Is Google Finally Responding to Small Business Complaints?
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.