Number of Viagogo customers dives after Google ad ban

The number of music, theatre and sports fans using tickets website Viagogo has plummeted after its adverts were banned from Google.

Google removed Viagogo from its paid-for search results in July, accusing the company of breaching its advertising rules.

The decision followed a flurry of legal and regulatory issues around the world, including a lawsuit for contempt of court from the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Web traffic statistics indicate that Viagogo’s disappearance from Google’s advertised listings led to a slump in visits to the website, which has been criticised for exploiting alliances with powerful ticket touts and accused of fleecing fans and flouting consumer law.

Before Google imposed the ban, Viagogo’s UK website attracted 4.5m visitors in June, according to analytics service Similar Web. The number of visits slumped to 2.5m in July, the month the ban came into effect, before plunging again to just 820,000 in August, the first full month affected by Google’s decision. Over the same period, the company’s global website Viagogo.com also suffered a steep decline, down from 15.3m visits to 4.5m.

In a statement, Viagogo said it was in talks with Google in the hope of being allowed to use AdWords, a product that allows businesses to pay to appear above the organically generated results when web users search for something.

“Google is a key part of any company’s advertising mix and the suspension has certainly seen a decline in traffic from this source. However, as a global business we employ multiple marketing methods, to ensure we can reach the widest global audience effectively,” the company said.

“This has allowed us to manage any impact of the suspension on the overall business, whilst we are working with Google to resolve their concerns and be reinstated. Viagogo has long enjoyed a close working relationship with Google and we are in discussions presently to resolve the suspension.”

Google said that appeals against advertising suspension were at arms length and conducted via an online form rather than inter-company talks.

“Any advertiser can appeal [against] an account suspension through our online form and we’ll review against our policies,” a spokesperson said.

In January, Viagogo published details of its most prolific sellers, which showed that fans have paid over the odds to see a range of artists, from Ariana Grande, where resold tickets for one gig cost an average of £444, to Fleetwood Mac, at an average resale cost of £635 for a Wembley Stadium show. One ticket to see Michelle Obama at the 02 in London cost more than £2,600.

Viagogo enjoyed a boost earlier this year when the CMA dropped legal action over alleged failure to comply with a court order demanding it obey consumer law. The CMA’s concerns, alongside action taken by courts and enforcement bodies around the world, were among the reasons that Google took action.

But while the CMA ended its legal pursuit of the company, saying Viagogo had made sufficient changes to its website to protect consumers, data obtained by the Guardian indicates it is still the subject of concern among consumers. Figures obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Citizens Advice Bureau has received 3,280 requests for advice relating to Viagogo since the start of 2016.

Of the company’s rivals, StubHub attracted the second-highest level of requests for help with 82, around 40 times fewer than Viagogo.

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Viagogo said: “It is difficult to provide a response to this without knowing the exact details of the requests the Citizens Advice Bureau has received.”

The company said it had a “well-resourced and capable customer services function”.

It added that the website has “a very broad customer base with varying degrees of experience using our site amongst them.

“Inevitably there will be customers who need extra support and we would always urge them to contact our customer services team as the first option, they will be able to assist with any needs.

“We are also aiming to work more closely with the Citizens Advice Bureau going forward to address any areas of confusion.”

Article source: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/oct/06/number-of-viagogo-customers-dives-after-google-ad-ban