Here at LawLytics, we have long warned attorneys about the sometimes predatory nature of the SEO industry.

We have seen law firm SEO providers and law firm marketing companies who claim, either explicitly or implicitly, to have a special relationship with Google, or who claim that, for the right price, they can influence Google to return certain search results or local listings.

In a recent blog post from Google, the search engine giant reaffirmed its commitment to taking action against those who engage in these kinds of practices.

“Unfortunately, we continue to receive complaints from business owners about calls they receive claiming to be from Google,” Product Lead Bryan Solar writes.

“Often these calls are actually third-party companies who are trying to take advantage of them. Sometimes these scammers claim to be able to improve a business’ Google Search rankings, other times they charge money for services that Google offers for free. Understandably, these scams are frustrating for business owners and for us at Google.”

In the past, Google has taken action against these companies. The search engine giant will now take additional steps to address these issues.

What new actions is Google taking against scammers?

Here’s what Google is doing now:

  • The company is taking legal action against several bad actors that have been targeting businesses with Google-related scams. “We hope this sends the message to other scammers […] that we will not hesitate to take legal action against them,” Solar writes.
  • Google has developed new techniques — both automated and manual — to identify Google accounts linked to these kinds of schemes. New policy updates will allow Google to remove the offending accounts or limit their ability to engage in these practices.
  • Google has also created a new tool that allows business owners to report these kinds of schemes and report those individuals or companies that violate Google’s policies. Google is also providing educational resources to small business organizations “so they can empower their communities to identify, prevent, and report scams.”
  • Google will begin a new program (“Google My Business Partners”) to provide business owners with a list of trusted companies to choose from when it comes time to manage their listings.

Preventative measures to keep yourself safe from scams

While Google notes that it’s continuing to take action against scams and those who carry them out, the company notes that there are some preventative measures that small business owners can take to keep themselves safe:

  • If someone claims to be “calling on behalf of Google,” refers to themselves as a “Google specialist” or makes any other indication that they’re affiliated with Google, you can ask that they send you an email from a Google email account (@google.com) to confirm their identity. Anyone who truly works for Google can send you an email from an @google.com account.
  • Claim your business using Google My Business. It’s free to do so. Google notes that, “Once you’ve claimed your business and actively manage your business information, you’re much less likely to be targeted by scammers.”
  • Make sure you understand what’s real and what isn’t when it comes to SEO and listings. There isn’t a way to ask for — or pay for — better rankings on Google. If someone claims they can do so, be skeptical. (And, keep in mind, PPC ads won’t give you a leg up in Google’s organic results. For more on that, read “5 Old (But Persistent) Law Firm SEO Myths.”)

You can read more about the changes Google is making in this blog post, and more about how to protect yourself against scams here.

This is a developing story. We’ll provide updates as soon as they become available. For more information related to this topic, read the following LawLytics blog posts: