TechPro’s CEO speaks about Google Maps Bulk Upload abuse

This morning I had a long and interesting conversation with the President & CEO Gabriel Howard of TechPros, one of the companies that was involved in the Bulk Upload issues reported last week. The interview is lengthy and is included at the end of this post in its entirety.

The upshot (as reported by the company):

•They had outsourced their search marketing to a firm in Seattle

•The management team was unaware of the Maps issue until their inbox was bulging with Google Alerts on Monday

•On Monday, they requested that the search firm remove all of the listings.

The interview is a case study in how a good idea can go bad without proper oversight and understanding, how privacy is not possible in the realm of the internet, how small businesses need to understand what they are buying when they buy Search services and ultimately how powerful a marketing tool Google Maps really is.

Here is the interview in full (you should make your own mind up as to TechPro’s responsibilty and fault):

yourtechpros: Hi Mike, this is Joe from TechPros

Mike: Hi Joe

Sorry if I have caused you any problems

yourtechpros: ok, I see that you have been having some fun in the blogging world

yourtechpros: no problems, actually you brought to our attention some things that were being done that we had no knowledge of.

Mike: I would love to cover your side of the conversation….

I tried to call but couldn’t figure out who to talk to

yourtechpros: well I will give it to your very shortly…

Mike:What is your role at the company?

10:10 AM

yourtechpros: right now, that is not important

Mike: Facts are important to me…

yourtechpros: Basically, we had a company that will remain anonymous for now, that was hired out to start driving web traffic and you obviously see what they did.

Mike: I see

yourtechpros: We are in fact a nationwide company with over 11,000 technicians, serving all of the U.S. so

they saw local business ads as an opportunity

Mike: How long were the postings actually in place?

yourtechpros: We never wanted anything negative to come back on us, nor were we at all trying to be spammers

Mike: I understand

yourtechpros: They were in place for roughly 2 weeks, to the best of my knowledge

yourtechpros: two days ago, we started pulling the ads down…

yourtechpros: they should all be down in fact.

Mike: This question may seem weird but I am interested if the Maps listings generated significant phone or web traffic? I am curious about the power of Maps

yourtechpros: we will come back to that in a minute.

Mike: Did Google contact you or did you just start removing them?

yourtechpros: no Google did not contact us, we removed them ourselves.

yourtechpros: I think it is important to bring to people that may live out in the sticks, if you will to have computer repair service available, if we have a tech within 60 miles

Mike: Yes I understand your problem and the reason Maps seems like a solution

10:15 AM

Mike:At the moment Google really has no mechanism for your type of business in Maps

yourtechpros: as far as the company using the P.O. Boxes, was wrong and incorrect, we did not in fact have

those P.O. Boxes, so that was unacceptable on their part for doing that.

Mike:Yes I would agree

Are you also associated with RentAGeeks?

yourtechpros: I believe that you take a company like ours that has over 11,000 technicians across the U.S.

and provide a better more reliable service than your “Geek Squad” who charges $125 per hour from the time

they leave Best Buy. Our rate is $99 per hour from the time that we arrive onsite.

yourtechpros: No, not at all they are a company out of Orlando, FL, I believe…

Mike:Their listings which were similar are also no longer there

yourtechpros: Interesting… I do not have an answer for that, but they are in fact a complete separate

business entity, that was the first that we had ever seen of them.

Mike:How did you hear of this “controversy”?

yourtechpros: we have “Google Alerts” on our name…. It was blowing up our alerts mailbox.

Mike:Ahh….

10:20 AM

Mike:Do you think the publicity will affect your business?

yourtechpros: That being a good thing, we want to know of anything that someone may be saying about our

company, we strive to provide absolute honest service.

yourtechpros: I do not see why it would. If you even see some of the blogs, the people are saying, this is a

nationwide company, that does service that area, they are not spammers, etc…. so on and so forth.

yourtechpros: We sure have not seen anything that would show that.

Mike:Good, I wouldn’t think that given the limited scope of my audience that it would affect you one way or the

other…Did your company take the listings down or did the company that you hired take them down?

yourtechpros: We instructed them immediately once we got wind of this to pull the listings down.

Mike:That might explain why RentaGeeks is also down

yourtechpros: Although I sure wish that you would have called us and let us know, before you blew up our

name. I cannot speak for RentaGeeks but I do know that we pulled ours down.

yourtechpros: You said that you tried to call, and what happened?

Mike:You will have to excuse me for not having spoken with you. I did call and speak with a rep but couldn’t figure out how

to get ahold of you. ,

10:25 AM

yourtechpros: they would not transfer you to any of the executive team.

Mike:And I couldn’t find contact info for the exec team on the site or at whois

which raised my curiosity

BTW…I still do not really know with whom I am speaking

yourtechpros: we are a privately held company with very little public knowledge of the face behind the

mask.. We are a U.S. based company with all of our call center held here in the U.S. nothing is outsourced.

Mike:The rep said he was located in Nashville

yourtechpros: Most of our executive decisions are handled in our corporate headquarters in Nashville, TN

behind closed doors. Do you know the rep’s name?

no

Mike: “we are a privately held company with very little public knowledge of the face behind the mask.” is not very

forthcoming

THere is a certain anomynity to IM

yourtechpros: ?

Mike:I do not know that you are who you say you are

I do not know if you represent the company

If you do, I do not know in what capacity

While I am inclined to believe you, you have given me no real “facts”

yourtechpros: My name is Gabriel Howard, and I am the President / CEO of the company

Mike:Nice o meet you.

10:30 AM

yourtechpros: I wanted to withhold who I was until you knew the facts.

Mike:why?

yourtechpros: Because I would not have any control on what you do once we leave this conversation, but

now that it is all on the table, there is nothing to hide. Everything that was done, was done not knowing of the

executive team, and thats why we are here having this conversation

Mike:If you tell me something in confidence and do not wanted it reported, I will not report it.

That being said, I need some reasonable idea about who you are, how what happened to you etc

and I need to trust those “facts”

yourtechpros: report the truth… We are not by any means spammers, we are a company offering better

service than anyone in the marketplace at a better rate.

Mike:I find no personal reference to you on gogle in Nashville

Do you live in La Follette?

yourtechpros: me, or TechPros?

yourtechpros: No I do not.

10:35 AM

Mike:the only reference to Gabriel Howard in TN was a resident in La Follette

so I am still in the situation of not really knowing if you are who you say you are

yourtechpros: Call me directly at XXX-XXX-XXXX, that is my cell

Mike:Sure in a bit

yourtechpros: you will also see that the 615 area code is nashville. I will not give you where I live.

yourtechpros: I am who I say I am. I am a former Marine with nothing but integrity.

Mike:I don’t need to know where you live, nor do I care. What I care is that you in fact represent TechPros

yourtechpros: Everything that I have told you is truth.

yourtechpros: Give me your email address, I will email you my contact info from my TechPros email

Mike:mike@blumenthals.com

yourtechpros: one moment

Thanks

Mike: So give me some background on TechPros…how long in business, etc

And give me some of your background…ie what did you do between Marines and TechPros

10:40 AM

If you don’t mind

yourtechpros: TechPros has now been in business 2 years, previous to that it was a consulting company in

Washington DC where I held a DOD Contract at the Pentagon.

yourtechpros: Moved down from DC 2 years and started the company here in Nashville.

Mike:How many employees?

yourtechpros: 16 Employees, including 4 Executive Management Team, 5 Local Techs, 4 Account

Managers, 3 Call Center Representatives.

yourtechpros: 16 in the corporate office

Mike:Can you share a little info about your search marketing firm? (no need for names) Are they local? or National?

yourtechpros: then we have our 11,000 technicians across the nation

yourtechpros: They are a national company our of Seattle, Washington, I can say no more at this point.

Mike:These 11,000 are independent contractors? That you locate how?

yourtechpros: These 11,000 are not all independent, some are full time employees, in major cities, for

example, in New York City we have 5 techs to work on contracts that we have, and then in Atlanta, we have 3

techs.

Mike:Did they (the search firm) explain in broad terms that they were going to use Maps?

yourtechpros: Not so much, when we sat down with them, it was we need to drive web traffic, and someone

decided outside of our knowing that this was the way to do it.

Mike:How were you marketing your business and website prior to hiring this Seattle company?

yourtechpros: We have been using several different methods. National Campaigns, online & print.

Mike:And how long have you been with them?

yourtechpros: I would not like to so much go into our marketing, outside of the google maps marketing.

yourtechpros: I founded the company in 2005.

Mike:I am just trying to understand the context of the decision (in a broad sense) of how you came to internet

marketing, and how that led to Maps

10:50 AM

yourtechpros: I see we had been with the firm for 6 months.

Mike:Clearly your business model is not one that Google really speaks to in any significant way….local is too local

and organic is too broad

yourtechpros: I agree, like I said previously, I would like to see that Google will provide to people out in the

sticks as well as people in metropolitan area.

yourtechpros: With our 11,000 technicians spread out the way that they are, we can cover all of the U.S.

Mike:Why not put their addresses into maps?

yourtechpros: That is something we actually spoke of yesterday, one problem with that, you have John Doe,

technician in Chicago, IL and he works out of his home and you do not want to broadcast to the world his home

address

Mike:Yes, there is no really easy way to get around the Google expectation that there be a physical address

yourtechpros: Exactly

yourtechpros: So what is Google saying?

Mike:Did the Maps campaign drive significant web traffic?

yourtechpros: Yes it did.

Mike:Did it drive significant phone traffic?

yourtechpros: Yes more than web.

10:55 AM

Mike:Both drove more traffic than your previous web marketing campaigns?

yourtechpros: Exactly…

Mike:Have you explored and/or used “Long tail search” strategies on your website? Ie generating pages like

Computer Repair Olean NY?

yourtechpros: Yes we are currently doing this.

Mike:so compared to this “location + service” stategy the Maps was infinitely more successful?

Was the response more in urban or rural areas?

yourtechpros: Yes alot more successful.

yourtechpros: Both

Mike:Could you track if the response was to the “OneBox” on the main results page or from inside of Maps?

11:00 AM

yourtechpros: Yes to an extent, but both of those forwarding URL’s are coming from maps.google.com

yourtechpros: I would say the “OneBox”

yourtechpros: We were marketing onsite computer repair, people do not care where you are located.

Mike:I understand. But they do want to know that they are dealing with a reputable company

yourtechpros: absolutely.

Mike:So why then are you not more forth coming on your site/whois record about ownership and management

contact? I, speaking as a consumer, always likes to know that I can get ahold of who ever is in charge if I have

to.

11:05 AM

“If I tell you, I will have to kill you”?

(DOD joke)

yourtechpros: If you check all major fortune 500 companies whois record, and it will be held as private. That

is an option with your domain registrar

and your site?

yourtechpros: Yes it is

yourtechpros: There are alot of mass spam that check whois records for email address to spam to as well.

yourtechpros: there are many reasons why you do this.

Mike:Yes what is?

yourtechpros: well the first two I just stated, and many more.. You can check it out if you search on google

Mike:I can find nothing on your site providing me as a consumer a way to contact management. I only see 7 pages

yourtechpros: That is a good point, and I will meet the team this afternoon, and discuss putting that on the

right side of the contact page. That is something we recently discussed.

11:10 AM

Mike:So once this campaign became successful for you, did you notice the use of same address for each listing?

yourtechpros: It was not brought even to our attention until Monday, and we started pulling down Monday

evening.

Mike:Are you at work now?

May I call you there?

yourtechpros: I am actually working out of the home this morning, and going to an offsite meeting later this

morning.

11:15 AM

yourtechpros: You can call my toll free # at 877-TECH-101 (877-832-4101) ext. 601 as soon as the voice

prompt picks up

Mike:OK…will I get your voice mail? (BTW I didn’t get your email…did you send or did my spam filter eat it?)

yourtechpros: I sent it. Your spam filter must have ate it?

yourtechpros: subject was TechPros

could you send it again to supportrapidweb@gmail.com ?

yourtechpros: I have a conference call in 2 mins, I will have to talk to you after that, or we can talk whenever

this afternoon.

Mike:Cool

yourtechpros: ok you should have it.

Mike:Anything beside your current relationship with the search company that I shouldn’t publish?

yourtechpros: Just make sure that it is the truth… Not twisted or turned.

I have told nothing but the truth so help me God…

Please send me a link, once or if you do publish this

MikeI wouldn’t invoke God in this conversation, unless your nickname is Joe

yourtechpros:that is true.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
TechPro's CEO speaks about Google Maps Bulk Upload abuse by

8 thoughts on “TechPro’s CEO speaks about Google Maps Bulk Upload abuse”

  1. Wow, Mike:

    1. Per this discussion that strategy works wonders for the business.
    2. If the comments are true then G maps desperately needs to expedite its ability to correct abuses of the system. G didn’t cleanse the system, the company itself did.
    3. I’m looking at some geek squad capabilities to help my business. I wouldn’t use them. They can’t have quality control on 11,000 contracted people around the country with such a small hq staff.
    4. The two examples of bulk advertisng are amazing examples of web advertising and driving business. Since they were both showing up with some kind of brand name…I wonder if they were doing any supplementary advertising to drive people to the brand name…rather than more generic queries like computer repair.

    In any case this is a fascinating study of exploiting maps.

    Dave

  2. Hi Dave

    Yes the question of whether Google took them down is an intersting one. I have no reason to not believe Gabriel but it was curious that RentAGeek went down at exactly the same time. I do not have a reason for that yet.

    By the sonds of it, it drove lots of business. If Google does not monitor this activity and change procedures there will be many a quick buck made…post 20,000 addresses for 2 weeks then take ‘em down. And has been pointed out it will compromise the value and integrity of Google’s data set.

    Mike

  3. I’ll put money on the Seattle SEO firm also working for RentaGeek and not telling Techpros they have a client conflict. They probably pulled the RentaGeek listings at the same time they pulled the Techpros listings.

  4. Hi Andrew-

    Yes that is a very good possiblity and as of yet there is no real evidence that Google intervened. The m.o. was identical and certainly the firm seems willing to operate on the darker side.

    One test will be to see how long Google takes to respond to the case the “we buy houses” report.

    Mike

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