‘Be Honest:’ Google Collars Ticket Resellers

Beginning next year, ticket resellers will have to meet certain requirements intended to make their offer transparent and protect customers from scams, if they want to use Google AdWords.

“Be honest about your business” and “provide accurate price information.” Those are the main requirements for ticket businesses that want to advertise through Google’s AdWords service.

In more detail, ticket resellers must disclose on their respective websites that they are indeed a secondary marketplace and not the primary point of sale. “This disclosure should be easily visible and clearly explained in the top 20 per cent of the reseller’s website, including the home page and any landing pages,” Google demands.

Google Adwords
– Google Adwords

Resellers aren’t allowed to use misleading words like “official” in their offerings, and they can no longer include artist and venue names in the website URLs, as they used to do for each event to gain an SEO advantage.

The latter will be music to the ears of the UK’s FanFair Alliance, which highlighted how resellers such as Viagogo or StubHub achieve top placement in Google’s search results in one of its latest studies.

Other requirements for resellers include telling customers that prices may be above face value, and breaking down prices including fees and taxes during checkout, before the customer provides payment information.

Particularly interesting: “In March 2018, resellers will also need to provide the face value of a ticket along with the reseller’s price, and in the same currency,” Google says.

Primary-only sellers don’t have to be certified by Google to continue advertizing through AdWords. Companies that own both a primary and secondary marketplace need to be certified as well, as do aggregators of event tickets, auction sites, and marketplaces that allow ticket resale.

Pollstar reached out to a couple of ticketing companies and promoters, asking for comment.

Richard Davies, founder of Twickets, said: “We welcome Google’s move to tackle the misleading tactics employed by the secondary ticket sellers. These resellers list tickets at grossly inflated prices from touts and have been able to capitalise by securing top placement on Google searches. Eventgoers have been left in a state of confusion – unsure of which sites are safe and secure, and even the difference between primary and secondary.

“Numerous reports, including FanFair’s last month, have highlighted the need for a clearer marketplace and it’s great to see pressure has led to action. We would ultimately like to see an end to secondary resale for profit, but at least this certification will mean that fewer consumers are caught out. We know that some secondary sites constantly flout the law, so we would not be surprised if they ignore Google’s new rules. We hope that these measures are properly enforced.”

Neo Sala, Founder and CEO of Doctor Music: “I think this is a very positive change. Fans can no longer be misled into believing that they are buying tickets from an official primary source when in fact they are buying from an unethical reseller.”

Gigantic’ Simon Carpenter said: “As a reputable primary ticket seller with 10 years standing, we strongly welcome the changes to Google’s reseller certification. FanFair Alliance is doing an incredible job at getting this over the line; not only will this provide clarity to consumers who use Google’s search engine to find and purchase tickets, it is a major step forward in making buying primary tickets far less complex.”

FanFair’s own statement reads: “This is a very welcome development, with potential to make the ticket-buying process far less complex for consumers. The recent ‘Ticked Off’ report highlighted that a significant proportion of would-be ticket buyers use Google as their first port of call, while FanFair’s own research has illustrated the extent to which Viagogo, StubHub and Get Me In! use paid search to dominate Google rankings.

“They make little indication that they are secondary ticketing platforms. As a result, fans have been systematically directed towards touted tickets, even when primary inventory is still available from authorized ticket sellers. We are pleased that Google have listened to concerns on this issue, and have acted in an assertive manner and on a global basis. We look forward to seeing further details – but this move should be a major step forward in cleaning up the secondary market, as we anticipate more regulatory and legislative action to come.”

Pollstar also reached out to Ticketmaster and Eventim for comment, but has not heard back yet. Both operate primary and secondary ticketing sites.