No You are NOT Calling from Google

Is Google Finally Responding to Small Business Complaints?

robocall diagram from FTC

Last September it was announced that Google was going to take on robocalls that purport to be originating from their offices. Of course the calls are not from Google, but are from SEO companies inappropriately (and illegally, btw) make false claims in order to scare small businesses into hiring them for their services.

At least one firm, Local Lighthouse Corp, has been sued by the big G for this. But there are many others out there.

The suit claims that Local Lighthouse Corp “sales agents have made and continue to make various false and misleading claims during Defendant’s telemarketing calls to confuse consumers regarding the true source or nature of Defendant’s services and the relationship between Google and Defendant” and “exploits such confusion to induce consumers to enter into contracts costing hundreds of dollars in recurring monthly bills.”

So how do these calls work, and what can a small business do about it, and how do you know they really aren’t calls from Google?

How Do RoboCalls Work?

The image above (from the FTC) shows the process of a robocall.

Typically, the calls start with a recording that prompts recipients to press a button in order to speak with a representative about claiming or updating their Google My Business Listings or to hear how they should be performing better in Google search or AdWords.

The aim may be to sell local search optimization services or to get login information to hijack business listings or spam Maps listings.

These types of automated calls are illegal in the United States because the recipients haven’t given written consent to get sales calls from the company doing the calling.

Depending upon the reasons for the call, the company may be using fake phone numbers, false identification, and lots of “middlemen.”

What Recourse Do I Have?

First: If you answer a robocall–your best defense is to HANG UP.

Second: if you have answered a call, pressed a button, or they left a message (unlikely) and claim to be calling from Google: report it to Google

This is a new directive from Google. In the past, they directed harassed businesses to either add their number to the Do Not Call Registry, or complain directly to the FTC or FCC.

Third: Do not engage with the caller (if a real person) It gains you nothing and will only be frustrating

Fourth: if you continue to get the calls, note the number and disregard if possible. Unfortunately, once you have answered the phone they know it is a real number and will more than likely continue to call. Report it to the FTC or FCC. But note: the FCC says it received more than 214,000 complaints about unwanted calls in 2014.

What if the Call is Really from Google?

There are only a limited number of reasons that Google will actually call your local business.

If they do call, it is always a live person calling, not an automated call–unless you specifically requested a call.

Why would Google call? Mostly to verify details about their products.

For example, if you have recently claimed your business listing on Google, they may call to verify the information in the listing. You have done this, right? If not, please do that right away. If you don’t have time, or are unsure how, contact an expert in local search marketing such as IATW, (970) 292-7063.

Google might also call if you are using their products such as AdWords.

Are robocalls dead because of this news?
Not in our experience. Yes, we get the calls, too!
Bottom line, if someone tells you they are calling from Google and they are going to get your business ranked on the first page of Google–hang up. Local Search Engine Marketing experts may call you. Some will even claim they can guarantee you results. But none will claim they are Google.

Google Partners

One thing to note however, Google does recognize that there are SEM companies working to help your small business be found on the internet. In an effort to “assist” these companies Google has developed a new program for Google “Partners.”  This may make it more difficult for small businesses to determine if the SEM company is legit or not.
While it is possible to become a Google Partner, small businesses should be aware that the requirement to get that badge is selling a lot of AdWords. In other words, you do not need to be a “Google Partner” to help local businesses with their internet marketing efforts. And the requirements are such that most partners will be larger agencies with higher expenses–resulting in higher costs passed on to you.

Google Changes for Local Business (Yes, Again)

Google+ and Social Media Walls Tumbling Down for Local Business

Read the latest on changes the Google+ is making and how it might affect your local business:

Google Mobile searchimage

Google Now Crawls Facebook

It has now been announced that Facebook is “allowing Google to crawl and index its mobile app.”

What does this mean for your local business? It means that Google Search results on Android devices will begin to show more Facebook information.

This is currently only in Beta and only available for Android devices, but if a customer or potential customer is using Google to search for something you carry, it is now possible that if you talked about it on Facebook it might show up in their search results.

Facebook logo

Not only could it show up, there will be a link that will take them directly to the Facebook app.

Of course not every status update you make on Facebook will be indexed. Currently there is only a small percentage of Facebook information that is being indexed.

As is the case with all Google searches (mobile and desktop) pages with higher authority will be more likely to be indexed and served up.

Facebook claims that your PRIVATE info will not be indexed.

web search

While it is too early to tell, there may be some added benefits for local businesses in terms of mobile search results.

This could bring more non-Facebook users to your FB page. It could also bring people in who are FB users, but not currently logged into their FB page.

One of the theories behind this shift is that Google has lost ground in the mobile search arena. Earlier this year they announced a deal with Twitter for search. Now Facebook. It may be that the social media walls are beginning to crumble, allowing for some transparency between the platforms.

Then again, this could all go away as Facebook improves its own search engine.

What should I do?

  • Keep posting on your Facebook page, talking about services/products/events that are important to you, your business, and your community.
  • Make sure your profile is optimized.
  • Optimize your Facebook pages.
  • Keep posting on other social media platforms that fit your business and community.

Google+ Redesigned


There have been rumors flying around for quite some time that Google was going to get rid of the Google+ pages.

While it doesn’t yet look like our local business pages (no matter what Google decides to call them) are going to disappear completely, we are seeing changes in the structure.

If you have logged into your page lately you probably will have noticed the change already. Touted as being simpler to use and more mobile-friendly, the big shift is that “Communities” and “Collections” are now the focus.

They are separating functions, removing things like Hangouts. G+ is also moving away from connecting with other people, in a Facebook sort of way.

You can still have a Google+ profile, but we are told that will be migrating to a generic profile called “About Me.” Anyone can create an About Me profile, and the G+ profile will not be a requirement for commenting on YouTube videos and the like.

What does this mean for my local business?

Don’t panic if something that you used to have on your business page seems to have disappeared. It may come back.

We will have to wait to see what the future brings on all things Google. It may be that we will start to make updates on an About Me page rather than G+.

What are communities?

They are like groups in Facebook. You (personally or your business) can join various communities which are centered on specific topics. The groups may be private or open. You can choose whether or not you want your membership in a group to be public on your profile or not.

What are collections?

Collections are a place where you can curate content. Similar to Pinterest with content not just pictures. Other people can follow (subscribe) to one or more of your collections.

So if you have a business that sells two (or more) distinct product lines, you could create a collection for each. If you are a hair salon, as an example, you might have a collection on hair styles and another on hair care products. A furniture company might have a collections based on rooms such as bedroom, living room and dining room. A candy company might have collections based on types of sweets, such as chocolates, hard candies, and chewy candies.

What should I do?

Don’t panic. Don’t despair. Don’t dump your Google+ pages. Remember, Google+ is part of Google and therefore connected tightly with Google Search.

This is a beta test. Google moves in waves, so you may not even see a difference yet. Even when/if you do, it might not last.

  • Become familiar with collections.
  • Think about how to create your own collections. This is where you will be posting ultimately if things go the way Google says it will. The content you post in your collections will be indexed.
  • Keep your profile current and optimized, but make sure your website and Facebook pages are as well.

Remember, Google seems to like to make changes for local businesses. In the end, their goal is to provide a good experience for their users. Those users are the people who are searching for your business! Does Google always get it perfect? Nope, but they do seem to be willing to say “mea culpe” and try to fix it.

Focus on your business. Use the tools you have that are working for you. Learn some new ones if you don’t have enough business or have mastered those.

Don’t try to know it all–be willing to admit that just maybe you aren’t perfect at it all either, and reach out for help if you need it.


Thanks to Social Media Examiner and Silicon Valley Business Journal for the intel!

Bit of Delicious Links Social Media Disaster for Local Businesses

Social media tip for local businesses: Google declares twDeliciouso sites contain malware, using them can result in YOUR site being blocked. Reconsider your links, on your site and also what you use in your social media campaigns.

While Google is not the only search engine around, it still is the kingpin. And what Google wants, Google gets. Or rather, what Google doesn’t want, Google slaps. This is an important social media tip for local businesses to keep in mind.

Case in point, this weekend two popular sites were blacklisted by Google.

In order to “protect” us, Google often declares that sites are malicious. This may or may not be true, but that is actually beside the point. Once blacklisted, sites will be flagged as contained Malware–especially if you (or your potential customers) use the Google owned Chrome browser.

According to Google’s Safe Browsing page on

Of the 370 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 69 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2014-10-26, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2014-10-26.

Malicious software includes 17 trojan(s), 14 scripting exploit(s). Successful infection resulted in an average of 1 new process(es) on the target machine

If you want to know more details about the most recent blacklist, read this article on WordFence:

A general rule of thumb is don’t click on a link you don’t know. If you use a link shortener (like, which was also blacklisted, albeit temporarily) you may want to reconsider. If you use Twitter a lot for your business you may want/need to use the shorteners in order to not exceed the character limitations, but still it is good to keep in mind that many people will not click a link they can not read.


Latest Google Fiasco: How’s Your 7 Pack?

How’s your 7 pack looking these days?

Nope, I’m not asking you to check out your body in the mirror before you go clubbing, so relax!

If this sounds new to you, the “7-pack” is the term given to the group of business listings returned when you do a search on a keyword term. For example, if I am sweltering in the summer heat and want to go swimming and search on swimming pool I might get the following results.

Google search 7 pack

Google search 7 pack

This is a classic 7 Pack. Some of the listings are for swimming pools, one is for the swim beach at the Lake Loveland, and one is for a business that one presumes services or sells swimming pools. Then there is the School District office which doesn’t have a pool to my knowledge, but some of their schools do so…there you go, not an exact science, but one we are used to.

Google has been experimenting with the 7 pack for several years. Sometimes you will get 7 results, sometimes 10. Other searches will yield 5 listings or only 3.


Map Problem #2

You know how you could click on the “Map results for swimming pool” and it would take you out to Google Maps and provide you with page after page of listings. After I get over the motion sickness this process inevitably induces (but that’s for another story) I can see a few mapped results and then I have to click yet again to get additional listings.

In essence, Google has been making it more cumbersome to get the information we are looking for as consumers!

It used to be if I was looking for someone to clean my pool, repair my pool filter, a place to buy some pool chemicals, or I wanted to install a pool, I could find all of that information by searching on swimming pool. Kind of a one-stop-shop. Cool.

Google map search

Google map search

So I know we aren’t the swimming pool Mecca of the world here in Loveland, but are there no more than 9 swimming pool related facilities and/or businesses in the area? Because 9 is all that comes up.

I don’t mean in the pack.

I don’t even mean on the first map page.

I mean TOTAL. This is page one…and there are no further pages.

What About a ZERO Pack

Even worse, for lots of terms there are ZERO business listings returned. Lately it seems that more and more are resulting in ZERO listings. What gives with that?

Of course you can try adding more words to  your search, but that is a PITA and why should I have to if it was working before?

Clearly, someone has decided it wasn’t working and they have tried to fix it.

The Problem for Local Business with Fewer Results

Someone has apparently decided that we can’t handle the volume of choices we had before and they have developed a system that gives us fewer results.

It stinks. I want my choices back.

I did a search today looking for a particular service–and 33 results came up. That should be more than enough, right?

It would be except that they were for 3 different companies–in their various locations. Some of the locations are over 50 miles away.

That is not local. At least not in my town.

So Google–fix this fiasco! When I’m searching for a local service, I want local. I am not going to drive to Denver to find it when I know I can get it here. And I certainly do not need a listing of every single store in a chain. Not helpful.




Google Changes Names Again

If you run a local business then chances are very good you have a web page courtesy of Google.

Hopefully you already knew that! google-plus-240px

It is fantastic that Google has created these pages–they can really help your business get found, but really only if you set them up correctly. And maintain them.

If you haven’t already claimed your page, or if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you can start at the very beginning. Which as Sister Maria would tell you is “a very good place to start”. Amen to that!

However if you have already claimed your page some time ago then you may be confused about “Google My Business” and what that means. Google, in their infinite wisdom, after creating these pages has insisted on changing the names of these pages numerous times.  Google My Business is the latest incarnation.

There are some advantages to the GMB structure in that you can now have a brand page become a local page.  Click here to read more about that.

This is the link to the Google support center for more information on Google My Business, Google Places and Google+ for businesses.

So no matter what these pages are called, Google Places, Google Local, Google+, or even Google My Business, they are only a good business tool if you know HOW to use them–and then take the steps to get them working for you.




Image Search Worth it or Waste of Time?

In the ever changing world of SEO (search engine optimization) and Google what worked well for you as a business owner yesterday may not work today.

Case in point is Image Search. Google has again changed their algorithms (you’ve heard of Penguin and Panda, right?) and while they pull your images if you have tagged them correctly, they have made it harder for the user to get to YOUR site–which is generally what you want to achieve.

If you want to read more about this, here is a great article with lots of examples and pictures: elk at Mariana Butte golf course

Taking the time to properly tag your images used to be worth it. Is it still? Well, I hate to say it, but it depends.

You can still get some “juice” from the tagged photos and you may even have people click to your site, but it appears that fewer will than before. We all know that the more clicks it takes to get anywhere the fewer people will follow through.

Rather than taking all that time to SEO every image on your site, tag the ones that are the most useful and the most likely that someone will actually get the information you want. Remember, when tagging your local business images don’t follow traditional “SEO” guidelines–they are for national and international search. You want people in your town or region to come to your business, so tag using LOCAL criteria.

When choosing images, just as in choosing content, for your site, select items that are interesting and relevant to your customers and your area. That is the BEST way to have your site work for you locally.

For example, if you run a local golf course posting a photo about a golfer may not provide much interest, nor be locally relevant. Celebrity golfers on your course perhaps, but they are going to have their photos in many places, so the “juice” you get will be limited. However, posting a photo of  the local elk herd enjoying the view may actually get you more attention. So maybe if you can get the celebrity WITH the elk…



Google Business Apps Right for Your Local Business?

As a small, local business you may have received a notice from Google about their new Google Business Apps and wondered what it was all about. After all, doesn’t Google provide their Apps for free? Why should I pay for them?

Google Business Apps includes the free stuff you may (or may not) already be using such as gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs…which are all free (at least for now) but it does go beyond that– and is appropriate for some businesses, but not all.

Are you using Google calendar or docs now? Whether or not you use them will not be affected by moving  to Google Business Apps unless you have storage concerns or more users than the free version supports.

If you don’t have a lot of meetings at your business, if you are an office of 2 that are always together, the calendar function may not be useful to you at all.

Google Docs might be helpful if officemates or business colleagues need to share any forms, spreadsheets. For very small businesses this can generally be handled with the free version.

One advantage for businesses without a website is that the Business Gmail will have your company name as opposed to @gmail address.

There are also lots of other apps available, just like you can get apps for your smartphone, from 3rd parties that are helpful for some businesses. But you would need to search through the Marketplace to find the apps that you want to use. If you find one or two that save you time or help you be organized, reach customers, then yes, it could be worth the monthly fee of $5/month.

If you think you might want to try it they do have a free 30 day trial.

Comparison between the free Google products and the Google Business Apps:

If you want to know more about the Google Business Apps features:

This is an inexpensive feature that if it helps you can be worth the money. Each business will have to weigh how they would use it however. There is no reason to buy it if it won’t benefit you. Sure, it is cheap at only $5/month…but, I don’t know about you, but I can think of several charities who would be thrilled to have a few people give them an extra $5 a month.

Local Business Helped or Harmed by New Google Search, plus Your World

Google announced yesterday that they are launching “Search, plus Your World” claiming that this will be revolutionary for people searching on the internet. While this may be helpful for some search purposes, it may be harmful for others–or benign at best.

What will the impact be on local business search?

Only time will tell for certain, but it appears that it will place even more emphasis on the importance of getting positive feedback from customers as well as having a presence on social media. Less emphasis on traditional SEO and more on getting conversations going and putting more and more content out on the web.

First, to summarize the Search, plus Your World, it is just being launched and will be rolling out over time as is normal for any big changes from Google. So, what you see today and what you see “tomorrow” may be radically different. Again, nothing new when dealing with Google. Search, plus Your World only works if you are signed in to and, at least for now, only works if you are searching in English.

While touted to increase the uniqueness of your search vs a search on the same term by your neighbor or BFF, it appears that there is greater weight put on Google+ and YouTube content at the expense of competitors such as Facebook.

This shouldn’t be a surprise since Google+ and YouTube are both properties owned by Google. Facebook has already been coordinating similar search results with Microsoft’s search engine Bing and sharing content with sites like Yelp, Pandora and Spotify.

This all reeks a bit of 1984 to me and rather than broadening our horizons, “personalizing” our searches may instead make our worlds more lopsided. If Facebook is any indication, while you can find lots of great information there, your stream (or wall) is flooded with what Facebook deems is the most relevant to you. The problem is because they are pre-filtering content unless you go out and seek out your other friends who post less frequently, you are apt to be taken down a more and more narrow path.

What does this mean for local search for business? Well, it could mean that potential customers do not find your business quite as easily, especially if you have been relying on traditional SEO. However, if you have embraced social media and are developing a following then your local business can do very well with this change.

Read Google’s official post about Search, plus Your World including what they are doing to protect privacy in these personalized searches.

If you have not yet embraced social media, you still have the opportunity to take advantage of it to market your local business and bring in new customers. Rather than thinking of it as something more you have to do, think of it as an extension of your existing customer relations projects and word of mouth advertising–because even on the internet, that is advertising that works!

Google Antitrust Violation?

Maybe it is a sign of success, or maybe it is just…seems everyone has an opinion about the FTC opening an investigation into Google’s practices.

Few will deny that Google is the dominant force in internet search and advertising. The goal of the investigation is reportedly to determine whether Google has been abusing that position.

What does this mean for consumers? No one can be quite sure. I’m not predicting that Google will go the way of former telephone mega-giant AT&T, but I’m not saying they will come out unscathed either.

The truth about the internet is that it is still in its infancy and therefore things are constantly changing and will continue to do so.

I find that most people I talk to still use Google as their #1 choice in search. With more and more options available that may change, but for now businesses still deserve to put a lot of emphasis on how they appear in a Google search. This includes having a Places page as well as listing your business in other sources such as Yelp.

There is no hard and fast rule that will fit for every business regarding advertising on the internet (paid or free–being visible is a form of advertising!) So much of where you list your business depends on where your company is, what your service market area is, and how people look for the services you offer now, especially how people who are potential customers or clients of YOURS will search for you. What works for a dog trainer in Manhattan may not be the best solution for someone Loveland.

Don’t let the FTC scare you away from Google. Even if the worst happens for the internet giant, that will be a long way down the road. While I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t tell you what will happen, I can tell you if you don’t use them now in the appropriate way for YOUR business, then your business cannot possibility benefit from Google.

Google Panda Update Goes Global

Here in the US we have been dealing with the repercussions of Panda since February…well, world, get ready it is your turn!

Not sure what the Google “Panda” (aka “Farmer”) update is? Read more in this article from WebProNews.

Whether this will hurt or help small businesses in the long-run is still topic of much discussion. In the meantime, give your customers good content. Focus on what you do well and don’t try to “game” the system. If you follow those guidelines you will probably be okay.

And remember–Google may be powerful, but they are not the only game in town.

Making sure your Local Search and Social Media campaigns are balanced helps keep your business from suffering too much when (definitely “when” not “if”) any particular player changes the rules!

If you aren’t sure if your business is represented in a balanced way then contact your internet marketing provider and ask for an update.

And if you’ve been trying to do this all yourself, this is a great time to delegate that to someone else so you can get back to focusing on your business and leave the marketing to folks like us.