30 Dec Internet Local Listings Scam
This afternoon I received a phone call from a New York based phone number. When I answered, I was met with a recording that said they were calling from Google and have “front page” listings available in my area. I receive these calls often, but this time I decided to play along.
I chose the option to “secure my listing” and was transferred to a representative. He asked for my name, and confirmed that I was the business owner. After answering his questions, he mentioned again that there are front page listings available in my area, and that his company can guarantee placement.
This struck me as a bit odd, so I clarified. “Are you selling Pay-Per-Click ad space on Google?” His answer was a clear “No.” He said, “We’re the only company authorized by Google to represent their local listings.” So I pressed further. “So are you saying you can guarantee my placement in the local listings for my brand name, or for the generic Keywords I want to target?” He affirmed that this was for Generic Keywords, and not simply my brand name. I asked again, “So you’re talking about the local listings, right? Not ad space for my chosen Keywords?” He confirmed that my understanding of his statement was correct.
At this point, I said, “You do know you’re calling an SEO company, right?” Of course, this caught him a bit off guard. He said, “Well, if you’re an SEO company, why aren’t you on the first page of Google?” I told him that we are on the first page for nearly all the Keywords we target. Of course I was curious to learn more about his services, so I asked, “How is it that you can guarantee first page local listing when Google actually warns about working with SEO “agencies” who guarantee results?”
He hung up.
Here’s the truth, straight from Google (emphasis added):
“Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.”
Why No One Can Guarantee the First Page
No SEO agency or “guru” can look into the future and see what your competition will do in the next several weeks or months. Google’s algorithm measures over 200 factors to determine the placement of a website in the search results. Should your competitor increase the attention they’re giving to SEO, its entirely possible for their ranking position to climb. If you have several competitors who have been around a long time, and are avoiding penalties from Google, but leveraging solid SEO Methodologies, it’s going to be more difficult for you to achieve a first page ranking.
The best we can do is look at the current competitive landscape for a given Keyword and make strong predictions on what we believe can be accomplished over a period of time given a particular amount of work. To be clear, this isn’t a shot in the dark, we conduct exhaustive research prior to making a recommendation for one of our packages. We’re right almost all the time, but that doesn’t mean that we guarantee this to our clients.
Is Internet Local Listings a Scam?
Absolutely. If we look at the statement above from Google, they cross two lines. First, they guarantee rankings. Major Google violation. Second, they claim a “special relationship” with Google, which doesn’t exist. In fact, their own website attests to that fact:
Bam. Right on their own website.
I could go on dissecting their methodologies, but that’s not necessary. If Internet Local Listings is going to lie about these first two points, what’s to guarantee they will be honest about the work they perform?
What are the Alternatives?
Finding an SEO firm that adheres to the Google Webmaster Guidelines can be a challenge. Unfortunately, the entire industry has somewhat of a black eye as a result of many shady practices that are used by fly-by-night or non-specialist individuals or companies. Sometimes not adhering to these guidelines isn’t because they’re intentionally trying to game the system, rather, there are so many factors now being weighed by the Algorithms that many companies simply can’t keep up.
At Brown Box Branding, we’ve worked very hard at ensuring all of our strategies are inline with Google Webmaster Guidelines. In fact, in January of 2014 we completely overhauled our offerings and used GWGs as the foundation for all our strategies. We have tweaked our methodologies for 2015 to stay at the cutting edge, and will continue to do so.
Our Award Winning SEO is completely safe and proven. With each of the Google Algorithm Updates we’ve seen over the past 12 months, our client’s rankings have improved by between 5-20%. Additionally, we never expect our clients to take our word for the work we say we’re doing. We’ve created a client dashboard that can be accessed by all our clients 24/7, and reflects real-time data showing rankings, articles we’ve created, analytics and more. We made this investment so that our clients can have peace of mind knowing that we’re transparent in all we do.
Have You Been Scammed by Internet Local Listings?
If you’ve been scammed by Internet Local Listings, there’s action you can take. Google recommends that you reach out to the the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) who handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint you can, visit: https://www.ftc.gov/ and click on “File a Complaint Online,” call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to:
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, D.C. 20580
I sincerely hope this post helps business owners avoid being taken advantage of by these sort of deceptive practices. I would be happy if all these leaches went out of business completely. It gives the entire industry a bad name; including those of us who genuinely work hard with our client’s best interests in mind.