It can be nerve-racking when you finally launch a new website. You've put in all the work to get it ready, and when you go live, you want traffic A.S.A.P. Scammers know how badly you want customers and claim they'll rank your site high in the search listings. While there are plenty of legitimate SEO companies, a red flag to look out for is the Google listing scam. In this scam, the crooks will either cold-call or e-mail you.
What is a Google Business Listing?
Google My Business is a free service provided by Google. It's a business listing that allows you to -
- Display your business on Google Maps
- Share updates/promotions
- List all of your business info on Google (Hours, Photos, etc.)
- Have customers reviews
- Get basic traffic insights and reports
- And even get a free website!
You can set up your free listing by visiting Google's My Business website.
If you have a storefront, I would advise you set yours up right now. Once again, it's free, and one more way to help connect your business to customers.
Like any telemarketer, they call you out of nowhere, disrupt your day and irritate you. The red flag to look out for is that they say your business isn't listed or needs to be updated. They will either claim to be Google, a Google Authorized Representative, or a company that will help you claim your Google listing. While it may be true that you aren't listed on Google My Business, you don't have to pay.
Actually, if they're not claiming to be Google, what they're doing isn't illegal. What makes it a scam is that they'll charge way too much to do something simple, and the scare tactics they use to get you to pay up. They will tell you -
- Your business is scheduled for deletion
- You've been unlisted
- They're calling on behalf of Google
- Listing has been flagged for removal
- They will take down your listing if you don't pay them
- Claim to be a Google Authorized Business (there's no such thing), or allege a special relationship with Google
- Charge a monthly fee to keep your business listed. (Google doesn't charge anything at all.)
- Won't provide information or details about their business
- Have to pay them to verify your business
- Ask for your account password
If you get a call from someone saying these things, hang up and don't provide them with any of your info.
Helping a business get their listing sorted out isn't a bad thing. I know people can have a hard time doing it themselves. As a point of reference, I'd charge around $50 to help you set up a basic listing. (A lot less than hundreds or thousands of dollars.)
The e-mail scammer will say the exact same things as the telemarketers. What I found funny is that Google gets these same e-mails claiming that Google isn't listed on Google. Here's an excerpt from Google's "Do you need an SEO" article -
"Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that email you out of the blue. Amazingly, we get these spam emails too: "Dear google.com, I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories..." Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for "burn fat at night" diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators."
What Else Can You Do?
Other than ignoring them and not providing them with any information, Google is going after these companies. If you receive an unsolicited phone call or e-mail, you can report them to Google.
You can also add your number to the FTC's national do not call registry. However, this only has limited results. Scammers are breaking the law in the first place, and are good at hiding their identities over the phone.
Official Calls from Google
From time to time, Google will actually call you, and there are only 2 reasons why -
Google My Business listing confirmation - They will call to verify your listing for quality control. They just ask if the information is correct, confirm your service listings, etc. They will not ask for payment of any form or offer any services. The caller will usually have an accent due to being overseas.
AdWords (Now called Google Ads)/Adwords Express - While there are Google Ads scams to be aware of, Google does make sales pitches for their advertising. They'll call you to see if you're interested in advertising with Google but won't say anything about search page rankings.