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A lot of companies will offer SEO services or ‘local optimisation’, promising the moon and delivering little more than a Google Places profile. Whilst it is important to have your business featured, there really is no need to pay for the privilege. It should be part of your SEO work, not the sum total of it.
Unfortunately, some people pay for exactly that. And as has been reported by State of Search , it appears that some people are doing so twice. An agency that has been creating Google Places profiles on behalf of clients is now using them to blackmail those self same businesses. Therefore if you don’t come up with additional cash, your listing will be removed.
It sounds far-fetched, but it actually appears to be quite a widespread issue; and one that perfectly embodies the negative side of SEO. At Koozai, just like any other sane agency, our clients maintain ownership of all profiles we create even if they choose to move on. That’s fairly standard practice. However, there are some who profit more from scamming clients than they do from offering a discernable service; as perfectly evidenced by this exposé.
Don’t forget, a Google Places profile is absolutely free (or at least it is at the moment, Google are looking to charge for it in the future). You can create one quickly and easily yourself, even if you don’t have much in the way of online experience. You can even optimise it to get the best possible coverage and get shown in the most appropriate search results; see Andy’s post on Optimising Your Google Places Profile for more information .
This kind of story does little to improve the credibility of the search engine marketing industry, but it does at least raise awareness. Clearly agencies shouldn’t be blackmailing its own clients, particularly over something that shouldn’t really fall under their direct jurisdiction. But the more these practices are exposed, the quicker action can be taken against them and the companies that propagate such activities.