The Sound of Trouble Knocking – A Call from Google Places India

When Google wants to verify information about a business and when unable to verify it in a fully automated way, they have someone call that business. The calls can result in suspensions and removals from the index (“We do not support this location”).

The call may be precipitated by a change you made to the listing that could not be automatically verified, it could be precipitated by someone marking you as closed, Google could just be looking for service area businesses that has not properly hidden their address or businesses using fake locations and call forwarding.

Regardless the someone making the call for Google is from India and the calls are always very weird. The Indians don’t always understand what is said and for sure, don’t understand the pace of our lives. The calls are somewhat jarring and out of context, the caller only identifies themselves as from Google if asked directly and they are inevitably viewed with suspicion by the local business.

In this particular case, Precision Door Memphis, is a totally legit business with a long time track record at a location where they accept client visits. Google called from 650-253-2000 and shows up as GOOGLE INC in the caller id but the receptionist did not have that information available to her at the time of the call.

Unfortunately for the business, Google sounded much too much like the daily spam local SEO marketing calls and the receptionist hung up on the first caller. The listing disappeared that night and showed the now infamous “We do not support this location” message. To Google’s credit they called back again to be sure and again, sounding like spammers, the receptionist hung up on them.

Here are the actual recordings of the calls.

The first call:

And four days later another call:

Your thoughts? Have you gotten these calls? How did your organization respond? What should Google do differently when human verifying the calls?

A note of caution. On each recording the initial sound (shown as two, wide vertical segments) of the ringing is very loud and the subsequent conversations are quite soft. So block your ears for the beginning and crank it up after that section to hear the details

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
The Sound of Trouble Knocking - A Call from Google Places India by

76 thoughts on “The Sound of Trouble Knocking – A Call from Google Places India”

  1. We had several calls like this when we had duplicate listing problems. I’d often get back into the office and a colleague would say something like ‘we had some dodgy call from someone claiming to be from google’.

    To be honest, even when I spoke to the caller and verified our details I wasn’t entirely sure that it wasn’t some kind of scam – though on the plus side the info requested was purely about location of our business. And to their credit, the google guys sorted the problems out (eventually!)

    1. @Jeffrey
      The Spam SEO calls are so much better than the real Google!

      That would make a great tag line for an Indian company catering to the Local SEO market…. are calls suck less. 🙂 Great comment.

  2. The verification human service is almost as good as the customer service, i.e. VERY BAD. I am not an expert, but probably a simple presentation in the beginning of the call + some sort of short explanation on why they are calling is pretty much a norm. However, I don’t think the blame is on the callers, but rather on the people who had to train them. Judging from what I’ve previously heard, and from these two recordings I can conclude that there is no real unified system for doing this. The calls are pretty “free style”, disordered, and completely irrelevant to the daily life of a business. I can’t imagine what would happen if every local directory starts calling businesses in the same manner…

    1. @Nyagoslav

      They sound free style but they are following what I have learned is the “standard” form…. ask dumb question, divulge they are from Google if asked, hang up.

  3. Wow…this was incredibly insightful on so many levels. For starters, what the hell is Google thinking? How hard would it be to properly train these callers on providing a brief introduction on who they are, who they are representing, and the reason for the call? And god forbid let’s not hire Americans to make these calls, but I digress.

    I have to say, though, I’m a bit surprised at how rude the receptionist was. That actually struck me more than how weird the callers from India were. I’m sure she’s busy and gets a lot of calls, but would it kill her to just ask a few more questions herself? And is that normal for receptionists to hang up the phone on people who are simply asking for a business address?

    In my judgement, both parties fail miserably here. The Google callers and the receptionist need better training.

    Travis Van Slooten

    1. @tvanslooten

      Yes there was a bit of an edge to her but as I understand the context she gets “crank” seo calls almost every day and sometimes multiple times a day. She gets very few callers with Indian accents otherwise so some of this is a Pavlovian response to the annoyances of that a busy attendant has to deal with.

      Regardless (and I do agree that she could have done better), the situation is typical of what Google will experience. They need to develop a better way of circumventing this very issue.

  4. It doesn’t sound like any call from India was going to get past this receptionist. 95% of calls we get from India are spammy, so when a call from Google Maps come through, they are often met with this kind of response. While it would be unfortunate for the Indian call centers, I know what I’d do if I was Google… and I’m no PHD 😉

  5. One of my clients received this roughly three weeks ago to verify their address. He said it was a bit odd but verified who he was, what the business does and the address.

    Then 3 weeks later he received a Sales call from a Google Sales rep who personally walked him through setting up an adwords express campaign along with a promo code. I thought this was very interesting. The customer service on the sales rep side was really good. She said things like “call me anytime!”. Really shows how aggressive Google is getting with their bread and butter product.

  6. WOW. What is Google thinking?!?!? Calling SMBs in the middle of a busy day- what do they expect?

    Even if warned my clients’ front desk teams, they’d still hang up. Telemarketers are at the bottom of the totem pole, especially when you have 2 patients waiting to check out and 3 calls on hold.

  7. I had one of these calls a couple of weeks ago. With the Google product changes, they associated a lot of old info my with current Place/+/whatever page. I made some edits one evening and got a strange call the next morning at my office. I happened to be in the vicinity of my receptionist when she answered it. The caller asked if I worked there, what the business address is and asked her to please spell the url of my website.

    My receptionist told me the caller had a thick accent and was difficult to understand, and I noticed she had to repeat details a number of times as though the caller was having difficulty. We talked after she hung up and thought the call seemed very strange. She didn’t ask the caller to identify himself (she’s fairly new 😉 ), but my first thought afterward was that it may be a Google rep verifiying changes.

    It would be nice if Google could supply a crew of people who could empathize with SMBs and apply support accordingly, but alas…

    1. @keith
      Yes, it would seem that since Google is already reaching out and touching the SMB Google should make “first contact” much less painful. It seems like a lost opportunity.

  8. Two things: 1) The google rep would have much greater success if they identified themselves initially and their purpose in oder to help put the call in context. However, anyone with an accent identifying themselves as a google rep is going to come off as a scam.

    2) I LOVE the “oh yeah” at the end of the second call. Simply wonderful.

  9. I like the ending of the second call … “oh yay…”

    I’ve had this happen with a couple clients and I confirm what Alex experienced – Adwords Express is ramping up sales. If my clients aren’t busy they take the time to respond; if they are busy they dont have time to translate broken English.

    Google is messing up in more ways than one right now. Their product is diminishing – but its like watching a slow moving train wreck. They can not get a handle on local, they dont know how to develop a credible solution to service oriented businesses without a brick and mortar (or one location with multiple service areas) – this is just business as usual – Doing it wrong.

    We live in a cynical world and too many companies are cold calling confirming they are Google. When someone FROM Google calls it doesn’t stick. Frankly – i dont know if there is anything that can be done. Use someone that speaks English natively is a good start i guess…

    Maps is a mess and with Plus local – i only see it getting worse.

    1. @Zachary

      As Jeffery pointed out earlier: The Spam SEO calls are so much better than the real Google!

      You would think they should be able to create something that does “stick”.

  10. To be fair, the receptionist was overly suspicious. Obviously the google employees were not very good at their jobs, but they didn’t ask for anything more than information that the business wants out there.

    1. @Jsinger
      The problem is that Google is the more powerful entity in this “transaction”. And as a result of the receptionist be suspicious Google took them out of the results. A nuclear response to a BB gun of rude response.

  11. Interestingly, the analytics show 1 visitor from India on the date of the first call. They entered through ‘direct traffic’. That was the only visitor from India during the month, no surprise.

    There was not a visitor from India on the date of the second call, which implies they are working off a list for the second call, rather than taking the time to view the website and have some understanding about the type of business they are calling. You’d think that would be worth 10 or 15 seconds considering this call will eliminate a small business from the index. Oh…. Yaaaaaahhh!

  12. I have received 2 phone calls in the past week from 2 of my clients that I manage their Google Places (Google+Local) pages for. The caller identifies himself as Robert from Google and says he’s calling because they have not claimed their “Places Website”.

    In both cases my clients Places pages had been fully optimized and ranking in the “A” spot, both have migrated to a Google+Local page on or about June 1st.

    In both cases my clients hung up and called me for advice. I told them since their pages were claimed, had migrated, and we’re still in the A spot, to disregard the call. I am in the process of creating a Google Local Business page for all my clients now.

  13. Mike, you are the best, once again you have original content that no one else ever brings to light.

    This is a great example of very poor public relations, while this business may not be a true Google customer this is incredible, the business clearly is being mishandled.

    PS…looks like this business is using call tracking they should forward this to Google.

    1. @TD

      Thank you for the nod. Much appreciated.

      This was previously forwarded to Google so that they could hear it as well.

      Tremendous lost opportunity for Google.

  14. This is unbelievable. Someone at Google is not playing with a full deck of cards.

    I’m not exactly a fan of canned calls, but I can’t help but think they at least should have had these poor souls follow a script. Something where they say right up front who’s calling and very specifically why.

    Sure, some business owners would hang up no matter what, but the ears of many more would perk up (at least temporarily) if the person from Google said “I’m so-and-so from Google Maps support team, and I have 3 questions about your free local business listing on Google. Can I have 90 seconds of your time?” Their current calls fail because (1) there’s no official “ring” to them (pun not intended) and (2) because the caller simply doesn’t say why she/he is caling.

    With a decent script the callers would sound robotic, but at least they’d more or less get their message across before scaring away the gatekeepers. On the one hand, I guess it’s no skin off Google’s nose if they whisk someone’s business off the map, but then again, if they’re the ones deciding that it’s worth making the calls. Might as well do it right.

  15. @Phil ~ Correction: Clearly GOOGLE is not playing with a full deck of cards. This sort of poor, sloppy unprofessionalism is systemic in their products, services, & strategic decisions. “Boneheadedness” is an appropriate description in this case.

  16. @Jeffrey

    True, true, but ultimately it’s someone at the department level who says “OK, here’s what you’re all going to say when you first get on the phone.” I agree that there’s plenty of boneheadedness to go around, but the sad thing is this problem could have been seriously curbed by a lower-level department head.

    Google’s all about “system-wide” fixes, so the ugly irony here is that’s it’s not like having a (good) script would exactly be uncharacteristic.

  17. The company I work at gets dozens of spammy calls from India every day. They usually get hung up on with a “Sorry, we don’t need any. Goodbye.” after their initial spiel.

    One day they hung up on a lady with a thick Indian accent and she called back extremely irate. It turned out that she was a legitimate customer and apparently gets hung up on all the time.

    I’d love to know if this kind of call would seem totally legitimate in India.

    1. @Jesse
      Great question whether this sort of call would appear legit in India. I think that the social constructs and native language would make the interaction go more smoothly.

  18. That’s terrible! Mike, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m reading this on your blog, I’d have said that there is no way those were really from Google. This is a really bad move, what were they thinking? I’m really at a loss here…

  19. Point Number 1.

    Somebody from the Google Office for Common Sense Should read this piece. Then they should forward it up the chain of command to the bosses.

    Okay…its quite probable google doesn’t have an office for Common Sense. Alternatively, it would seem over the years…that if there is an office for common sense…The entire effort from Maps/Places/Google+Local is disconnected from that office. 😉

    Those calls from Google are miserable. We have over half a dozen businesses. The phone is the first line of defense and in point of fact one of the single most important things within each business.

    Over the years if we’re bad on the phone we do badly. If we are good on the phone we do well.

    These days we are generally very good on the phone and handle a variety of important calls and a string of typically strange calls. Now here is the kicker as it applies to those calls from Google in India.

    Every one of those calls from Google at every one of our businesses would probably get flubbed…and our business might suffer immeasurable damage and we are great on the phone these days

    GET SOMEONE FROM THE GOOGLE OFFICE FOR COMMON SENSE TO READ THIS BLOG PIECE

    WE CAN ASSUME GOOGLE DOESN’T HAVE AN OFFICE FOR COMMON SENSE—-THEY DESPERATELY NEED TO CREATE ONE!!!!

    In the midst of a busy day at most smb’s a call like that is so wierd…so disconnected and so unlikely to elicit a reasonable and appropriate response. On top of that…the accents make it difficult to know what the caller is asking. Many of them are simply going to result in NO VALUE or response.

    I can’t prep up to 45 different people in different smb’s to be prepared for a person asking about the street address in a hard to understand Indian accent. Our staff could be juggling 2 or 3 calls at a time, responding to inquiries, having many tasks…and then to try and respond to or direct a call like that to the right person.

    The entire process from Google’s end is a disaster waiting to occur. Unfortunately the one’s who suffer the disaster are the SMB’s not google. No wonder the tone of commentary inside the Google Places Forum is normally one of disgust, anger, frustration, and despair….and has been for the last 6 years!!!! 6 straight years and counting.

    Some folks in local, regional, state or federal governments should be putting a fire under google. Some major media should be pursuing it on behalf of the small businesses that hire the majority of folks in this country.

    Google has a monopoly of eyeballs on search on the web…and its pursuing practices that simply tank businesses. And nobody with power is paying attention.

    Its a crying shame.

  20. We spend lots of time discussing on your forum the frustrations of dealing with Google. This one post and associated audio sums up the core problem very succinctly. 1. Google is unwilling and unable to express what they need 2. Businesses are unable and too busy to go through the various hoops Google places in their path.

    If you go back through my comments over the years you will notice that I called this. Google has officially jumped the shark.

    As a business owner who built a strong clientele based upon local optimization for Google Places I implemented a strategic shift in my marketing and services a few months back in anticipation of this change at Google Places. I will share my basic premise with you all: Google does not care nor want your involvement with smb’s; in fact they are actively working to undermine everything you have created as a LSEO.

    What is crazy to me is that my end customers, smb businesses across the spectrum, are very receptive to not even trying for Google Place rankings anymore. When we discuss the process involved, potential pitfalls, hassles, headaches, and costs then compare it to a targeted onsite SEO campaign tied to a focused PPC campaign the decision becomes a no brainer. Congrats Google you have effectively forced us to market your PPC services but be warned; we are actively looking at alternatives.

    Oh well, that was almost 7 years of LSEO focused on Google. Not a bad life for a business focused around an internet marketing niche. Kind of sad that Google has become a four letter word around our home :).

    PS – I bet some newspaper/ news outlet picks up on this story; it is a real lesson how good companies can turn bad.

  21. @TD Dolan the business in question IS a Google customer. They spend hundreds of dollars a month in Google pay per click and guess what the billing address on the credit card is…

  22. @Mark:

    couple of things.

    First I was intriqued by Alex Sherman’s comments at #7 above. @Alex_Sherman He referenced that a client received excellent customer service for Adwords Express.

    Within this thread of common complaints about Google+Local –the comments about how adwords customer service is simply spot on and strong stand out.

    What a striking dichotomy. When the customer service relates to direct payback through ads its right on target.

    When the customer responsiveness is oriented toward content that isn’t tied directly to revenues then the google responsiveness simply s*cks. Its been that way for years.

    All that content drives the adwords income. It doesn’t matter to Google, though, and no bigger force is on their butts to improve responsiveness.

    As to strategies on behalf of SEO’s and the overall difficulties with Google+Local.

    We run a bunch of smbs. For every one we work on ppc, Maps strength and organic strength.

    When we hit on all 3 cylinders we get tremendous traffic. When one of the 3 elements goes down, the other 2 support the effort w/in google search.

    We spend a lot in adwords. We do get good service directly on the ppc side. In fact google reps keep contacting us with advice. Sometimes its worthwhile and insightful. Sometimes its directly or subtly oriented toward spending more money. Sometimes they respond to questions and issues we know to be true…with “playing dumb”. Sometimes their comments show no insights relative to our strong understanding of the business.

    But…damn the level of interaction on ppc is there all the time.

    We haven’t gotten one iota of a benefit on helping us with google+local issues for all that interaction and spend on the ppc side.

    Are we friggin chopped liver??? Who are these guys at google??? Sweethearts on the direct ppc side and worthless scum on the google + local side???

    As a big business taking our money google gets away with a lot of cr@p, IMHO. No other big company would get away with that in our experience.

    Back to the PPC side only strategy lets look at it from the SEM side and the client side.

    On the SEM side you can deliver measurable results. You can also quantify results pretty well…so the clients can see benefit.

    On the client side they receive some benefits and can quantify it. Basically a good deal both ways.

    From our perspective we like to hit all 3 areas…ppc/maps/straight seo.

    Again…when we are strong on all 3, we see tremendous results. We can compare lots of data and it helps us target where we can get the most bang for the effort by improving either ppc/maps/or seo.

    that is very worthwhile.

    When something goes wrong on one of the 3…(and it does)…the other 2 support end results.–> which are clicks->leads-> sales. Those last 3 elements make the businesses work.

    For most of the smb’s we simply try and get the maps side accurate, consistent, and then build maps strength…

    We do not want to touch anything on the local side after that. Time and again other commentators say the same thing. Don’t mess with your maps records.

    Regardless and sporadically….even if we don’t mess with the records…things go haywire at the google side and the records take a hit.

    I suppose I’d just suggest that if an SMB can afford it I’d still push to cover the 3 areas…ppc, maps, and seo as the ultimate benefits are worth it…but the headaches are certainly painful.

  23. @Tim Doesn’t it make you rethink whether or not Google some how “lost” all those Google Places reviews now? Maybe Google just allows their outsourced employees to have some fun (the “Oh Yeahhh”ers) and nuke whatever they’d like? Now apparently they’re allowed to nuke their own paying customers’ listings that drive a significant amount of their business. Sigh…

  24. Dave’s point about support for paid services (Adwords) but not free services (Places/+Local) is one I make regularly, but it’s important to remember a couple of things. First – get what you pay for. Google is a business and businesses exist to make money. But the difference here is that Google has always claimed their goal is to serve up the most relevant results. SO, seeing as Google+ Local (Places) is, and always has been, full of so many bugs, it would stand to reason they’d offer some support for situations where they created duplicate listings but punished the business owner as if they had done it, incorrect listing info, etc. etc. If the goal is relevant results, then there need to be more human hands on deck.

    So I agree that there should be better support even for the free product, but for different reasons. Google doesn’t owe business owners anything. No one is forced to rely on them by anything other than the fact that Google has developed a superior search engine that most people CHOOSE to use. But, to fulfill their mission they really need support.

    Your points about Adwords are great too, though you start out complimenting them only to wind up basically explaining that they aren’t really all that helpful:

    We spend a lot in adwords. We do get good service directly on the ppc side. In fact google reps keep contacting us with advice. Sometimes its worthwhile and insightful. Sometimes its directly or subtly oriented toward spending more money. Sometimes they respond to questions and issues we know to be true…with “playing dumb”. Sometimes their comments show no insights relative to our strong understanding of the business.

    This is exactly my experience. These people come off like a bunch of 22 year-olds who know virtually nothing about Adwords or SEM in general and they’re just reading from a script.

  25. Awesome call captures! So glad you posted these!

    Mike, you ask: “What should Google do differently when human verifying the calls?”

    For starters, and quite simply, Google should have a call center within the country being telephoned for these verifications and those employed at the call center should have excellent enunciation. Fine if they have an accent, be that Indian, Australian, Texan or Canadian, but the enunciation has got to be better than what is shown in these calls. If you can’t clearly understand the person calling you, the situation just isn’t a positive one and, in both instances, the receptionist clearly couldn’t understand part of what was being said to her (and neither could I).

    So, in order to make a professional presentation, Google should have a North American call center for North American calls, a South American call center for South American Calls and an Indian call center for Indian calls. They can afford it.

    And so can my cell phone service provider who has outsourced their calls to a country where the employees speak in a manner I find nearly impossible to understand 100%. Every time I have an issue with my cell phone, I can only understand about 60% of what is being said to me and if I ask the receptionist to please repeat herself, she becomes angry!

    Clearly, these folks have a good grasp of English, but accent and enunciation are seriously hampering the quality of communication between the two parties.

  26. @Randy: I personally think the combination of enormous size of revenues and its overwhelming market share on eyeballs for search put google in a position where it needs and mandates customer service on the backend of the google cluster algo. I know its not tied to direct payment.

    Consider the following: google made $38 billion last year in revenues. 96% came from advertising. Somewhere North of 20% of searches are local. Could be much higher. A far larger % of mobile searches are local and mobile generates very large percentages of ppc clicks.

    Everyone is guessing how much google makes from Local search. Nobody has put a hard number on it. When you look at this different perspective of revenues and revenue streams by industry….there is implicitly within those industries…an enormous amount being spent in a way that responds to local inquiries: http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2012/01/23/google-revenues

    google’s revenue streams and enormous funding comes in a different way than content showing…and I pay for the content. Its a bit more like non paid TV. I watch TV and the advertisers pay for everything.

    But TV has government controls over it. and frankly the combination of revenue streams generated by that volume of search…and google’s incredibly monopoly on search mandate a level of control and oversite.

    Without that oversite google has been free to essentially give the skimpiest form of responsiveness over the last 7 seven years. Its a strategic decision. On the one hand they give excellent and responsive customer service to direct payers through adwords. OTOH they give the worst imaginable responsiveness to the content providers that generate the content that contributes to the $38 billion income stream.

    Meanwhile for the last 2 years Google revenues per employee have run about $1.2 million/per employee. That is an extraordinarily high number. It is a calculation that implies enormous profitability.

    Google can afford to provide customer service on the places side of things. They long ago decided to specifically not provide a meaningful level of customer service. They are outsourcing these call backs to India. You listen to the calls above and every aspect of the call is hard to decipher…from its purpose to its diction. At $1.2 million revenues/per person they could generate calls to US firms from US call centers and likewise generate calls to different nationalities from appropriate places…and it wouldn’t put a dent in their bottom line. They choose to go cheap and at the bottom level of service.

    Its been a consistent 7 year decision process.

    Companies expand on customer service when they have to. Some businesses excel in it..and it becomes a revenue source.

    Google has not been hit by the terrible service to smbs. It hasn’t dented the public conscience. For every complaint in the places forum and for every comment in Mike’s blog…there are 1,000 positive impressions in the larger world about Google. The media hasn’t picked up on the miserable customer service in the Places Forum and the Politicians in today’s US will never pick up on it. They are hopeless.

    My hope is that Apple Local is terrific. I hope its got a back end that fixes problems. I hope the word spreads that Apple Mobile Local is 1,000 times better than google local…and part of the reason is its more accurate. I hope there are apps galore that allow android users to access Apple mobile on their browsers.

    Just as google grew through word of mouth at the beginning of this century I hope that works with an Apple mobile that gives good data and provides customer service.

    If market conditions would move users to Apple or Bing or whomever because it was more accurate and better than it would create the conditions to push google to improve all the backend issues and lack of customer service on the Places/maps/google+local side.

    Until something like that occurs all the whining and complaining (and I’m a whopper of a whiner!!!! :D) doesn’t seem like it is going to move Google one iota of an inch to improve responsiveness to smb’s.

    My $0.02 😀

  27. I’ve been offline for a few days but am listening now and shaking my head. This sounds exactly like the spam I hear from clients on a near-daily basis. To echo everyone else – what are they thinking? Or not, as the case may be.

  28. Granted this can sound like spam but when they tell you their from Google Maps that’s usually a giveaway that their not spammers. I do however think that they should use some people in the states or the UK to better clarify whats being done. Just another piece in the mess haha

  29. @Wyatt D
    I don’t know about your experience, but I’ve received lots of phone calls from people claiming to be with Google in an attempt to solicit business.

    Some say “Google service provider”, others would say “we’re with Google”…

    When you hear that so many times, you become a little cynical when someone with broken english calls your office claiming to be with Google Maps.

  30. I’ just received a email with this link from my Seo guy. And I’m sitting here in shock . Let me go back to Monday. I am an sales manager and I answer the main sales line . After have almost no calls Monday , I called Seo guys . They found that our Google Places had the wrong address and phone number just out of the blue, all the sudden. Which is weird how that got changed to someone else info with out our approval , hmm still stumped on that one, any how , so on Tuesday evening I recieved a call from another country . It’s a Indian man and he says. “what’s your address, I said , excuses mr sir how can I help you , then he said in a irritated voice,”where are you? . So I felt like it was not a legitimate phone call, and haven’t thought twice about it . Well wed. Am we no longer had a profile which was driving tons of traffic . We went from 15-20 sales calls , 15-20 Internet inquiries to zip. So Seo guys got right on it , today they sent me an email that said hey good news google will be calling to verify listing . And sent the link to this site with instructions to check this blog out …. Now I’m sitting her just in shock , what a mess and really irritated they would send that work out to India when we have people here that need jobs and can do so much better … Horrible . So now I’m ready and when that Indian guy calls me , I know he’s not a crazy axe murder and I will verify my business address and get back to making a living , until then phones are silent …not good at all !!!

  31. Had the samething happen to my business. With so many spammers and solicitations calling it sounds like another marketer. I’m not sure how, but a new approach must be found.

  32. I got this call during a very busy morning. The person said they were looking for internet service, but wanted to visit the office (we do 80% of our pre-screening over the phone). She kept asking for the address, but since this is totally out of context of how we usually do business with local Portlanders, I refused to give it to her at first.

    She didn’t even say she was with Google or Google Maps. Just said she was looking for internet for a friend. Eventually, she used the context that she and her friend wanted to visit the office to learn more about service. That sounded somewhat plausible, so I gave her our office address (which is our Google listing).

    Hours later, our local listing is GONE. We’re a legit local favorite, too.

    Thanks a lot, Google. And I agree with many a commenter– a better way to verify listings must be found.

  33. One sad fact in all of this is: Google just made it easier for unethical SEO companies to make their cold-calls sound just like Google’s.

    Any business owner who got burned by this whole process will have an even harder time distinguishing legit calls from Google from scam calls.

    Shady SEOs are just clever enough to piggyback off of Google’s clumsiness and the fear that clumsiness has created.

  34. Mike –

    Thanks for posting. We and our clients have had these and they do sound eerily similar. If it’s a very small shop where folks know what’s going on, the person answering the phone can piece it together. If not, well, what happened here is more likely than not.

    But – hey – at least the cleaner works perfectly and competitors can’t make changes to your owner-verified locations!

  35. First time I received a call I had multiple listings and was trying to fix it. I was so happy to get the call and I thought everything would be fixed…wrong! More recently, I received a call asking for verification of information, I think because I use a Google Voice number as the principal number for the biz (which took a long time to get Google to be happy with),and this time no problems and I maintained my no.1 position in my categories. My advice is to tell staff to treat the calls with the Google caller id as seriously as a call from the IRS.

  36. We get these calls all the time. Usually they say they are a “Google Partner” to get past the receptionist. So now, I am forced to take at least 10 spam calls a day, thinking it REALLY could be Goggle. One issue I think of, is, what if the office had to leave early, the lines are all lit and go to the backup line, went to voice mail, went to court for the day, etc, and/or the calls have to be forwarded to the answering service. How are they – answering service – gonna know what location is being verified? There is no way a call center could tell. They would just say: “We are the call center”, and kablam, your gone. So many variables. Really, none of these methods work. Good guys get wiped out along with the bad. All very arbitrary and variable. Can anyone think of a better way?

  37. Google doesn’t really care about supporting free services. And frankly they have proven that they don’t really care to help small businesses. What needs to happen is folks need to start an effort to level the playing field in search by using Bing (ugh) or Yahoo. The other players don’t use local data for their results.

    Make a dent in Google’s bottom line and they will pay attention.

  38. I stumbled upon this thread through a Google search.

    Hilarious!

    Both the caller and the receptionist should have really listened to what the other was saying.
    I understand the receptionists point of view, get rid of calls that seem a waste of time.
    As many have said here, The Google “representative” should have had more training and from the start made clear the gravity of the following information requested.
    I find that there really aren’t conversations any more.
    It’s just two or more people trying to be heard without listening to what’s being said.

    Take turns.

    I talk, you listen then respond. You talk, I listen then respond.

    I wouldn’t have a receptionists job. Nor would anyone hire me for one.

    Heh.

    I really enjoyed this thread.

    P.S. Anyone here notice how the word published is spelled in the footer at the time of this comment? (Yeah, I’m the guy who stays and watches the credits at the end of the movie. Try it, sometimes there’s really interesting stuff in there)

  39. We have seen sites dropped because of this as well, but I would rather at least have the opportunity to call someone at Google or email for support in regards to Maps and business listings than not.

  40. First let me preface what I have to say with this: I was a corporate network engineer in NYC for about 5 years. I studied hacking techniques including social hacking which includes people cold calling to gather bits and pieces about a network, about who works in the business, about the address etc. At certain points this even leads to a uniformed “contractor” with a name tag showing up and getting past security to gain physical access to corporate networked computers. I myself have made bets with my fellow network administrators as to who could cold call our company department heads to trick them into giving us information and my proudest accomplishment was getting the secretary to the CEO to provide me with the password to his account.

    That said, I now am an SEO and I get calls like this all day long, people phishing for “innocent” information telling me they are so and so and this and that – and vendors – hundreds of vendors a month – all *sorts* of people who don’t properly identify themselves and I do the exact same thing. No thank you. And hang up.

    Google needs to have their call center personnel call all of their own department heads and find out. I can virtually guarantee that by their own standards they will see that they have to delist themselves from Google.

  41. I received a call about two months ago while driving on a late Sunday evening around 8 pm. I could not believe someone from Google would be calling me on a Sunday evening. A couple of questions later, I insisted they call me during the day, and/or leave a name or phone# where I could contact them. The caller resisted and when I expressed some exasperation, the caller called me a rude person and hung up.

    I could not believe this was anything but spam or competition trying to throw curve balls. But surprisingly, we started experiencing problems with our Google Local listings. One of our sites had “closed for business”, and some of our phone #s were altered. In a word, it’s been a nightmare that we have yet to come to terms with.

    We are a small business and have been a long-term Google Adwords customer spending over $100k per year. I am appalled with all the confusion surrounding Google Places, and now Google+ Local. What’s frustrating is that there is no contact at Google for clarifications with Google+ Local.

  42. My site was in the top 5 of Google for variations of “real estate photographers in Seattle”. I received one of these strange calls – even stranger than either of these recordings. In fact, I even told the girl “you’re not from Google”. She giggled and insisted she was. But it was so unprofessional and weird that I didn’t believe her and hung up.

    A couple days later my site moved to the 2nd page of Google’s results.

  43. @Jesse. If it was Google, and they blasted you, it would have been a complete removal from Places and perhaps leaving you in Maps only. I doubt it was them. Probably an update.

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