Lead generation companies, SEO and the FTC — Where things are headed

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The FTC Lead Generation Workshop press release. You can click on the image to go to it.
The FTC Lead Generation Workshop press release. You can click on the image to go to it.
The FTC Lead Generation Workshop press release. You can click on the image to go to it.

Brian Javeline continues his crusade against online residential lead generation companies with a report (and preparations for) an Oct. 30 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) workshop “to explore the growing use of online lead generation. In a contractortalk.com posting, he writes (colors are his):against unfair or deceptive practices?”

The FTC is seeking research, recommendations for discussion topics, and requests for panelists in advance of the workshop.
Among the relevant top topics is “What types of lead generation conduct may be unlawful under the FTC Act’s prohibition against unfair or deceptive practices?”

Javeline and others believe that certain well-recognized services are misappropriating contractors’ identity to to effectively steal their page ranking status within search engines such as Google, and then (unfairly) either redirecting the leads to the contractors’ competitors or (painfully) charging them hefty fees to acquire leads that would rightfully be theirs through their own direct connection with consumers.

(The issue with lead generation companies seems to be most painful in the residential market. I haven’t seen anything similarly evil in the ICI world; lead providing services such as DataBid.com and McGraw-Hill Dodge provide useful information to clients but you won’t see them playing similar identity-theft games with their clients.)

In the thread, one poster observed that Google has been cracking down on “doorway pages”, which would seem to catch many of the lead generation businesses at their own game. These controls have indeed harmed listing statuses of some large generalist services but haven’t yet done much to take out the big residential lead generation players.

However, I’m wondering if, in addition to efforts to raise the issue on a regulatory level, actions to explore the problem within the Google search ranking world may also be helpful.

One place where individual contractors might be able to outline their problem — and then invite attention and possible solutions — could be the Google Webmaster Central Help Forum. (You can also follow Javeline’s advice on how to ask the lead generation services to remove unwanted listings from their directories.)

I expect if enough contractors raise the issue, by asking for advice how they can overcome the black-box lead generation SEO processes, Google will take notice and there is a better chance for an algorithm/search review to overcome their doorway page practices.

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