no reason why this burgeoning focus on transparency shouldn’t be taken very seriously in martech.