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The Hidden Threat of Google Ads Impersonation

Online impersonation is a growing problem that can have serious consequences for brands. One common form of impersonation occurs on Google Ads, where fraudsters create ads pretending to be a legitimate brand. In this post, we’ll shed light on how Google Ads impersonation works and its impact. 

What is Google Ads Impersonation?

This fraud happens when someone other than the brand runs ads using the company’s trademarks and branding. The impersonating ads compete directly with the real brand ads. 

The motivation is profit. By landing users on the brand’s site, fraudsters can get credit for conversions or sales through their own affiliate links or tracking codes.

Why Impersonators Target Brand Campaigns

Brand campaigns tend to have high quality scores, low competition, and excellent conversion rates. This makes them magnets for impersonators who want cheap clicks that convert profitably. 

Since brand ads usually perform well with minimal oversight, fraud can fly under the radar for some time.

How Do Impersonators Appear in Brand Ads?

There is a loophole in Google Ads that allows nearly anyone to run ads on a brand’s trademarks. Google matches ads based on the landing page domain, not the account.

Impersonators can create similar ads and bids to the real ones and get their versions displayed through Google’s ad rotations.

The Damaging Effects of Impersonation

While customers may not notice the difference, impersonation wreaks havoc behind the scenes:

  • Affiliate teams see rising visits while PPC managers face shrinking traffic. 
  • Brands pay more for clicks but see minimal business growth. 
  • Messaging falls out of the brand’s control.

For some brands we have seen a channel shift 15% of all daily transactions, the impact can cost millions of dollars in excess of the Google ad spend.

How To Protect Your Brand Ads

At Search Machines we have 20 years of Search Marketing experience and have battled this issue both in-house and as an agency with some of the largest brands in the world. Trying to solve the problem manually is impossible so we have created ImpersonAlly to give you the tools you need to:

  • Monitor ads closely for any potential fraud. 
  • Model the scale of the abuse 
  • Unmask even the most complex redirects 
  • Generate the proof needed to terminate affiliates 
  • Work to remediate the adverts on search networks 
  • Educate customers to identify official brand ads.

With impersonation on the rise, brands should take steps to keep their online presence and PPC campaigns secure. Assess your risk of impersonation fraud – check you Google ads in real time with our free tool HERE 

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