The Importance of Being Earnest, a Cautionary Tale.

friend of ours has a nice little mom and pop business in Tucson, AZ. Over the years Ricky has developed a respectable car service business. Although he is not a web developer, he worked at it and built his own website myairportdriver.com, hosting it at Network Solutions for $12 a year. Until recently, he was at the top of Google Maps with 38 really good reviews. 

One day, that all disappeared. What did he do wrong? When I heard about it from him his theory was a “Google Virus”. In an organic Google search he still comes up in the top ten for searches like “Tucson Airport Shuttle” but ironically, what really got him the business was the Google Maps listing. Now, we aren’t exactly sure what knocked him off Google Maps in the first place (we are looking into it and are interested in any and all theories out there), but a quick look and we see many red flags. His actual address on his site is a defunct mail center for one. And over the years he has done many sloppy things with his site - he has other domains randomly aliased to it and at the most basic level, he has never done any basic SEO optimization of the pages themselves. He never really looked at his analytics until now - after all, everything was just going well.

So the moral to this story is if you are serious about your business it pays to hire a web developer. But beyond that, the moral is to be on top of your game. Maintain and develop your business and your web site. Keep it current and be honest, especially when your reviews are good and you have something to brag about. And don’t get tricky. Google doesn’t like tricks. Google doesn’t like being lied to.

But back to Ricky’s theory for a minute. Could Google actually just screw up? Could Google’s servers be compromised? Could there be a new Google algorithm or even some kind of a merge gone awry with Google Local or Google+ that just wiped out somebody like Ricky with his 38 reviews? Does anyone out there have a similar story? We’d love to hear about it.

-Danny Vinik, BRINK President/Creative Director 

UPDATE:

About a week after I posted this I got this email from Ricky:

The reviews are back:

See the reply from google below: 
Hello,
Thank you for contacting Google. After investigating your problem, we’ve found that it is being caused by a technical issue we have since resolved. Please allow a few days for your listing to display again.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. 
Regards,
Nick
The Google Team
Original Message Follows:
————————————
From: payment@myairportdriver.com
Subject: Google Places for Business Help
Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2012 17:46:51 +0000
AutoDetectedBrowser: Firefox 1
AutoDetectedOS: Windows 7
IIILanguage: en
IssueType: placesfrontline_notshowing
Language: en
displayedAnswer:
experiment: 4
last_listing_date_day: 28
last_listing_date_month: 5
last_listing_date_year: 2012
origin:
physical_address: Hi I wrote before but I have found no help or resolve.
When I go to see my business listing I get this message: “We currently do  not support the location” I had 32 five star reviews and they and my business listing is just gone,  cant be found in google maps or anywhere. Please help me, all my work has  come to a halt and I am not able to support my 4 kids since this happened. 
 
Please have someone contact me that can help. I worked so hard to build those reviews over 5 years and now they are gone.
Thank you.
Fredrick Gelb
520-299-1300
payment@myairportdriver.com
info@myairportdriver.com
source: cuf
My Airport Driver
info@myairportdriver.com
Ph: 520.299.1300

(photo from Mashable’s article "These Websites Are Going Dark to Protest SOPA Wednesday")

You better answer any burning questions you might normally look to Wikipedia.org for TONIGHT. The highly used online encyclopedia is turning out its lights tomorrow to show you what the internet might look like if the Stop Online Piracy Act passes. And they aren’t the only ones. 7,000 sites say they will participate in the biggest online black out in U.S. history tomorrow. So don’t plan on updating your Word Press blog or wasting time at work scouring Reddit tomorrow.

While behemoth Google will stay up, they will  provide links on their search page explaining how the act will infringe on freedom of expression. And that’s a big deal. This will be the first time Google will participate in a current political movement

Government officials who support SOPA have lashed out against the protest. Senator Chris Dodd (Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America) has called tech businesses actions “irresponsible,” saying they are “resorting to stunts that punish users or turn them into their corporate pawns.”  And some sites, like Twitter, have said they are opting out of the blackout because it is bad for business. 

What the convoluted SOPA will mean for the average Internet user is kind of confusing even to those who have been following this controversy since it began. If you’re still confused about what the argument against SOPA is, Chris Heald has an article up today on Mashable breaking it down

(image from Mashable.com)
We were promised a war between social media giants by every expert in the blogosphere and today we saw a bit of a battle begin. 
Twitter is speaking out against changes to their competitor and reigning search engine Google. This morning, Google announced they will update their search engine to include Google+ users’ pages along with regular Google search results. For those of us who aren’t part of the 62 million reported Google+ users, nothing will change but those active on Google’s social network will notice a difference to their searches. Twitter thinks this could muddle searches by pushing out relevant results (i.e. Twitter posts). 
 “As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter,” the company said. “We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone.”
But does that mean Google including relevant (and clearly noted) information coming out of their own social network is unfair? Will Google+ information clutter up search results? Or is Twitter out of line? 

(image from Mashable.com)

We were promised a war between social media giants by every expert in the blogosphere and today we saw a bit of a battle begin. 

Twitter is speaking out against changes to their competitor and reigning search engine Google. This morning, Google announced they will update their search engine to include Google+ users’ pages along with regular Google search results. For those of us who aren’t part of the 62 million reported Google+ users, nothing will change but those active on Google’s social network will notice a difference to their searches. Twitter thinks this could muddle searches by pushing out relevant results (i.e. Twitter posts). 

 “As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter,” the company said. “We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone.”

But does that mean Google including relevant (and clearly noted) information coming out of their own social network is unfair? Will Google+ information clutter up search results? Or is Twitter out of line?