Today’s post is by Sr. Account Manager Liam Mbuthia, who has worked in the SEM industry since 2005 and has never encountered anything like the impending story before. Read and draw your own conclusions. And leave comments if you’ve had a similar experience.

Back in early August, a client advised me that a Google rep had left her several voicemails with his name and contact info; the “rep” was trying to reach out in regards to the change-over from Google Product Search to Google Shopping. The client thought nothing of it, and after she forwarded me the rep’s email (which had an address), I thought nothing of it either, despite the fact that we had a Google rep we had already worked with in the past.

This is where the fun begins.

We scheduled a call to see what exactly the rep had to say. I advised the client that Google usually provides a dial-in; when the rep said he didn’t have one, that struck me as strange. The client and I hopped on the line, eventually dropping after 20 minutes when it was clear the rep was a no-show. In all my years working with Google reps, I cannot recall one ever not making a call, let alone missing the call without any notice whatsoever.

We gave the young man the benefit of the doubt and rescheduled for a few days later; despite being 15 minutes late to that call, he eventually dialed in.

Once we connected, the rep dove in and started explaining that the change in Google Product Search meant that the once-organic (free) listings were soon to be commercialized (we were already aware of this). Then he began making a few “observations” as though he was in our account (e.g. Product Listing Ads have seen less traffic and higher CPC’s), but his observations weren’t necessarily accurate. He then advised us that he had a coupon code for us to use for a rebate on Product Listing Ad spend until the end of the year, and after sharing my contact info, I dropped off the call and we agreed to follow up via email.

I got off that call and was honestly more confused then before we had spoken. If there was a coupon code for a rebate, why push that so hard on us? It would mean less money for Google — not to say they wouldn’t do something like that for advertisers, but to have a rep push it like a salesman just made no sense.

Within a few minutes of the call, the client and I both received an email from the rep. He said that he could send over the coupon code once I granted him account access.

Hmmm, a Google rep asking for account access. Yeah, that’s about as big a red flag as there is. I replied that I was confused why he needed me to grant him account access since he was a Google rep and should have had access already, to which he responded rather rudely that wherever I get my information is wrong.

That was that. I started diving in to to find out more about this “Google rep,” and I advised the client to not have any more correspondence with him.

What we found out — doing our own research and not at all clued in by the “rep” — was that he actually works for a company named Revana, based in Arizona. Upon further investigation, we found a very recent talk forum talking about this rep by name. Users in the forum stated that they were contacted by a “Google rep” who then requested account access, and once the advertiser agreed to some sketchy Ts & Cs, the reps then had the green light to make account changes without the advertiser’s consent. This was obviously very disturbing, as the advertiser would still be on the hook for the bill — it’s essentially like writing a blank check to Google.

Oh, and we still had no idea how on earth this guy had an email address, so I emailed our agency rep to get some info. Initially I was told he was in their database as an employee. Only after I followed up with more questions was I informed that he was in fact a vendor, not a full-time Googler.

Both the client and I were floored when we learned of this. We’re always on the lookout for scammers in this space, but this appeared to have been sanctioned by none other than Google themselves. Which begged an obvious question: why would Google hire contractors to pass themselves off as real-deal Googlers?  

Think back to the Ts & Cs mentioned above. Real Googlers cannot just go in and make all these changes and stick the advertiser with the bill, but apparently if a contractor does it, it’s OK. It’s my guess that for these Revana reps, the incentive is a cut of increased ad spend.

Google has a staggering amount of advertisers already, and for many small businesses, being contacted by someone from the inside to help “grow” and “optimize” the account would seem like a no-brainer, time well spent. I’m sure many advertisers are handing over account access and info, since on some levels (especially the Google verification), it seems legitimate.

One other thing of note: a few days after we brought this up to our Google rep, we noticed this little entry in AdWords Help (note the date it was updated).

As the client noted when I showed her this link, the title of the entry is misleading, and that’s part of the problem: nobody was up front about Revana as an outside party; we were led to believe from the beginning that the rep was from Google. Only rather experienced agencies and SEMs would know enough to ask questions, and the gray area for smaller or newer businesses is unsettling. There’s a lesson here: ask questions, and don’t just swallow the Google hook. The same is true, of course, for any search engine claim…there’s a lot of money in the balance and a lot of parties willing to take advantage.

Anyone else have a similar experience? Leave a comment!


  1. Andrew Lolk September 18th, 2012

    Very surprising story to say the least.

    The majority of SMBs will jump on the Google rep’s word without thinking more about it. If a third part is getting a part of the AdWords spend, then Google goes back on themselves – They took away kick back many years ago, and I honestly didn’t think it would return.

    And you were completely right. Rudeness and asking for access are two huge red flags when dealing with Google reps.

    I’ve always known Google reps to be very polite, understanding and forthcoming. Even though not all share an expert understanding of AdWords, they’re always polite.

    Keep us posted if you find out anything new!

    /Andrew –…

  2. Scott Clark September 18th, 2012

    With a address? Woah! That would be my credibility indicator right there.

  3. Jon Anderson September 19th, 2012

    We had a fraudulent order from a guy in India claiming to work for Microsoft. He was using account. I would have expected hotmail :)

  4. Dan September 18th, 2012

    Wow – I just got a very shady call today that might be related. Number came in from (800) 826-9988, and a woman left a voicemail (which I have saved) saying she was from Google. I called her back at her extension, and the first thing she said was “by the way, this call may be monitored or recorded” (which Google never says when you call them). She then tried telling me about a coupon offer for the new Google Shopping format, and proceeded to tell me that I needed to link our Adwords account to our Merchant Account. (This is not true, because I already have our accounts linked.) After telling her that I run an Agency with several clients that are already have been setup with Google Shopping properly, she seemed to lose interest in the call and wanted to hang up the phone.

  5. Trucker September 19th, 2012

    Funny I had a call from a rep trying to setup a call for Google Product Search, he never made it to the call, now I will be on the lookout! Thanks, Liam!

  6. Liam Mbuthia September 19th, 2012

    Agreed Scott, I have seen email addresses, but never seen anything skeptical from an address, which should be an easy way to verify the sender. Jon, some scammers apparently don't do their homework :-)

  7. kbnoname September 20th, 2012

    Got a similar call, but was skeptical by the voicemails the assigned “rep” left. Basically I dropped some hints via engage program that I might need coupons for some bigger advertisers that I had lined up and then got this call soon after. I was provided with a Google number and an extension, so I’m still unsure if it’s a real account rep or one of these fake reps which is pretty trivial…

    Any insight into this? Feel free to email me if so.

    I recently also contacted a few companies via Google partner search under a dummy email address, and got a reply from a company that I never contacted and wasn’t a certified partner. They responded as if they were contacted through the certified partner search which was a misrepresentation and false.

    So how did they receive my email/name/business inquiry details, and who passed the information along to this unknown/uncertified company? Their website was a quickly modified template claiming 7 years in the SEM game, yet there were no other content/trust indicators to be found.

    When I called them out on all of this I never received a reply back. Hmm.

    Also of interest:

    Anyway, long story short, they asked for my permission to access my Adwords account with the following terminology :
    To better assist you, I’m happy to help make changes to your Google
    AdWords account. To authorize me to do so, please see the process that’s
    described below.

    Consistent with your agreement to the Google Advertising Terms and
    Conditions, we’d like your permission to make the following types of
    modifications (“Approved Adjustments”) to your ad campaign(s):

    1. Campaign changes: Includes the ability to pause and resume campaigns,
    edit targeting settings, add or edit ad groups, and edit campaign

    2. Placement changes: Includes the ability to add and delete placements,
    pause and resume targeted placements, add or delete negative sites and
    categories, and edit placement-level bids.

    3. Ad Text changes: Includes the ability to add, edit, and delete new ad
    text, edit destination URLs (landing pages), add or delete tracking URLs
    to ad text and placements, and pause/resume ad text.

    4. Keyword changes: Includes the ability to add and delete keywords, and
    increase or decrease the maximum cost per click.

    5. Monitor the overall performance of your campaign(s).

    We’ll notify you of any Approved Adjustments after they’ve been made, so
    you won’t have the opportunity to change or cancel such adjustments before
    they’re posted live.

    The final authority and risk for your account rests with you. You’re
    responsible for the content of your ads, complying with AdWords policies,
    and complying with any applicable local laws and regulations. If you
    disagree with any of the Approved Adjustments, please make sure to change
    and cancel them as soon as possible.

    To allow us to make Approved Adjustments, please respond to this email
    with “I agree for Account: (insert number(s))” to indicate that you’ve
    read and understood the changes, and authorize Google to act on behalf of
    your company in making any Approved Adjustments.

    If you’d ever like to cancel this blanket approval for Approved
    Adjustments, please respond to this email with “I would like to cancel,”
    or contact us directly.

  8. Liam Mbuthia September 20th, 2012

    @kbnoname, I found that very same forum, those T’s & C’s are the one’s I was referring to above, really not cool at all. @Andrew, I have had pleasant interactions w/ Google reps all these years, same as you, and this just did not jive well from the get-go, the account access request was the final straw. Hoping this gets out to SMBs who like you mentioned would most likely jump all over the offer to help.

  9. Ex Revana Employee February 4th, 2013

    These articles are just dumb. The company used to be called Direct Alliance. You didn’t discover something new. Google has been working with them for years. These phone calls are Google sanctioned. The product listing calls were rolled out by Google when they switched over to paid PLAs. The person probably seemed to know very little because they likely had little to no experience with that type of ad. I’m sure Google gave them very limited knowledge of what they were even calling you for.

    The missed appointment was likely because Revana works the employees too hard, and puts unrealistic metrics on them. Google outsources it’s dirty evil work to other companies. That’s how it avoids doing evil itself.

  10. prg August 6th, 2013

    “ help call from Revana – Caution”

    The big problem with this process is the underlying intention is not for the better of your company. It is to increase your costs to put money in Revana pocket. They have no incentive to actually help you directly.

    This may be legit but when I was qualifying him it was very awkward and he did not take to my skepticism well. The second that he would ask for access to my account was the second that I was going to drop the call. The only reason that I spoke to the person was that he had that email address. He was actually not able to provide any insight into the only question that I had. He did show me a feature that I was not aware of which was great.

    All in all No Value for me.

    I don’t think it’s right that they give out @google email addresses to third parties. I would have hung up in the first 60 seconds if they did not have this. I would like to get my hands on one if it has this kind of power to open doors.

  11. Robert August 10th, 2013

    Come on you guys…

    Arizona is the center of the telemarketing/boiler room phone scam universe and has the second lowest rank in education (I think) in the USA. It’s not a hub or intellect or enlightenment by any means! In fact it seems like the state has a general, population wide, acceptance of deception and manipulation as being a standard operational procedure for doing business. From the smallest nickle and dime telemarketing outfits to the biggest companies in the state – (Go Daddy for example) it is the accepted norm that you lie, cheat and manipulate customers to whatever extent you safely can without getting in trouble or put in jail.

    You might ask, how did I form these options about companies in the state of Arizona? Good question! Working for them. I grew up in San Diego where things are completely different and came to AZ a few years ago…

    Anyway, I can say something about Revana as well. It’s not a perfect company, but considering it’s in the heart of Arizona, they are shining jewel in the sea of scam artists. The fact that Google works with them says a lot about the company. The fact that they are in the dead center of Arizona says that they have bucked the trend to do whatever it takes to get the CC #, take the money and run like the rest of the companies in AZ!

    AdWords is not a simple animal and people that know it inside and out can be worth a small fortune. Right? You guys get that I’m sure.

    Revana is legit. And in my option the company has ethical leadership. They are a real company and Google obviously trusts enough to provide them with email addresses. That says a lot about their relationship with Google.

    I don’t trust anyone these days until they have earned my trust. Not Google, not Revana, not my brother or even God for that matter! You might get a new rep on the phone with any company. But I guarantee the reps at Revana are AdWords Certified and doing their best to help you. Use your best judgment and don’t give the keys to your business to anyone until they have earned your trust. Even then, keep a close eye on them.

    Know what I mean Jelly Bean?

    Take care People.

  12. Robert November 6th, 2014

    I HATE google and all its services and annoying products. STOP CALLING ME !!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Jay Makwana June 2nd, 2015


    I just read this horrific story…infact we have been working with a person who is employee of Revana and he always wanted us to send him emails authorizing him to connect to all our Google adwords account. We always wondered why a Google representative needs authorization?

    But he used to provide us with all the assistance for our Google adwords…and whenever we call (800) 826-9988 it goes to Welcome to Google adwords recorded message.

    What is the truth? Is Google hiring company called Revana to represent them for servicing their agencies?

    Thanks for all your inputs in advance.


  14. Smart August 7th, 2015

    So, Revana is contracted out by Google. Every single Revana member SHOULD have a email address.

    Google even put an article about this on their adwords help page.

    Understandably people are upset because of the lack of clarification that happens when someone says “I’m with/from Google”.
    But Revana is associated with Google. In fact, recently there have been more steps to make sure that this fact becomes clearer.

    Hope I could clear up a little about this whole ordeal. Sorry if you felt cheated or scammed, transparency is one of the most important things to Google, as well as Revana. (While some employees may not be so good at that)

  15. (Another) Ex Revana Employee April 26th, 2016

    They aren’t scammers. Revana is contracted and trusted by Google.

    There isn’t really consistent training on what to say to a client and very few rules on how to present ourselves. In training, we were told to help advertising agencies (or in some cases small businesses) get the most out of AdWords, because if AdWords is working, they’ll spend more money and get even better results.

    However, because of trash management, unrealistic metrics, and horrible communication, it ends up being a bunch of skeezy salesmen trying to get you to spend as much money as possible without spending too much time on you.

    They ask for ‘account access’ AKA ‘linking’ because that’s how they get credit for the sale and the work they did with you. That is the only reason. If we were 100% transparent about that all the time, we would never get paid. Despite what the terms and conditions say, no one will make changes without talking to you first. And, if they do and it ruins your account, Google can trace fault back to them and will refund you within a week’s time for any unwanted spending.

    Revana is a good company with good intentions run by horrible people.

  16. Current Revana Employee August 28th, 2016

    A lot has changed since this thread began. They’re are multiple departments inside the Google Adwords program, and I just wanted to provide some insight into the current operations and structure of the organization. First off there is no need to link to accounts if you are an agency, but we cannot help you make changes unless you give expressed consent. Now this is for different purposes depending on the agencies request. I don’t chase my agencies. Also I love doing builds, so if one of my agencies wants some help, I will build it out completely for them and leave it paused. We have extensive adwords trainings and work directly with actual googlers. The cool thing about Revana is we are in it for the long haul. In my position which is an account Strategist I work on the longevity and increasing roi long term, not short term spend. So the changes or builds I create using Google search best practices are designed to convert for the client. How is this a bad thing? Having free support and a personal google certified representive to help you with your campaigns and optimize them with you over time. Anyways I think this whole thing is dumb. Lots of people love us because we work so hard and provide amazing free services to agencies and end clients. No one is trying to scam here. We work in a million dollar building, we have been partnered with google for many years now. We have duel monitors and macbook airs, a ping pong and fooseball table. It’s a great environment. If someone from Google calls you and they are actually Revana representing google it is wise to accept their help because it will greatly benefit you.

  17. Agency August 31st, 2016

    Dear Google Strategists,

    The problem is you haven’t built your Adwords business from scratch and you have no close contact with the client and rarely understand what they want. I just set up a campaign for a client that with 400/m spend they generate 6000/m revenue. They are very happy and so am I until I get cold calls telling me how to run my business, and almost demanding I enable every possible Adwords feature at the same time. If refused, you contact client directly offer incentives to unlink MCC. And when, because we have a good relationship with the client, they forward us your email (nice try but not good enough), and we call you up to complain, YOU say sorry it was a mistake. What a load of bullshit. I have seen a campaign that you have set up. It was set up to blow the largest amount of money in the shortest period of time. And do you know what the most amusing thing was, it didn’t generate one single lead. How about a title of cash blowing strategist? Put it on your resume “I am able to blow 100k per day without generating one lead”, and write it with a sense of deep satisfaction and self importance and flaunt it at your next interview when you work for some government agency (government agencies seem to like to hire people that have this talent). Enabling every possible Adwords feature may be a best practice from a Google point of view, but is definitely not in the best interest of the client. It will increase spend, (once again, something you are very talented at). The main concern of any Agency not connected to Google, is to get a quality campaign for the client that generates leads and sales. This is often what stands between us having a decent agency or working in Mcdonalds or some kind of Janitorial position. That means the ad needs to contain the right message and the landing page needs to reflect this and keywords and negative need to be right. This is the core foundation of the campaign FYI. I will not enable the display network, the traffic is crap compared to search most of the time, and I do not care whether it is a best practice or not in Google’s or how many attractive pushy women you get to phone me up and ask to enable it.

  18. Robert September 30th, 2016

    A client of mine was just scammed out of 600$ with this exact situation. In this case they didn’t mention they would be turning on her campaign it was a paused campaign with the credit card still in the account so he was able to turn it on with out saying a word. No Emails to notify not adword notice. It ran for about 4 days to the tune of $600 bucks & the client was alerted only by the credit company billing dept. There was no notification that a campaign had been turned on nor could you see the campaign from Adwords login. The google vendor said he was running the campaign on the back end that we could not see it. Amazing fraud here! What are the solutions to these type of things?
    Small Claims? Any suggestions?

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