The one phone call that can destroy your business (part 1 of 3)

No, this isn’t some sales pitch for the latest SEO tool or marketing idea, or maybe it is. I’ve been very successful doing computer repair in Lawrence, KS. Being the top search result can have its price because for others to move up, they gotta knock you out, or at least down in the rankings.

On December 11th 2012 at about 9:53am, I suffered “Google Death.” That’s the term for when Google denies your existence and puts you in their version of purgatory. My listing on Google + Local (formerly Google Places) went from being active to “We do not currently support this location.” You don’t. I’ve been listed in Google Places nearly since the beginning. In fact, Google sent me one of their coveted stickers so I can announce that fact.

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After doing an extensive amount of research and legwork (that’s why I’ve also suffered Blogging Death and haven’t posted for over a month), I found out the most likely culprit was a coordinated effort by an unethical SEO expert or firm to tell Google I was closed or somehow no longer accepted clients at my location. Ouch. Really? Unfortunately, it seems to work.

What bothered me the most wasn’t the loss of the listing. People could easily call if they couldn’t find the place. Heck, even with a proper listing people still had trouble finding my office so I had to make a video (which I need to update after removal of the median). What I lost was all the great reviews of DoctorDave’s work. In fact, when we ask clients why they called us the answer is twofold “I Googled computer repair lawrence ks AND read your reviews” [emphasis added]

I contributed to the problem when I received a call from 650-253-2000. We don’t receive calls often from outside of our area code as our service area is generally Lawrence, KS Topeka, KS and the Kansas City Metro area (Kansas and Missouri). My iPhone said “Mountain View, CA” but I know that caller ID can be easily faked.

The gentleman spoke with a extremely thick Indian accent. It took a few tries for me to even understand that he said he was calling from Google about my listing. Uggh, a sales call. Between calls about improving my Google rankings and giving me a lower rate on my credit cards I actually get clients wanting our services. I thought for sure it was fake, but I like to give them a hard time because my SEO is awesome. Top result so how you are you going to help me. He asked for my mailing address and I thought for sure it was one of these office supply scams and I said I’d be happy to call him directly if he would give me his number and he said to use the one on the caller ID. The number’s recording did say it was Google and I should check my Dashboard (the place on Google where business owners like me manage their accounts). Phone messages can be faked and why would they call me and then not let me call them back? I blew it off.

OOPS. #FAIL

On a whim I checked my Dashboard and everything looked ok at first glance just like it always did. A few days later I decided to check my listing after a client said they had trouble finding my office. I was gone. The links I saved to my reviews were gone. The sticker with the QR code Google itself provided me didn’t work. When I looked at my stats, they flatlined on December 11th, (hence why they call it Google Death). I filed a help request with Google Places and I got the standard response for weeks.

Over a month later, I’m using every resource I have to get my listing fully back (it pops in and out in various forms) but I learned some valuable lessons I’ll be sharing with other business owners over the next few weeks but wanted to share the most important one.

If 650-253-2000 calls you TAKE THE CALL. Ironically, they called our business at 7:15 AM and 10:30 PM–both times clearly listed on our Google Places page as closed. Forward this number to the owner. Put a sign by the business phone to TAKE THE CALL.

I always keep mental filters up against fraud but when this number calls I’ll probably give them anything they ask for (which makes it perfect for scammers). The risk of whatever a scammer can do to me can’t be as bad as Google Death.

More lessons in the next few weeks and I’ll keep you up to date as I possibly return from the dead.

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