3rd party SEO company holding clients GMB listing hostage

Elliot

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Feb 24, 2015
Messages
23
I'm trying to help a client who was paying a monthly fee to have a website + "optimization" for their business. We have since transferred the domain out of the 3rd party's hands and into the clients. But now the company is refusing to give us the access to our property. They have since changed the ranking listing to a generic name and changed the phone number.

I know this is going to nuke the listing in no time. Isn't this a violation of Googles ToS? What course of action do I have?
 

heckler

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Oct 28, 2014
Messages
287
Have you contacted support? Even if they won't give it to you, after 7 days with no response Google will remove their control of it. That might be the best place to start.
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
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Good point Bryan!

I'd also email and remind the other SEO company of the guidelines, especially this part which is under "Additional guidelines for authorized representatives".

Always respond to management access requests promptly, and always transfer listing ownership to the business owner immediately upon request. Authorized representatives must, whenever possible, encourage the business owner to create an account, own the listing, and add authorized representatives as managers. Learn more about transferring ownership

Failure to adhere to these policies may result in a suspension for the listing and/or account.
If they are dumb enough to try to hijack a listing, they probably have all their clients in one account and they could all get nuked.

And threaten to report them to Google. (Mainly in hopes of changing their ways so they don't do this to everyone. The average SMB would not know how to fight it.)


Image added for G+ sharing.
hostage.jpg

 

Elliot

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Feb 24, 2015
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Have you contacted support? Even if they won't give it to you, after 7 days with no response Google will remove their control of it. That might be the best place to start.
Thanks for the info guys! What the company is claiming now is that since they changed the name of a listing to a generic name (even though it still has all the old reviews) they're under no obligation to return it to us since they're no longer optimising it.

I called support but they said we needed access to the account email in order to claim it. How do I prove to google I've requested access to it? Is there a better channel of contact than phone?
 

heckler

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Thanks for the info guys! What the company is claiming now is that since they changed the name of a listing to a generic name (even though it still has all the old reviews) they're under no obligation to return it to us since they're no longer optimising it.

I called support but they said we needed access to the account email in order to claim it. How do I prove to google I've requested access to it? Is there a better channel of contact than phone?
Not all Google reps are equal, if I get an answer from a Google rep that I know is garbage I'll just call again. My advice would be calling again and explaining the situation completely (in addition to doing what Linda suggested - my guess is they don't care about Google's ToS though, but at least you'll have a paper-trail).

It sounds like they got tied up with a particularly useless company that is hijacking aged listings from churned clients for some kind of affiliate marketing angle... makes my blood boil. :mad:

its-a-trap.png

 

theitsage

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Jun 18, 2015
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What we all need to remind ourselves is that no business goes out of its way to piss people off. A client who comes to you with trouble will typically leave with more trouble.

I would say to get the whole story as to why this client stopped using that company and go from there.
 

Colan Nielsen

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Jul 19, 2012
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What we all need to remind ourselves is that no business goes out of its way to piss people off. A client who comes to you with trouble will typically leave with more trouble.

I would say to get the whole story as to why this client stopped using that company and go from there.
While I agree that it's very important to get both sides of the story in any situation, the annoying truth is that I have seen several cases over the last few years of companies who basically hold listings hostage and use other scare tactics in order to prevent a lost sale.

And there has indeed been cases in the past where a "business" did something to a clients listing to "get even" or piss them off.
 

CodyBaird

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Jan 4, 2013
Messages
350
Start here:

https://support.google.com/business/answer/4566671?hl=en

Specifically this:

Can't contact the current listing owner
You can also contact the current listing owner through Google My Business.

Note: This process may take several weeks, and only the current listing owner can add you as a listing manager or transfer ownership of the listing to you.

I would also recommend calling support from 8 to noon pacific time in hopes of getting support from the US.

Joy raves about GMB twitter support.

You need to find an experienced rep that knows about listings being hijacked by spammers. And yes, the old firm quacks and walks like a spam group.

It could also be beneficial to have a TC at Google like Joy or Colin help.

Don't give up. Someone with experience at GMB will be able to see unusal activity by the SEO snake.
 

Elliot

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Feb 24, 2015
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You need to find an experienced rep that knows about listings being hijacked by spammers. And yes, the old firm quacks and walks like a spam group.

It could also be beneficial to have a TC at Google like Joy or Colin help.

Don't give up. Someone with experience at GMB will be able to see unusal activity by the SEO snake.
Thank you so much for all the advice everyone! I'm in the UK at the moment but I'm going to give them a ring at 8 PST.

The company im fighting against is 411locals, which after researching them a bit is apparantly a notoriously awful company to deal with, but still quite popular.

I'll give everyone an update once I speak to GMB customer support.
 

Linda Buquet

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14,436
Thanks for the info guys! What the company is claiming now is that since they changed the name of a listing to a generic name (even though it still has all the old reviews) they're under no obligation to return it to us since they're no longer optimising it.
And I bet their next step is to try to "sell" that listing to a competitor and change it again to their name and phone #. In fact it could have belonged to someone else before your client got it. Not sure how they get away with changing to KW names and how do they handle verification? Guess via phone. :-(

This just makes my blood boil every time I read it!

Knowing who it is, my advice to email them the guidelines and a warning, probably won't help. They likely know and purposely do it anyway.

Good advice from everyone!

I'd do it like Cody suggested AND tell them who the SEO company is, because they have probably gotten other complaints.

BUT if you can't get help from support, the best way to escalate up the chain (after trying support) is post this at the G forum. Then give me a link to your post here in this thread and I'll escalate to Google.
 

cdawg2610

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Jul 2, 2013
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Thank you so much for all the advice everyone! I'm in the UK at the moment but I'm going to give them a ring at 8 PST.

The company im fighting against is 411locals, which after researching them a bit is apparantly a notoriously awful company to deal with, but still quite popular.

I'll give everyone an update once I speak to GMB customer support.
Elliot - I'd also recommend going to twitter and reaching out to @GoogleSmallBiz - they have been amazing in solving issues regular tech support didn't understand.
 

Elliot

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Feb 24, 2015
Messages
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Elliot - I'd also recommend going to twitter and reaching out to @GoogleSmallBiz - they have been amazing in solving issues regular tech support didn't understand.
And I bet their next step is to try to "sell" that listing to a competitor and change it again to their name and phone #. In fact it could have belonged to someone else before your client got it. Not sure how they get away with changing to KW names and how do they handle verification? Guess via phone. :-(

This just makes my blood boil every time I read it!

Knowing who it is, my advice to email them the guidelines and a warning, probably won't help. They likely know and purposely do it anyway.

Good advice from everyone!

I'd do it like Cody suggested AND tell them who the SEO company is, because they have probably gotten other complaints.

BUT if you can't get help from support, the best way to escalate up the chain (after trying support) is post this at the G forum. Then give me a link to your post here in this thread and I'll escalate to Google.
Thanks so much both of you! Right now we're signing back up with the company for at least a month so we don't jeopardize our listing, but over the next week or so I'm going to gather all the documentation I need to have a solid case to present to Google then reach out to them.
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
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14,436
How much ranking power will that listing have if the name and phone keep changing?
Seems it would set off a red flag and get blacklisted or something.

Joe's Plumbing
555-2222

Dallas Plumbing
333-4444

Joe's Plumbing
555-2222
 

Elliot

Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2015
Messages
23
How much ranking power will that listing have if the name and phone keep changing?
Seems it would set off a red flag and get blacklisted or something.

Joe's Plumbing
555-2222

Dallas Plumbing
333-4444

Joe's Plumbing
555-2222
Exactly what I'm thinking, but then again I can't imagine that they adhere to any other methodology than burn & churn and in this case it's a somewhat uncompetitive market.
 

Elliot

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Joined
Feb 24, 2015
Messages
23
Update:

SUCCESS. Google finally has merged my listing and I've retained my ranking. This has happened less than 4 hours ago and my (five) reviews aren't showing up with a star rating yet, but it's awesome to see the battle is finished.

Funnily enough, when I mentioned 411locals.com the rep said "oh yeah...I know all about them".

A few questions for you guys moving forward. The correct number for the business is showing right now, should I wait for any reason to return the company name to it's original name? (the one that matches my citations and the name it's been for 5 years) Any other gotchas I should be aware of?
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,436
Thanks for the update Elliot.

They gave it back to you with the fake name??? Weird.

Yes I'd change it to the correct name. Your reviews are in a separate database, but it's tied to the listing in part due to matching name, address, phone & CID.

If the reviews don't come back 2 weeks after the name change, you could try to reach out to support again to see if they can move them over.
 

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