"Hello, this is Dustin." I'd been getting business calls on my mobile phone all morning, so it didn't surprise me when my phone rang a little after 11 a.m.
"Hi!" Came the cheery, lilting, not-quite-human voice on the other end. "We've been trying to reach you to verify your business on Google. It's important that we talk to you. Press one to connect with one of our representatives. Press nine to be removed from our list."
On any other day, I might have hung up. I'm a digital marketing guy, and I know that sleezy-smarmy robocalls like this have been around for years. Besides, I had a big pile 'o work to tackle before lunchtime. But as it happens, I'd just finished talking with Sadie about her blog post on Google My Business. It is true that if you claim a business listing, you do have to prove that you actually the place, and that you can choose to handle that verification by phone. But that phone call doesn't just happen: you have to trigger it, and if you've already gotten ownership of your listing, you don't have to re-verify.
I pressed one. This wasn't a call from Google, but I wanted to know more about who it really was. Were they selling unnecessary SEO services? Heavily marked-up AdWords campaigns? Phony training? Besides, I figured that for every minute I was on the phone with these guys, that was one minute they weren't trying to scam someone else. Surprisingly, I found myself on hold for a few minutes. "Your call is important to us," a different computer told me. "A representative will be with you shortly."
And he was. "Hello," said the man with only a slight accent. Eastern European, maybe? I immediately thought about Peggy the credit card representative. "Can I get the name of the business you're calling to verify?"
"Well, that's a good question," I told Peggy. "You called me on my cell, and I own three businesses. I was hoping you could tell me which business you were calling me about?"
There was a momentary pause. "Hold on for a moment while I check."
"Thank you!" I responded with a smile. Then I heard the click. Peggy had hung up on me.
So much for learning more about the mysterious callers. In the past, these robocalls have been orchestrated by unscrupulous search engine optimizations outfits trying to score a fast dollar. It got so bad that Google started suing them. They even created a "Safety Center" where people can help track down the scammers.
And it's not just annoying robocalls trying to capitalize on Google's name under shady circumstances. Over the years, we've seen companies claim to be the only Google Adwords Partner in an area (they weren't), imply that they had a special hotline to Google's AdWords team (they didn't), and market event presenters as "speakers from Google" (they were third-party contractors).
Our advice: If you're not sure about a claim, look it up. Thanks to a certain mega-corporation that rhymes with noogle, there's a really powerful and ubiquitous search engine that makes it easy to do a little quick research. It's also useful to remember that "Google" isn't a magic word. They're an amazing company with fantastic products, of course - our office runs on G Suite, and every single person at tdg is Google Adwords Certified - but in the end, they're just tools. Without a sound overall strategy and great messaging, all the Google-fu in the world won't boost your sales numbers.
UPDATE: I got another call on my cell a few days later. It wasn't the exact same robot voice and script, but it was darn close. I decided to try again. This time I got a female representative, who went on to tell me how important it was to get to the top of the Google's search engine results pages, and how complex pay-per-click campaigns were. She went on for several minutes, ocassionally stopping to make sure I was still with her. She finally stopped and asked if I was ready to get started.
"You bet!" I said. I was excited to see where things would go next.
"Great!" she said, perhaps with a little surprise. "Hold on for just a moment."
Then came the click. I got hung up on - again. I hadn't even asked a tough question! Is the robocall disconnect button really easy to hit unintentionally? Or is there something in the tone of my voice that gives me away? Why, oh why, won't any scammers talk to me?