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):
â€¢They had outsourced their search marketing to a firm in Seattle
â€¢The management team was unaware of the Maps issue until their inbox was bulging with Google Alerts on Monday
â€¢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?
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
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: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. ,
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?
Mike: “we are a privately held company with very little public knowledge of the face behind the mask.” is not very
THere is a certain anomynity to IM
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.
yourtechpros: I wanted to withhold who I was until you knew the facts.
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.
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
yourtechpros: one moment
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
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
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
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
Mike:Yes, there is no really easy way to get around the Google expectation that there be a physical address
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.
Mike:Both drove more traffic than your previous web marketing campaigns?
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.
Mike:Could you track if the response was to the “OneBox” on the main results page or from inside of Maps?
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
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
“If I tell you, I will have to kill you”?
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.
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org ?
yourtechpros: I have a conference call in 2 mins, I will have to talk to you after that, or we can talk whenever
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.TechPro's CEO speaks about Google Maps Bulk Upload abuse by Mike Blumenthal