This might seem silly to some marketers, but over the years I continue to see everything from small errors of omission to outright fraud on the part of agencies and consultants with respect to their clients’ paid digital marketing or Internet marketing. This includes paid search, display, remarketing, and YouTube ads.

Following are the top five tips to make sure your paid digital marketing dollars actually go toward marketing.

1. Make sure you have an actual agreement with your agency or consultant. You would be surprised at the number of clients I have that had only a handshake and some general emails from their agency or consultant. The agreement should allow you to pay the providers of advertising and paid digital marketing directly. This is one of but not the only measure you should take to protect yourself. The agreement should also spell out the fee the agency will earn.

2. Be certain your agency gives you read-only access to the various media service accounts like Facebook, Bing, Google, LinkedIn, etc. You might be thinking this is overkill. After all, you hired an agency or consultant to handle this and provide an easy to use “dashboard,” right? Wrong―you hired them to professionally handle your paid digital marketing, but that doesn’t relieve you or your Chief Financial Officer or Controller from matching up the invoices. Silly―again you say? Just this week a small business referred to me by Chase Bank in Chicago brought their American Express statements to my office because their “Consultant,” who claimed he was a Google Partner, was not giving them reports they could understand.

Upon examining their credit card statements, I noticed something disturbing. There were five different ten digit codes after each Google billing on their credit card. When Google bills a credit card they will list the account number, for example, like this: GOOGLE ADWS8522379617.

Those ten digits after the ADWS abbreviation for AdWords are your account number. The payments you make should reconcile with your email read-only access to your actual Google account. It will have the same ten-digit number so you can match the debits from your credit card on the Google billing interface. This is the same thing you would do with your personal credit care to prevent fraud, right?

Oh…Jim this is so boring! Why do I need to care about this? My new clients were defrauded over $13,000 because their consultant used their credit card to fund four other client’s AdWords advertising. They never suspected anything was wrong initially because they were paying Google directly but were thinking, “How come I’m not getting more traffic and calls from prospects?”

3. While many agencies have client dashboards―and there’s nothing wrong with them―you should still be able to do a quick fifteen-minute double check to see the actual Google, Facebook or other paid digital marketing numbers of clicks, cost per click (CTR), and total spend as you see on your email read-only access to the account.

4. Learn the basic lingo. I had a MENG member ask me how she could get certified in AdWords over the weekend last month. I had to break the news that Google teaches a 16-hour course on the Fundamentals of AdWords search. Certification requires you to take two timed tests. The first test is ninety questions in 120 minutes and the Advanced test is ninety-eight questions in ninety minutes. Both are required to be certified.This may be why you hire an agency or consultant, but that, again, does not relieve you of the responsibility to learn the basic lingo.

Take this one-minute test and see how you score. Do you know what the following commonly used terms mean?

  • CTR
  • Average Position
  • CPC
  • Quality Score
  • Search Terms (different from Keywords)
  • Keywords
  • SEO
  • SEM
  • Organic SERP
  • Ad Group

5. Take the time to verify your agency or consultant’s credentials. They should be certified, which you can quickly discover at https://www.google.com/partners/about/index.html or you can call Google at 866-246-6453 | Monday – Friday, 9 am – 8 pm EST for worldwide phone support.

My defrauded clients and I called Google together from my office. Once Google verified my clients were the payers of the credit card being used, they told us about four other websites and businesses with which my clients had no connection that their credit card was being used to fund paid digital marketing.