The news of all the recent security breaches in the IT and MSP space like the latest Kaseya incident has created a new and intensified scrutiny from the media and the general public on MSPs.
MSPs administrative access to their clients’ infrastructure makes them both targets and suspects of malevolent cyber activities. And that’s a fact, a lot of people and companies outside of the IT industry are starting to pay attention to.
We all know that Google’s decisions to restrict or update their products’ policies often closely follow global events, shifting consumer sentiments and media reports.
Which led me to ask myself how this latest risk charged atmosphere surrounding MSPs is poised to influence the Google marketing products so many of them rely on to promote their business and how MSPs can best prepare for what’s potentially ahead.
Google Ads, still a very Popular Lead Generation Tool for MSPs
A lot of MSPs and IT business owners still invest a large chunk of their marketing budget on Google Ads.
And there are multiple reasons for this.
Google Ads are easy to Deploy
Google Ads are relatively easy to set up and get up and running quickly. That is if you follow the process step by step without giving it much thought. The reality is that there is a world of difference between an Ad campaign created and continuously optimized by an experienced Ad specialist and a generic Ad launched by an MSP owner who’s busy running the business and only checks the Google Ads dashboard from time to time.
If you want to know what you should be paying attention to when creating a Google Ad for your MSP or your IT business, check out my “Guide to Google Ads for Managed Service Providers”.
They have Potential for Immediate ROI
Google Ads provide an immediate return on investment. We all know that other marketing strategies like SEO, Branding and “Content Marketing” take some time to pick up and show results.
With Google Ads you can flip a switch and get inquiries from one of your Ads in the next hours or days. That is if your Ad is effective, and if you have the budget for it.
IT related keywords have some of the most expensive cost per clicks relative to other service-based industries.
Google Ads and MSPs: a Complicated Relationship
Even if Google Ads seemingly win the popularity contest with MSPs when it comes to lead generation, the relationship between the MSP community and the Tech Giant is far from ideal. In fact, MSPs have long had a Love/Hate relationship with Google Ads.
While they recognize the benefits of advertising with Google to get leads for their IT business, a lot of MSPs also get terribly frustrated with Google’s regulations around “Tech Support Ads” and “Third party Software Support Ads”. Their frustration hit a boiling point when back in 2018, Google decided to update its advertising policies to restrict Ads for third-party tech support providers.
The decision affected countless MSPS and Local Tech Repair shops around the world who saw their Ads vanish overnight and had little to no recourse to get them reinstated.
Google reported noticing a rising number of “abusive and misleading offline experiences” stemming from third-party technical support providers and justified their decision by their priority to maintain a healthy advertising ecosystem, and to protect people from misleading, inappropriate and harmful ads.
Since then, Google promised to create a verification program for legitimate providers, but things didn’t go as easily or as quickly as MSPs would have wanted. In September 2019, Google admitted that they were having difficulties coming up with a verification program that would effectively weed out bad actors from legitimate IT businesses.
Consequently, they decided to maintain a global ban on ads for third- party tech support providers until a suitable solution was found to better protect users from harm.
To this day, Google Ads restrictions for Tech support services are still hard to navigate for most MSPs and frankly even for a lot of Ad specialists.
What are the current Google Ads restrictions for Tech providers?
In case you needed a refresher on what type of Ads are permitted and which could potentially lead to a disapproval or even a suspension of your Ad account, I’ve made a little recap below.
Do Advertise your own IT services
Google allows you to advertise your own IT services if you’re not tying them to a specific software or hardware product from a third-party vendor.
For example, an ad for “Managed IT services” is fine whereas an ad for “Windows 10 IT support” could get you in trouble. Third-party consumer technical support ads are not permitted under Google guidelines.
This makes things particularly difficult since the core practice of most MSPs is to provide support and implementation of third-party technologies. It gets even more vexing when we know that a lot of high intent and profitable search keywords are related to support of third-party technology products.
Don’t Advertise Third-Party Software
Beware of setting up Ads that promote free downloads of your vendors software products. Since the start of the pandemic, a lot of MSPs were reaching out to clients and prospects to promote free downloads of remote working tools like Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx or Zoom.
Google doesn’t allow you to advertise free desktop software ads that don’t lead to the “authoritative online distribution source for that software” that is to say the vendor’s website and not your own website. Which I’m pretty sure wasn’t the goal you had in mind when you set out to create your ad.
What could be on the horizon for MSP Ads in the near future?
In 2018, the decision to restrict ads for tech providers had closely followed a Wall Street Journal investigation that found that fraudsters were exploiting Google Ads to pose as authorized service agents for companies like Apple.
In the UK, an investigation from The Sunday Times also led to new restrictions on Ads for drug rehabilitation facilities.
All these precedents point to the fact that Google will most likely be following closely what will happen in the Channel in the near future and how the press will cover events around security breaches and MSPs role in that process.
Dominating the Narrative
It is all a question of narrative and right now the narrative is that security breaches are happening and that MSPs are the frontline warriors protecting businesses, but the narrative could change very quickly if MSPs are suddenly perceived as a potential weak spot giving access to multiple other businesses.
If future global events and their media coverage trail in that direction, we could very well see a new set of Google regulations befall MSP Ads.
Which means that MSPs could join the ranks of other restricted local businesses like locksmiths, who currently have to undergo complex and thorough verification processes before being allowed to advertise on Google.
Some of the steps in the verification process include background and license checks, video verification and multiple audits.
Which could potentially discourage a lot of MSPs, especially those with smaller teams, from undergoing and sustaining such a complex process.
It is now more important than ever for MSPs to proactively diversify their lead sourcing process and test new marketing strategies like organic search ranking, social media and event marketing to hedge their bets and protect their sales pipeline.
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