Google Should Do More to Shut Down GMB and Local Listings Fraudsters
October 13, 2017 | Contributed by: Greg Sterling
Google does some policing of fraudsters and unethical marketing firms preying on small business owners — but it probably doesn’t do enough.
Roughly once or twice a week I receive a call (with a US caller ID number) that features a recording telling me my Google My Business listing is expiring, inaccurate or some other claim of deficiency. Most of the time I hang up but sometimes I “press one to talk to a representative” just to hear their pitches. Most of these calls resolve to call centers in India, where a salesperson begins to walk through a script that assumes the person on the other end knows little.
If asked, all of these people claim to be “Google partners.” But they generally seek to masquerade as agents of Google itself and won’t declare their company affiliations at the top of these calls. They prey on the ignorance of business owners and they consistently misrepresent themselves.
There’s no data that I’ve seen on how frequent or widespread this problem is. But from my anecdotal observation and experience it’s pretty bad. There are varying data points out in the market about how many calls and pitches SMBs get. Borrell Associates survey data assert SMBs get between 5 and 6 “contacts” per week (which is more than calls). Other surveys I’ve been a part of show about 20 calls per month.
While not all of these contacts and calls are unethical, many of them are. There’s a continuum of misrepresentation going on, from inflated promises to outright fraud.
LSA started its digital marketer certification program to address some of these problems and try to promote ethical sellers (some agencies and sellers want us to grade performance, but the program is more about integrity and transparency). There’s still limited awareness of the program in the broader SMB market, although we’re trying to change that.
However, Google is almost in a unique position to minimize fraud and unethical behavior directed toward SMBs by:
- More prominently identifying its partners through SMB-facing channels including GMB itself
- Educate SMBs on how to recognize false marketing claims and fraud
- More publicly pursue and “prosecute” dubious claims, fraudsters and bad actors
The online ad industry is working hard to clean up its collective act to instill greater confidence among brands, retailers and other online ad buyers in the integrity of digital advertising. Something comparable needs be done for SMBs to shine more light on the local ecosystem and help make SMBs smarter and more confident buyers.
LSA is broadly trying to do its part to educate local business owners. But we need more support.