No matter what the industry, the bad apples often get more publicity than the folks that do business by the book which can give any industry a bad name.  The search engine marketing industry is no different.  Over my 11 years in the business, I have encountered several unethical companies, often by means of getting their clients after they have tainted them.  My goal in these cases, is to not just get the job done correctly, but to restore the clients faith that the search marketing industry is not corrupt as a whole.

Recently, I was notified of a problem with a vendor that I had referred a client to. This was disturbing because to me if I make a recommendation, I feel a sense of obligation. Furthermore, I was concerned because I had been introduced to this vendor through another professional colleague (who I alerted via email of my concerns). The person said he was not getting anywhere and asked for my help in getting the issue resolved, and I was willing because in the end, I felt bad for making the recommendation.

Having been in business for most of my adult life, I have learned a thing or two about how to get problems resolved.  In fact, lawyers work really well, but often times the average business owner does not have the financial means to hire a lawyer which is why ethically challenged companies can get away with ripping people off many times. I am going to share a few places where you can file (or threaten to file) a complaint that will either get the business owners attention, or get results.

The Better Business Bureau. I have mixed feelings about the Better Business Bureau (BBB) because their business model might lead one to believe that they favor the companies that pay them for their listings. Nonetheless, if you lodge a complaint with the BBB, they will make note of it as well as the outcome of your case on the businesses BBB profile.

The Attorney General. The attorney general has lots of authority in a state, so a business owner does not want to be on their bad side. That being said, if you feel you were wronged by a company, you can always file a complaint with the Attorney General for the state in which they operate.

Google. Yes, you can complain to Google in some cases. Specifically, if you are working with a Google AdWords Certified Company, Google will hear your complaint.  All you have to do is find the company’s Partner Profile on Google and select the link at the bottom of the page that says “Report a complaint about this partner.” Often, a Google AdWords Certified Company will link directly to their profile. If they do not, that might give you reason to question whether or not they have a valid partner status. If they have lied to you, that’s just more fuel for your claim.

Take Them to Court.  I learned one thing years ago; in America you can sue anyone for anything. This is where documentation is key. The company may have an agreement where you agreed to pay them, but you also have documentation where they agreed to do work for you. If you can prove that it was not done, then you might have a strong case.

Google aside, these three options will help you in any kind of situation where you feel wronged by a vendor, not just with search engine marketing.

Earlier, I used the phrase “threaten to sue” because often if you write the company a letter (or email) and let them know your intentions, they will take you a bit more seriously. No company wants to be involved in a lawsuit or negative publicity, so even if they are unethical, they will want to fly under the radar.  I also say, never make an idle threat. If you tell them you are going to take action, give them a deadline, and then take action. It does not take that much time to write a letter to a consumer protection agency such as the ones I mentioned.

Lastly, don’t get “sue happy” just to make your point.  If you initiate a frivolous lawsuit against a company with a good lawyer, they could take you to the cleaners with a countersuit for the time and money you caused them to waste and make an example out of you. Integrity works both ways.