Avoiding the Google Scam: Protect Your Small Business

When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), it can be difficult to know where to turn to get help with what most people refer to as Google placement. So, to do what is referred to as the TL:DR (too long: didn’t read) right off the bat…I want to help you avoid the Google scam by giving you some key tips.

Google Scam: Google Will Not Call You & Offer Their Services 

To be absolutely blunt with you, Google will not call your small business to offer their services to you. Sorry.

If you get a call from a person or a robo-call claiming to be from Google offering to sell you any sort of SEO package either for your website or Google My Business, that’s a Google scam.

Both Google search engine and Google My Business work in two ways.

  1. Organic placement. Organic placement is where you fall naturally in the rankings. It is based on the keywords you use on your website (on each page) and on each blog post (or article…whatever you want to refer to the various things you write and publish on a regular basis). Organic placement for any search engine takes time. While everyone focuses on Google (because that’s the search engine most people use), each search engine has its own standards for ranking. Organic placement takes time. No person or agency can promise you results. If they do, they’re lying to you.
  2. Paid advertisements. When you look something up in Google, you notice that the first results also have a little box next to them that say “AD.” Companies pay for those. What do they pay? Well, that depends on the keywords they chose. Keywords can be very expensive. These folks pay based on the number of clicks. Not long ago, I performed keyword research for a bankruptcy attorney in Washington state. It wasn’t for this sort of campaign, but the software I use shows the amount of money someone would pay if they wanted to use a keyword in a paid advertisement. “Consolidate medical debt” cost over $26 per click…and there is absolutely no guarantee that the clicks received would be qualified or result in a phone call or consultation. It is very important that paid keywords are carefully chosen if you ever choose to go that route. Small businesses are, most of the time, better off going with less expensive sponsored and boosted posts through Facebook and Instagram because they get more control over audience reach for the money they spend. (You’re welcome for the free advice, by the way.)

If you decide that you do want to set-up a paid ad campaign, your options are to log-in to your Google account and set it up on your own or hire a marketing expert to help you. Google will not contact you and do it for you. If they did, it would look like they play favorites. They want to make money off of you…they do not want to play favorites. It’s nothing personal. It’s business.

Google Scam: Reviews for Money 

At least twice a year, I hear from one new client and two prospective clients about how someone contacted them through their Google My Business page, by phone, email, or their contact page from their website stating that they could buy Google My Business reviews. In a couple of instances, they said no and they were told that if they did not purchase the reviews that they would receive negative reviews…and it happened. In a few other instances, I received phone calls asking me if they should buy the reviews to “help” bolster their online reputation. Let’s talk about these issues one at a time.

If you are contacted to buy fake reviews, say no, and fake reviews are left, there are two things you should do. First, report the fake review(s) to Google. Legitimate negative reviews cannot and will not be removed because everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, Google will review reported reviews. Second, ask everyone you know to report the illegitimate review as well. It can also be helpful to ask anyone who has ever done business with you to leave a positive review. Note that I am stating to only ask anyone who has ever done business with you to leave a positive review. I am not stating that you should ask those who you have never done business with. Keep in mind that humans are nosy creatures. If you’ve ever looked up a business on Google that had stellar ratings and one jerk left a negative rating, you clicked on their profile, didn’t you? So, if you see that one person leaves ONLY negative ratings every where they go, you don’t take them seriously even if Google doesn’t remove it. In an online culture, we learn to take things with a grain of salt. You can also reply to the comment. If you do, keep it professional and tell the truth about the matter. They called you and attempted to blackmail you. They made good on the threat. You’re an honest business person.

Do not ever buy fake reviews (or followers or comments). It will eventually come back to bite you. It can lead to having your Google My Business account (or Instagram account or Facebook business account or YouTube page…or any other professional account) suspended (especially if you’re dealing with an online account that is monetized). Do the work. Do not give into the “I don’t have time” mentality. It is your business. Make the time or hire someone to do it for you.

How to Report Scams to Google 

How you report a scam to Google depends primarily on how the scammer attempted to contact you to begin with. As mentioned previously, if they left a negative review after you refused to buy fake reviews, report it to Google and give Google all of the information you have about the person: their name, phone number, email, or whatever you have on them.

Google Search Central has a great guide on how to report scams to Google. It covers everything from fake web pages to malware to phishing attempts. Google’s Safebrowsing page also has a way for you to directly report phishing attempts as well.

Do Your Research Before You Hire 

Hiring someone to help your small business with SEO or with Google My Business is a big decision. It isn’t something to be taken lightly. Do your research before you hire. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. If they try to pressure you, run.
  2. If they talk in circles around you, run.
  3. If they won’t even try to answer your questions in plain speak (instead of using technical terms you don’t understand), run..
  4. If they can’t provide you with some sort of proof of who they are and what they do, find someone else.
  5. If their social media accounts and website are full of misspellings and make you feel like something is off, don’t hire them.

If you have any questions about Google scams, SEO, or Google My Business, Black Moth Media (dba of LeNoir Communications, LLC) provides free consultations. Head over to the contact page or the Facebook page to choose a consultation time. I’m happy to answer your questions!

Published by therobinbull

Full time pro writer, mom, and wife (not necessarily in that order). I love business, time management, productivity, and making shit happen!

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