Half Truths and Local SEO

I found this post in the Google Places forum of interest. I hear many stories in the Local SEO world of half truths being used to confuse or obfuscate what is being done. What is your take in this case?

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Can ezlocal delete my places page when I stop using their services even though I am the one that created it prior?
cmoo

Level 1
10/18/11
Topic of your question (reviews, categories, duplicate listing, etc.):I am a small business owner and I had created a places page a couple years ago.  last year I hired ezlocal to manage it, but want to stop using their services now.  They informed me that if I terminate with them, they will delete my account and I will have to start my places page all over.Can they do this even though it was created by me with my username/pw long prior to me allowing them to manage it?Is there anyway to prevent them from deleting my account without having to basically pay them off every month?

Thanks

CM

Replies 1 – 9 of 9
jim.jaggers

Level 8
10/18/11
You said you created the Places page before hiring EzLocal.  What happened to the account you originally created it in?  Is the Place page still in that account?  Do you still control that account?
 

 

mblumenthal

Top Contributor
10/18/11
They may have claimed the listing into their own account or a different account than you originally created.If that is the case then you need to determine what they mean by delete.
1)In Google Places delete can mean one of two things. So it may not be as bad as they threaten.
In the first option provided under the delete button: Remove this listing from my Google Places account, Google simply returns the listing to Places/Maps index and it can be claimed by someone else
In the second option under the delete button: Remove this listing from Google Maps, Google suspends the listing and no longer shows it in Places/Maps.
You should ascertain exactly what they are referring to. If it is the second, come back to the forum and report them to  Google via this post.
2)If they did recreate the listing in a different account the ideal solution is for Ezlocal to turn the account over to you.
You should call EZLocal and ask them for the user account and password to dashboard for your business listing. They should do so as they are only acting on your behalf in relation to Google.
3)If they refuse to do so or if they delete it via the first method above, you can still manage the listing in the first account that you created.
It sounds as if they are leveraging your lack of knowledge to attempt to get you to stay on as a customer. It seems inappropriate.
 

1 of 2 people found this answer helpful.

cmoo

Level 1
9:40 AM
I did speak with them and they meant “remove” it from Google places/maps.  They claim that since they are partners with Google, they have the right to do that.It was a places page that I created and have username/PW to it, but when I hired them on, I gave them the username/PW so that they could maintain it.Now, I still can log in and make edits, etc. because the username/PW is still the same.   Initially, I am thinking that if I change the PW, which I can do, then that may lock them out.Also, I want to report this to Google because it sounded fishy, but not sure how to outside of this discussion forum.

Google did call me a few of months ago to verify the listing.  So, I guess I am still listed as the owner on their end???

Thanks for you feedback.

 

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mblumenthal

Top Contributor
9:43 AM
Edit
They claim that since they are partners with Google, they have the right to do that.

This is total BS. They have no special relation with Google in regards to YOUR Places listing.
Yes, you should change the password as soon as possible.
If you contact me via my profile, I will see what I can do.
 

0 of 4 people found this answer helpful.

thecordman

Level 1
10:08 AM
@cmoo My name is Jorge and I am a customer service representative here at EZlocal. To clear things up for you when a business decides to terminate their contract with us here, the first thing we do is release the places page that we built for you, we do not delete the listing off Google Maps. From there you can claim the listing back into your possession and manage it from your own account.Not knowing your business name or anything, it’s hard to comment on this situation but in some cases we will get the business owners login information to make sure that the information we are using and distributing to the search directories all matches.@mblumenthal we do not claim to be a partner with Google in regards to their Places Listing. The misunderstanding there is that we are in fact a Google Adwords Certified Partner.If you contact me via my profile, I will see what I can do.

 

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cmoo

Level 1
10:34 AM
Jorge,  Thanks for your comments.  That is pretty much what the sales rep told me as well and I have no problem with that, however; that is NOT what was told to me when I spoke with CS about termination.I understand that if the places page was created by you, you would have control/ownership.  But, the places page was entirely created by me and was already highly ranked prior to obtaining your services.  I hired ezlocal on because of time restraints on my end to help with managing it while I run my business.  Now that I want to take control of it back I was told that it would come off the map.  Maybe there was a misunderstanding, maybe there is a CS rep that doesn’t completely understand, I don’t know what is going on, but I think that some folks at ezlocal just want to create a distorted perception in order to prevent services being discontinued.If it is alright, may I contact you via email/ or off of this blog site for further info?Thanks

 

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thecordman

Level 1
10:38 AM
Just ask for me.

 

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ChillzDaSpine

Level 1
10:39 AM
It sounds like they took over the listing have released it, allowing you to claim the profile. They should not be required to instruct you in how to continue without them, I agree it is leveraging knowledge as that is the value of a consultant is it not?

 

 

mblumenthal

Top Contributor
11:29 AM
@ChillzDaSpine
Not if half truths are used in the sales process to deceive in an effort to create fear and uncertainty about leaving the service.
Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Half Truths and Local SEO by

28 thoughts on “Half Truths and Local SEO”

  1. Looks like the customer may have been confused and the company reached out to try to settle this. How do we know that there were half truths spoken here when we can see both ends of the spectrum (client/customer)

    I have followed your blog for while and read a lot of your posts on Google and I have noticed that you are quite the basher when it comes to other companies. Have you never lost a customer that was unhappy?

  2. As if we need more half-truths and uncertainty in the local search ecosystem!

    Cheap tactics, better to direct energy & resources at genuine retention efforts rather than trying to put a band-aid where staples belong.

  3. How frustrating. Met with a potential client yesterday with a worse situation – marketing firm claimed their Places pages for them and they don’t have the log in.

  4. @V
    I have most certainly lost clients because they were unhappy. That however, is a straw man argument.

    The question should be “Do I attempt to keep them with less than truthful comments?”

    There are other more germane questions in this case. “Was the employee representing the actual position of the company or were they speaking out of turn?”

    Another, given your thinking I am a basher: “Were any of my statements false or untrue?”

    Regardless, I am a big believer in accountability and transparency. May I ask who you work for?

    @Chris
    Exactly. If this band-aid was employee created then better training is in order… If it was company generated well… I think they need a new business plan.

  5. There are 2 reasons I would never use a service like this. The first is that I’m solicited by 2 or 3 of them per day, and they all have gmail and aol email addresses (and that’s confidence inspiring). The other is that they have way too much opportunity to make your life difficult if you make them angry or hurt their feelings… like having the nerve to cancel your account.

    I have a feeling there are 2 typical responses to an account cancelation depending on the circumstances. If the customer is working on limited knowledge, by all means fear can be leveraged to keep that account/customer on board. If someone influential becomes involved, the story changes. I’m not involved in this business at all, but have read more than my fair share of the same stories and tactics.

    And BTW Mike, I’ve read your (truthful) comments and the same lame arguments against them in most cases before. It’s nice to have people advocating for small businesses to help them reduce their chances of being taken advantage of. Knowledge is power. ;)

  6. And to the people at EZlocal, this is not a condemnation of your company in particular, but I tend to fall on the wary side of the fence when it comes to these stories.

  7. Mike, I was actually following the thread on the forum all along and I was very happy to see you coming in and commenting. I believe that was the only way to trigger some actual ezlocal rep to stop by and start defending themselves with ridiculous explanations of how the business owner did not understand what they actually meant. And I am very happy that you gave some more exposure to this story here. I believe it is clear to everyone who V is working for.

  8. In the local internet marketing space, there are plenty of entities that utilize customer retentions strategies that are… let’s say NOT best practices. However, with the transparency of the internet, eventually organizations that use fear-based tactics will be fleshed out and exposed. I wouldn’t put it past any person or company to try these strategies. There are definitely some nefarious companies out there. We hear horror stories all the time. @V I find it interesting that you are questioning the person who would most likely be considered the most helpful person on the web with respect to Google Places. If you really do read his blog and content all the time, why do you only offer ONE comment? And why not be transparent yourself by listing your full name? Nobody keeps 100% of their clients. Never happens. Anybody who tells you otherwise is a liar. And in no way does Mike “bash” anyone! Sorry Mike, but it needs to be said. Mike’s comments in the post are professional and honest. If people can’t handle constructive criticism, then they shouldn’t be in business. Had ezlocal’s employee been better trained (assuming it was an honest mistake), the thread never would have happened. Regardless, it is ezloacal’s responsibility to take ownership of the miscommunication and remedy the problem. That is just one part of running an ethical business. And thank goodness, that the customer is complaining! A great company WANTS to know when they have an unhappy or disgruntled customer. It’s called reputation management. If I have an unhappy client, I want to know NOW! Otherwise, how can my company evolve and get better? So Mike THANK YOU for helping to keep our industry clean and our standard ethical. You are appreciated!

  9. @V, everyone loses clients who are either unhappy or who simply move on to new things. I second Mike’s statement that the question here is: should one keep clients by giving them half-truths?

    I can guarantee that Mike’s answer to that would be ‘no’ for himself. And I don’t see him as bashing this particular business.

    It’s impossible to know what this business owner was actually told over the phone. Whether 1) he was intentionally mislead or 2) he misunderstood what he was told. His help forum post is worth highlighting here on this blog, because if one person is running into this situation, probably lots of people are.

    Thanks, Mike, for the reportage. I know that I have experienced numerous scenarios in which customer service people misrepresented actual company policy out of their own ignorance. It does happen.

  10. Mike:

    This year I’ve run into several large scale web marketing firms that essentially seem to do several things that prey on smb’s.

    They take full control of the marketing programs, and refilter the information about the activity and results to the smb’s. In fact the smb’s don’t see the information from the sources, such as Google Places in this case, or via analytics from one company or another, nor from ppc sources. In all cases, the marketing firms repackage all that information, represent in a glossy format, yet hide critical details from the smb’s.

    Somehow threatening to delete a places listing as coercion to maintain a client and continue to charge them falls into this category of deceptive marketing.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if Google took a hard stand with these businesses? If they have remarketing rights, if they have a sort of “agent’s deal” with google on placing ppc ads, then Google should step in to somewhat police these businesses.

    In the case you present here, this business operator posted in Google’s Places Forum, where Google personnel review the commentary. Google had every opportunity to clean up this mess…..and in so doing, look like a bright knight in shining armor.

    They didn’t. You had to step in, once again.

    When is Google going to start sending you payments for providing customer service???

  11. If one client is complaining on the Google Places forum, I’m betting a hundred clients have gotten this same treatment and suffered in silence…not necessarily EZ Local’s clients, but clients of other providers.

    The FTC and the FBI need to dig into this. Some of the behavior in this space (and I’m not accusing EZ Local of this) may rise to the level of felony extortion.

  12. @Miriam
    Yes so true. Sometimes its the company, sometimes its their employee and sometimes its the customer. There is never a single universal truth in all of this except to say that education of the SMB is critical to their ability to filter through it.

    @EarlPearl

    Yes, in a nascent industry, confronted by the complexity that is Google Places all too many companies have predicated their success on “riding the ignorance curve”. It is a very short term strategy because word does get out and business owners get more savvy.

    @Al
    There are many reports thats for sure. And some Local SEO behaviors are worse than others and surely warrant closer oversight.

  13. Bad actors can put a stink on us all. It is difficult to educate every SMB on what they can do with their Place Page when they drop the service. The service provider is probably not inclined to spend much time educating them at the point of cancellation. Dropping it, rather than deleting it should be an obvious best practice in our industry. It’s never helpful to the long term health of your business to be vindictive toward former customers. That word will pass faster than any great service you’ve provided them.. guaranteed.

  14. @Michael

    I would suggest that best practice would be to put all listings for any given business into one dashboard/analytics account with a disposable email account that be turned over to the business upon termination of the contract.

  15. IMO Google could help themselves, the business owners and us if they would come out with some kind of certification program for Places like they have for Adwords. Clearly Google cannot manage the scope of this program on their own and business owners are clueless.

  16. @Jim

    The first thing they should be doing is making the Places Dashboard user friendly, bug free and easy to understand. If Places worked better and the issues were better understood, fewer businesses would be at the mercy of experts. The second thing they need to do is up their service level and provide answers.

    Perhaps after that there should be a certification program. :)

  17. I would image that if Google simplified and improved the user experience for business owners in Places, fixed bugs, and provided better help tools and training, as well as better customer service, they would likely see more of those business owners considering local advertising.

    The effort in providing a more understandable and reliable service would go a long way towards having business owners embracing Places.

  18. @Bill
    Exactly.

    There are some some early indications that Google, with the guided troubleshooting system, is at least trying to deal with edge cases and trying to provide a solution to solving some of the intractable problems.

    The doesn’t solve the bugs and quirkiness but it would solve the long standing problem of ignoring those bit by bugs. Here’s hoping.

  19. @exlocal – why don’t you present the verbiage in the their service agreement related to cancellation of services. That should clarify matters.

  20. I agree with Bill. Google Places definitely doesn’t make it easy for businesses to fully understand the power of a place page. If there was better documentation and support, I think issues like this would disappear.

  21. Anyone claiming to have any affiliation with Google that’s trying to sell you anything to do with SEO is not legitimate. Move on!

  22. +100,000% #17 Mike & #22 Jim Ryan – Best practices, law of 7ps and separate organizational acct, and clearly communicated exit process.

    @Vin – better support, totally agree. But better documentation would still be for the mktg company in control anyway (us, you – I wish more of me..).

    Most SMBs wouldn’t take the time to read never mind know where to look.

    Bottom line is its still up to the company/person being paid in exchange for a service to accurately and transparently communicate.

    Who know where I was going with this…more documentation, and it would still be up to someone to educate the local SMBs.

    Its just doing business as it should be done. Unfortunately the present environment is ripe for everything in between (not saying anything toward anyone specific – being very general).

  23. @Chris

    As you point out the ” Unfortunately the present environment is ripe for everything”… in that context it often doesn’t serve a firm to not behave in a similar fashion if it creates additional profits needed to compete.

    Not a great situation and not one that I care to participate in but it sure makes the world we live in a very exciting place.

  24. Very true Mike…unarguable wisdom, as usual.

    Very difficult to be the good guy and not finish last, but the sleep is better.
    And just very difficult, not impossible…just don’t finish as quick.

    And who says we have to finish at all! nyuk nyuk

  25. And who says we have to finish at all! nyuk nyuk

    The unfortunate reality is that there is too much truth in that, not just for us individually and business wide, but society at large… we may be stopped dead in our tracks (as it were)

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