At a recent networking meeting, everyone in the room was challenged to “borrow” a big, well-known slogan and apply it to their own business. The one that came to mind for Internet marketing was Smith Barney’s famous line, “They make money the old fashioned way, they earn it.” While the slogan hasn’t been heard since the Smith Barney name was retired by Morgan Stanley in 2012, it fits in the sometimes wild-wild West of Internet marketing. There’s a lot of so-called SEO and Internet marketing companies out there trying to make a quick buck off of small business owners, without really doing anything to earn it.

One of the more frequent questions we get from current clients or friends is about phone calls they receive regarding their online listings. There are multiple variations of these calls, but the bottom line is that Google is NOT calling your business to help you update your Google+/local listing, warning you about changes that could result in your listing being dropped, or offering to sell you a specific slot on a search results page.

We hate these calls as much as you do, because these dishonest “companies” that are involved in this continue to make it hard for legitimate companies to sell our Internet-related services to clients.

Robot Calls

These are pretty pesky, as you can receive several of these each week. The most common one we receive here, or are asked about, is the recorded voice asking you to “Press 1 to update your Google listing now.” There have been some variations on this message over time, including dire warnings about how your business listing might be dropped from the web, etc. The newest one is a recording that says you have been “flagged for a verification” trying to fool you into thinking you need to press 1 to verify your listing. Whatever you do, don’t press 1.

Directly from Google – “Google does not place robocalls”.

Claiming to Have Open Slots on Google

Then there are the calls telling you that your business has been selected because there is an open slot on the first page of Google waiting for you. Occasionally, these too are robot calls, but more commonly there is actually a deceptive person on the other end of the line. They’ll suggest you can have a front-page slot for your local area and that this opportunity is limited. Hang Up.

Directly from Google – “Google never guarantees top placement in search results or AdWords”

Free Websites, Charges for Map, My Business or Search Listings

Another variation that is out there, but less frequently used is the call asking you to claim your free business website, or trying to charge you for creating a my business listing or getting your website listed in Google. Google doesn’t charge for business listings, map listings or indexing your website. Google does have some free website services available, but they won’t call you about it.

Legitimate companies like ours will help you claim and manage your Google business listings, Google+ page, etc., but we won’t be sneaky about what we are doing or why.

Tactics Often Taken by These Callers

Some colleagues have made a hobby out of talking to these callers and trying to figure out either what company they work for or what they are trying to charge for what are generally free services. Commonly reported tactics or one’s that we have experienced ourselves, include:

1. Outright lying and saying they work at Google.
2. Misleading statements that they work for Google.
3. Statements such as “Google Specialist” that make you think they work for Google.
4. Telling you that your listing will be deleted if you don’t pay.

Most of the callers are misleading, rather than outright lying. They’ll say they work “on behalf of” or “for” Google. Interpreted into plain English, both of these statements are really sneaky ways of saying that they are providing Google with something as part of what they are doing. Generally, this boils down to them “helping” Google keep their business listings updated.

Tips for Handling these Calls

It is pretty hard to block the calls, so the best solution is generally to make sure everyone at your business is aware that these are not calls you want to take.

1. Hang Up
2. Consider Complaining to the FTC

Footnote- Google Might Call You

Oh, by the way. There is a really small chance that someone at Google or a partner agency really might call you. They did have a legitimately hired telemarketing company calling about AdWords Express a few years ago and they’ve also been known to do some spot checks of Business listings. IF you see this number on your caller ID – 1 (650) 253-2000, you are actually getting a call from Google. There are also two companies that work as contractors for Google that are involved in AdWords. They are Infinity Contact and Revana. Employees of these companies may legitimately have @google.com email addresses.

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