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Google Can Destroy You

Ed Johnson

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Original Topic Created in April of 2012:


On March 10, 2012 because of a major drop in calls, I went on line to check my internet listings and found that Google Places deleted my company. It took a few days to find out that on March 5, 2012 “anonymous” reported my company as having gone out of business. For six weeks I did everything I could to get our listing back. Our listing had been in a good position and we received about 70% to 75% of our new business from the Google Places listing. This deletion hurt us seriously during the six weeks because we had a major drop in business and lost thousands of dollars we would have received if people had been able to find us on Google Places.

Before deleting us, Google should have confirmed the anonymous report, but it did not. Google Places had our business name, address, email address, and our phone number. If it is so easy to delete a company, it should also be easy to add it back on, but that is not the case. Google requires companies to be “verified” by sending them a postcard with a “PIN Code” to be used to activate a listing but it requires nothing of “anonymous”. The verification process can take two weeks during which time your company is not listed. It was necessary for us to prove that we were actually in business rather than requiring “anonymous” to prove we had closed. In our area, many tow companies are licensed from the home address of the owner, but Google has an official policy that if customers do not come to your door but you come to them, then you cannot list your home address as being that of your business. Rather than close all of the local home based listings, we were singled out for this action. It should be noted that in the 31 years I have been in business, I have always been properly zoned and licensed for my location and my business. All together, I sent over 20 emails to Google, 4 faxes, and 2 priority mail letters, but Google did not respond to any of them.

I believe that much of what happened to our company was due to the bureaucracy Google has established. There is no one person who passes judgment on a company but many persons, any one of whom can counteract the actions of others. There is a phone number for their headquarters in Mountain View, California, but they do not answer it. They also have a fax number that is very easily used, but our faxes do not get answered. I paid one person to help correct this problem, but he could not do anything either.

Honestly, I don’t think that Google is out to get me, I just think that its bureaucracy is so thick that it is almost impossible to cut through it.

As of April 23, 2012 it appears that Google Places has come to the conclusion that our company does exist and we were notified that “Google will soon update your listing data…”. I will be interested in how our listing will be updated. Nonetheless, after six weeks of fighting, we are now shown on Google Places.

So why am I telling all of you this?

Simple, I want to help make sure that fellow tow operators are not put out of business like almost happened to us. What should you do to protect yourself? First, get a web page. We have been in business for over 31 years, but never got a web page because we got so much of our business from telephone yellow pages and internet listings. A web page makes it easier for you to make written changes regarding your company than the process of changing other internet listings. After you have a web page designed for your company, it will take months for it to appear on various listings on the internet through “search engine optimization” but it is also harder for it to be shut down. Second: Get your company listed on every internet search engine and that would include Google, Verizon, Yahoo, Bing, and all the others. These listings are FREE unless you want to pay extra and they are easily found on all search engines. Make sure you list all the details regarding your business on each one of these free sites so that if one or more of them drop you, your information can still be found. Your Google Places and Google Maps listings are the most important as Google is the largest search engine in the industry. Check your Google listing every day and the moment something happens to it, get to work immediately. Because it is so difficult to communicate with Google, you must start as soon as something happens. You will have to carefully examine the processes that Google has because Google currently does not have an easy system for correcting a mistake.

I will let you know how things have turned out, but please take steps to protect so you survive in the event that “anonymous” decides to attack you.

Please Note: I have a made a few changes in my original posting so as not to confuse you with all the changes that Google has made for us. What is shown is a brief history.

Update Apr 18, 2012:

We received a new card with a PIN Code and that allowed us to verify ourselves. This will not result in an immediate Google listing which can take several days, but it is a major step in the right direction.

Update: April 24, 2012:

We received an email from Google Maps showing that they had revised our location on Google Maps. This is true, they did. We are now shown in the Big Bethel Reservoir in Yorktown (York County), VA zip code 23693, approximately 8 miles from our real location and in an entirely different jurisdiction. In Va. cities are independent entities and do not have counties in them and are not within counties. Our real address, which is in Google records, is 2807 Bending Oak Drive, Hampton, VA 23666 (No, I do not mind giving my company address out). The Big Bethel Reservoir is owned and operated by the Army Corps. of Engineers and is a great place to catch fish but to the best of my knowledge, there are few cars in the lake.

Note to A&A: That phone number is for Google's paid ad department where they sell "pay per click" where you pay for each time someone clicks your listing. They are not interested in discussing the other listings. Thank you for giving it to me though.

UPDATE: As of May 9, 2012 our listings are fully back and customers can look us up on Google to get our phone number and new customers can shop Google for a tow company (including us) in their area. Great Day!


AnadATowingsvcs said:

Here is a phone number for google that i have hope it helps. 866-246-6453


Carl4tow said:

happend to me to


visual towing said:

good luck hope you can catch back up the lost work , thanks for the info keep us posted .


dragonwagonII said:

Iv had an issue with goggle as well . Inapropriate comment made " there worse then the arabs in Det . " They did reply saying there was nothing wrong with that ! Its one comment made by a competitor out of many good comments so it has not hurt us .

You have been around 31 years and a large number of your calls are from google search , that surprises me . I dont think even 5 percent of our work comes from the net and we are 1st listed on google for the area . That inculdes direct calls from there car , companies who searched out on the net and so on .

We did a long term attempt to find where people got our number , most was a local referal . Smart phones are gaining ground , search the net from your auto but we had less then 2 percent say that was how they found us back when we were asking . We were trying to isolate our best advertising dollars .


fairway said:

Did this really happen?  The whole thing reads like you are trying to sell something. 


Ed Johnson said:

I can understand your reluctance to accept this story - it happened to me and my tow company and I can hardly believe it.
We are still trying to fix the problem. But trust me, I am not selling anything! I am just trying to help fellow tow companies from having this happen to them. Keep watching, I will report what finally does happen.


fairway said:

I believe you, and I looked for your company on google places and could not find it.  Just the way the post was written struck me as some type of infomercial. 


twinbulls said:

Now that hurts .... I think Ed is just a very good writer and gave us all the info and facts....

I am truly sorry this happened to you... Best of luck with it ...

Google has been very good to us. we get many calls a day from the internet....price shoppers and tows....

Ed is right you need to get set up with a website and google account.... just will make it harder for this to happen ....


Ed Johnson said:

I too had been happy with Google and never thought for one moment that they would delete my listing. Even when my listing was deleted, I thought it would be fairly easy to contact Google and a correction would be made and my listing would be replaced. All this started on March 5, 2012 when they deleted me because "anonymous" reported that I had gone out of business and Google Places did not check with me before hitting the "Kill Switch" to delete my company. Now I am having to jump through all kinds of hoops in an effort to get this straightened out. FORTY-SIX days, and it still has not been fixed.


OKTOW said:

I have a website, a google places listing, and use google adwords. My problem is, they keep changing the address on my business listing from our office location to the home address. I sure as hell don't want a home address listed on the internet. Some of the mail comes to the house, and the corporation is listed as the house. I've been fighting this for two years.


Tomjr said:

I get calls all the time to update my google listing. Is that the same thing?


gruff said:

I too had "anonymous" edit my listing for me even though I had claimed it and had proper login setup to avoid this kind of thing. My phone number and web address were removed from google places by "anonymous" in december of 2011 and still is not fixed after several attempts. I have wondered if "anonymous" is a data provider for the big G that tried to sell me some kind of serch optimization that I would not buy, and decided to "help" me out anyway. Maybe someday I will know who "anonymous" is.


Ed Johnson said:

On March 5, 2012 based on information from "anonymous" who reported that we had gone out of business, Google Places deleted my company without confirming this with us. Google had our mailing address, email, and phone number, but did nothing to confirm that we had gone out of business and simply deleted us. After 31 years of business, "anonymous" and Google decided to destroy my small company.

For 7 weeks, I have had an almost total loss of business. I have done everything I could to straighten this mess out, Google does not care what it has done. In fact, it did put a listing back for us, but showed us to be about 8 miles away from our actual location and in a neighboring county. I tried to get them to do anything to put us anywhere within the city that we are licensed in and have operated in for over 31 years, but I guess I complained too much. During the night of April 24, 2012 they moved us further out into the county.

After 7 weeks of almost no business and over 40 emails, 4 faxes, and 2 priority mail letters to Google, I have come to realize there is nothing that can be done when Google decides to go after you.  "Anonymous" and Google Places and Google Maps have won.

My suggestion to fellow tow operators remains the same: Build a web page and get listed on all search engines. Google is the largest search engine in the world and if it receives a false report about you from anonymous, it will delete you. If you try to work with them to correct problem, they will work to make it worse. I have been polite to Google and have tried to work with them to straighten out this mess, but nothing was accomplished. Google does not have to answer to anyone and if it decides, based on a false report, to close your business, there is nothing you can do with them to save your company. Google has become a very large operation and it will occasionally flex its muscles to show its power. It does not have to answer to anyone and step by step it is going to prove it.

I have given up on Google but I have not totally given up. I expect that Google will find a way to get this posting removed, but I intend to write to every organization and every government office, and every congressman I  can to spread the word about how Google operates. Probably little will be accomplished since I am such a small voice, but if enough companies are destroyed by Google and enough people scream, eventually the noise will get loud enough that Google will get what it deserves.


fairway said:

I hope you can get this all worked out. One thing that doesn't make sense to me is that you have been in business for 31 years, and your entire workload is based off of google places?  I just can't seem to grasp how a google places listing can bring in enough work to run the entire business.  Anyway, I wish you all the luck in getting things back.


Ed Johnson said:

We get about 70% of our NEW business from internet listings - almost everyone uses internet for information now days. A tow company is not a service people use often like a hardware store or restaurant. Most people do not need towing very often.
We get about 25% to 30% of our business from repeat customers or friends they send to us.
We do not do motorclubs because I am not smart enough to figure out how to tow cars for  $25.00 or less.
We have listings in the two local phonebooks, but people rarely carry phonebooks in their car.
Many people are in this area because of the military and will often transfer out within 3 years. Most people (especially if they take care of their cars) rarely break down and need towing and when they do, they will check the internet for a business that is close to them. If they do not find a listing for you or if Google shows you in another locality, the person looks for a tow company that can get to them quickly and will not call you if you are a long ways off (like if your listing shows you in the middle of a lake).
If Google has deleted you, customers (even regular ones) who do not find your number will not call you. They will call another company that is listed close to them. Unless a person has your business card with them when they break down (I give at least two cards to every customer) they cannot call you and so they depend on a phone book or internet listings to find your number.
My entire workload is not based on Google Places but a lot of people use Google because it is convenient and does not require them to carry a business card.


fairway said:

Thank you for clarifying. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong, I only get 5% of my business from all my advertising. Referrals and contracts are where I get everything. 


Ed Johnson said:

As mentioned in the original post, on March 5, 2012, my business was deleted by Google because of a false report that we had gone out of business. On May 9, 2012 our listings finally returned after much work. Letters sent to Google were not answered nor were faxes and you cannot talk to Google Places by telephone. Very soon I will give information on how to protect yourself from such actions. In the meantime, I urge you to go online and go to Google Places and "claim" your business which will allow you to control your listing so someone else cannot claim it and control it for you. That will not keep Google from deleting you but it will give you some other protections.


I  have been asked by a member of the Tow 411 forum what our company did to regain our deleted listing on Google. The following describes the situation and what was successful and what was not. It is hoped that if any other tow company is deleted by Google that the lessons we learned will assist in getting resolution to your problem faster than ours was.

Our company lost its Google listing for a period of 3 months (March, April, and May, 2012) as the result of a report by “anonymous” that we had gone out of business. In the process of getting Google to relist our business, I wrote over 60 emails, sent 2 faxes, and 3 U.S. Priority Mailings to Google. None of those efforts resulted in any response or assistance. Google is a large company controlling approximately 70% to 80% of the search engine market and way ahead of Bing or Yahoo or over a dozen other search engines. Google does not verify claims of companies going out of business nor does it have a process for relisting those that it deletes. Google appears not to have any process for managing actions started by its own employees, members of the general public, or of volunteers who provide much of Google’s data. Having been a police officer, I was used to “Standard Operating Procedures” that spell out how situations should be handled so as to reduce mistakes and standardize actions taken. We also had procedures to deal with mistakes that sometimes slip through the system. A well organized SOP greatly reduces problems and works to correct mistakes or deliberate actions that cause trouble. Many corporations and government agencies have uniform procedures that are taught to employees and enforced when employees do not do their jobs properly. Additionally, an SOP provides a basic guide for handling unanticipated situations. My small tow company uses an SOP manual so that all our procedures are harmonized with each other. If a customer calls us on the phone and receives an answer to a question today, he or she should receive the same answer if they call again tomorrow. 

There appears to be a major weaknesses in “chain of command” and “span of control” at Google. Chain of command is the organization of management so that a lower ranking employee reports to his supervisor (manager) who reports to the next in-line supervisor who reports to the next in-line supervisor, and so forth. “Chain of Command” allows problems to be managed at the basic level and if a problem cannot be solved at the lowest level, it then goes up to the next level. The advantage of “Chain of Command” is that most problems are easily and quickly solved. It makes sure that low supervisory levels have the authority and responsibility to deal with simple mistakes quickly but allows serious problems to advance up the ladder of command to the point where they come to a supervisor having the authority to handle them.

I also mentioned “Span of Control” which means that varied problems go to the person having authority in a particular field among the many fields that a business may be involved in. For example, an employee working in the electronics department of a store may be competent in that field, but have no knowledge of the house wares department where pots and pans are sold. When a customer mentions a problem with a house wares product, the electronics employee has easy access to a person at house wares. You have a situation that might not be in the experience level of one employee but it can be quickly sent to another who knows what to do.

Google has many departments that affect the towing industry such as Google Maps, Google Map Maker, and Google Places. Any one, two or even three of these departments might be the cause of your problem but there is no one in a position to make a decision that is final. For example, if an employee in Google Places has accepted an edit of your company listing, an employee in Google Map Maker might receive your edit and approve it and within a week or two your business may gain a listing on Google. Unfortunately, since there is no chain of command, another person in Google Map Maker may decide to “deny” your listing even though it was twice accepted at Google Places. That person may decide for some arbitrary reason to deny it, and your listing is removed from Google and other employees cannot overrule the decision. If you request that your listing be sent to a supervisor or manager for review, the employee who denied it can keep it from management. Under Google’s system, any number of people can approve a listing but one can mark it “denied” and no one can do anything with it. That person does not have to have a reason for his action and he can block it from going up the chain of command for review. Although Google Places has excellent and easy to follow rules for how listings should be made, the arbitrary actions of one person can block your listing. It does not matter whether your listing scored 100% with Google Places and meets all the requirements; anyone can block your listing. If you send a message to that person asking what problem is preventing your company from being listed, he or she does not have to give you any response and can continue to mark your listing “denied”. This is akin to a private in the army deciding to stop the D-Day invasion of France in World War II and General Eisenhower not being able to do anything about it. This information is presented to you so you can understand how the Google system functions. Having this knowledge can save you a couple of months of lost effort.

How does the system work? You first start by designing a listing at Google Places. After you have properly created your listing with Google Places, a verification card will be sent to you to verify that you are the owner of the business and that the business address you created is correct. You then go to Google Places and type in the “PIN Code” that you received in the mail. The data for your listing is then sent to Google Map Maker. If everything goes well with Google Map Maker, your listing is sent to Google Maps and your process is complete and your business listing will show within a month of being created.

So, what should you do? The first step is to find out if you have a Google business listing. Look up several categories in Google search to see if you are listed. Try typing in “Towing” and the name of your city. If your company pops up, you are certainly listed and can go forward. Next, see if you are listed under “Towing Service” and the name of your city. Try several combinations of terms that reflect the work your company does. If your company appears under some towing type of listing but not under others, your next step is to go to “Google Places” and add services in the area you are directed to. When you go to Google Places, you will be told to type in your company name. If it does not show up, then you need to create a listing for your company. The procedures shown on Google Places are clear enough. Fill in the information called for, review the information you have provided and make sure that you carefully follow all the questions or directions you are presented. If your business does appear in Google Places, you need to make appropriate edits so that over a period of several weeks Google can post your business under proper categories. You may see a question that asks you “Are you the owner of this business” and if you indicate you are, it will provide instructions for verification.

How to Verify your Google Listing: Provide the appropriate information for your company. Then find the place that directs you how to receive a “PIN Code” by mail. In the United States, this is the only option for verification. You will receive this card in about one or two weeks. When that card is received, return to Google Places, find your proposed listing,  and in the appropriate box, type in the “PIN Code” that appears on that card. You will then be allowed to make edits to your listing. Once you have made appropriate edits, you then mouse over to “send” and your listing will be sent to Google Places for approval. While waiting for the card with your “PIN Code” to arrive, DO NOT MAKE ANY EDITS to the business listing. DO NOT REQUEST ANOTHER card to be sent to you and DO NOT TRY TO ADD YOUR LISTING AGAIN. Wait for the original card you ordered to be sent to you and do nothing until the card arrives. Taking any action may result in the PIN Code you requested being changed and no longer valid and you will have to start the verification process over again.

What Happens Next? After you have verified your listing, wait a week or two for your listing to show up on Google. If you go to Google Places you may see terms like “Waiting for approval” or others. Do not do anything. You can go to Google Map Maker in a few days and see if your listing appears. If it does, it may say something like “this location is not supported”. Don’t worry, this simply means that Google Map Maker is waiting for your data to be reviewed and it should appear within a week or two. Each day go to Google and type in your business name to see if Google shows it. You should also type in “Towing” and “Towing Service” to see if your business shows up. If it does show up, you are fine. If it does not show up after several weeks, you have some work to do.

My Business was Verified, but did not Get Listed. After a couple of weeks, if your business has not been listed, you need to join “Google Map Maker Groups”. Google groups is an area where you can find the appropriate forum to inquire about your problem. Once you see the proper forum, join it and ask your specific question, for example: “My business was verified but is not listed on Google Maps”. People (largely Google volunteers) will respond to you and ask questions in an effort to assist you. They are mostly volunteers and you should not get angry with them. Answer their questions as briefly as possible and wait until they respond which is usually between a few hours or a couple of days. When they get back to you, they many have more questions and you should answer them honestly, briefly, and politely. They may make suggestions to you. Wait a day or two before trying a suggestion because a more experienced “map maker” volunteer may make a better suggestion. Then you can decide which suggestion looks best for your situation and then apply it. There are a number of people who are very competent and will go a long way to assist you. They will normally tell you where you are making mistakes and then tell you exactly what is needed. Once these people start, they may consult with others and come back with more ideas or get other people to work behind the scenes to help you. The process described here is what I did to get my listing back. It took me about three months, but you can use the information I learned to get faster results.

What else can I do? It is absolutely essential that you create listings on Bing and Yahoo search engines. All the search engines have systems that “crawl” (search) each other and then use the information found to add to their own listings. Having listings on each search engine will help you in the long run. In your searching, you will find sites that allow you to add your business listing. Some of these sites are local phone companies, newspapers, television stations, and radio stations. You will find some named “yellow pages”, “Angie’s List”, “dmv.org”, “automd”, “manta”, “Yelp”, “merchant circle” and many others that provide free listings. You should search out as many of these as possible and use the free services they offer. These sites are also “crawled” by the search engines and over time the information you place on them may help build the listings you need. The more your business shows up on the internet, the more likely it is to be picked up by more sites and search engines. There is no need to pay for any of these listings and you should not do so until you have gotten your free listings on Bing, Yahoo, and Google. Later, when you find out which sites are popular in your area and are paid by your competitors you can decide if they are worth paying for yourself. In most cases, they are not worth the expense.

What about a Web Site? A good web site can accomplish several things. First, it improves your chances of getting a good location on the various search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. It also makes it less likely that your listing will be deleted. A web page can cost from around $100 to $1,500 or more. I went to a company that charged me about $500 for a web site that includes five pages and monthly updates and one year of service. It also includes “search engine optimization” (SEO). SEO is a process that increases your web site’s visibility on the internet by making it easier for your site to be found. Over a period of about a month, your web site will begin appearing in various places on the internet. You do not get instant results and must be patient. After you have a web site designed for you, you will be given a web site address such as “samstowing.com” or http://samstowing.com” that you can add to various sites. Each of the sites I listed above such as “manta”, “merchant circle”, etc. have a place where you can manually add your web site address and it is good to do so. This will not harm the SEO process that your web page designer sets up but it will speed the process. You do not need a complex site but you need at least one page that prominently shows your company name, phone number, methods of payment, and a description of the work you provide.

The steps outlined above will not get an instant Google listing for you or get your listing instantly returned to you if you had one and it was deleted, but they will help you get your listing back. You are not alone in this, as it appears many companies have disappeared from Google this year.

Special Caution! Do not send emails, faxes, or Priority Mail to Google headquarters as I did. Google headquarters is the home of one of the largest companies you will ever deal with. You are a speck of sand on the beach. Your communications will not be answered and writing to Google and not getting responses will only serve to make you frustrated.

In working through the forums at Google Map Maker, you will be dealing with volunteers or a few employees who go beyond their job requirements to help you. They are not obligated to do anything for you and what they are doing is simply out of their desire to be helpful. Never, never, never lose your temper and write out stuff that can make others mad at you. If you are having a problem creating an initial listing with Google or in getting a deleted listing reinstated, you will be depending on others to voluntarily help you and getting them frustrated with you will ruin any chances that they will help you further. As others work to help you, let them know you appreciate their help. Remember, these people are volunteers and are helping you out simply because they enjoy doing so. Don’t tick them off! Make double sure that you proofread everything you write so that your messages are clear. Let someone else read your messages before you send them and always “spell-check”.

Because you have learned to expect instant results when you do something on a computer, you may also expect instant results from Google. Corrections are not made quickly on Google and mistakes take a while to solve. When correcting a deleted listing or adding a new one, you should expect it to take up to 3 or 4 weeks to see results.


petiehooker said:

Google did it to me as well. They removed company that still in business and listed up company that been out of business. I tried to deleted my ad and reset it again with a new CODE verification but the code never get sent to me. Google should have call the business listing owner before they removed their ads.......just as google verify the ads before listed for business owner.


twinbulls said:

some good info


nvtowing said:

Yelp can hurt as well. One negative comment from someone that was mad they had to pay to get their (PD tow) stolen vehicle back has been sticking at the top of "towing " google searches, before places, etc.. Working on 'drowning' it out with positive feedback. But google has had it cached on the top for a week now.


Diesel Wrecker said:

Just for you all out there that are not familiars with computers and search engines or web crawlers. Google is not a phone book they don't have to have you listed.It is your choice to be up to date with technology and used a web page for them to find you.Think of a web base office, you have to create a website. If they don't see you on the web you don't exit for them.This does not apply to Google only but all search engine in general. The reason Google remove business from the web is because there is no activity on the business name. What you can do now is to Used Google ad for a few months so they can re-list you and them stop the advertising and you will be on the system again.Good luck.


FredsTowingNJ said:

I had the same problem a few months ago.


    Ed Johnson, Coliseum Towing Service, Hampton, VA. 23666

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