Earlier this year, Google added a new option in their Google My Business platform.  It let businesses add a link to click for appointments or services.

Sounds good so far, but Shelly Fagin is reporting in Search Engine Journal (SEJ) that it may not be what it seems.  In fact, Google My Business may be redirecting those leads and selling them.  Want to get the person that clicked on the link for your services?  Pay for it. Or, maybe the lead will go to your competitor instead.

When you click on the link, up comes a lead generation form.  Customers fill it out to get a quote from you, but it goes through a third-party company.  You may never get the inquiry.   Holy hijack.  But wait, it gets worse.  If you want to start getting the leads your customers are sending, you need to “claim the business.”

When you do claim it, there’s a fee.  The third-party offers $99, $149, or $199 a month packages, according to SEJ article.  If you don’t pay, you don’t get leads.

I checked some local business where I live to see if it was happening here.  It is.  Check out the below listing for Thomas HVAC Company.  When you click the Products and Services link, it takes you to a landing page, which lists services.  You can’t contact Thomas HVAC unless they pay up.

Maybe that’s why Google removed the “Don’t be evil” from its code of conduct when it become Alphabet.  It may not be evil, but it is pretty sneaky.  If it were my business, I wouldn’t be happy about it.

Between paid ad positions at the top of the page that you have to pay for, the Google map pack which you might have to pay to get leads, almost all of the organic listings are below the fold.  So, even if you end up n the #1 position on page one organically, it’s a long way down to see your listing.