How Google hurt our startup launch with a mistaken phishing warning

Thanks Google for ruining our startup launch!

You spend years building up an online business, working hard to provide a service that gives paying customers great value.

After a while, your company starts attracting corporate clients who need a bit more than what is available on your traditional offering. And, despite limited resources, you have no choice but to expand the service to enterprise level customers.

But this means a lot of work, and it takes months to properly plan, design and implement the new changes. It's infuriating that Google can mistakenly ruin this.

Developing the new site

Because the enterprise version operates on a flat monthly rate, instead of on a subscription basis, a decision is made to operate it as a separate site, on its own domain.

The service is essentially the same, but a lot of under-the-hood customizations are needed to bring greater flexibility to the system, and manage the new flat rate payment structure.

After the development is done, a new domain is purchased, along with an SSL certificate to secure logins and customer accounts.

Once the system has been operating successfully and bug free for a week, the launch is initiated.

Launching the startup

The launch phase is carried out in four separate stages:

  1. Notify existing business clients who have put themselves on a waiting list
  2. Notify other people who have expressed interest in a flat rate service
  3. Place notifications on the existing site where appropriate (i.e. on the pricing page)
  4. Announce the new enterprise service via email (this is the big one)

Steps one to three were carried out over the course of a day or two, and focused on relatively minor things (in terms of the numbers of people exposed to the announcement).

Why was step 4 so important?

Well, for a start, the email went out to over 4500 existing customers, some of whom are CEOs of pretty large companies, some are celebrities, many are small business owners - all of them are really important and valuable clients.

Perfectly timed with our grand announcement, Google decides that our new domain is an infected phishing site, and greets the hundreds of people (the market share percent of the customers using Chrome) arriving to take a look with this:

Google Chrome erroneous phishing warning

So well timed was this warning that minutes before the announcement email was sent out, this warning was not in place. It was only because a kind customer took the time to notify us that we were even aware this had happened.

Of course, no other browser displayed this warning because this is a false positive. Testing the site on Google's safe browsing tool didn't show any problems with the site:

Google safebrowsing

Great Google, thanks a lot. You can't find anything wrong with the site, but you're happy to tell the world that this is a phishing site.

Now, Google's answer to this might be that they would rather err on the side of caution. But, for goodness sake, with all their technical might, can't they determine that this site is served from a different domain but from the same server, with the same registered domain owner?

They would rather ruin a hugely important small business launch than actually check if it makes sense for the new domain to be there.

Or, if they are convinced something is wrong, why not notify the webmaster before they decide to tell the world the site is an infected phishing trap (when it bloody isn't). If another company had the power to take a big launch of your business and use it to tell everyone that you were a criminal enterprise, how would you feel?

Do you think Google has something to answer for in this case, or do you think they are justified in damaging the reputation of small businesses regardless of whether they get it right or wrong - in the interests of safety?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Don't hesitate, start your business today

Check out our top 3 reasons why there's never been a better time to set up an online business than right now.

If you've got an idea that you think will succeed but are hesitating because you are worried about failing and losing money, then get ready to be inspired to start today - right now even.

Sure, the economy is not great, but there are signs of growth, and successful people didn't get that way by sitting around waiting for the economy to improve.

Pitching ideas and startups

I recently attended the final round of pitches for twelve early stage, local tech startups, and was privileged to witness a new generation of exciting and en

Top ideas from university entrepreneurs

Encouraging younger people to become involved in entrepreneurship by holding business idea competitions is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to innovate o

Great ideas to help entrepreneurs bootstrap their business

Having a great business idea is only the beginning of the creative journey every entrepreneur goes on when starting a new venture using their own capital (

Logo design tips

Designing a great logo for your startup can be one of the most important (and frustrating) challenges you take on.

How to earn a passive income online. Pic by John Haler

The Web is arguably the best medium from which to earn a passive income because content, software and online services can persistently drive traffic and reve

drop shipping introduction

Looking for a great home based startup idea to provide a secondary income (or primary, if it goes well)? Combine an eCommerce website with drop shipping facilities to lower costs and start earning from day one.

Drop shipping is a technique used by many home based and small business owners to fulfil orders and deliver products without having to handle warehousing, packaging and transport.

Instead, a drop shipping company takes care of this aspect of the business (often delivering directly from the factory), allowing you to focus on marketing and growing the store.

Fun ideas to make money

Making money online with a fun sidehustle is a dream for a lot of people even if it isn't as easy to achieve as most of them would like.

It's easy to set up your own email on a good Web hosting account

A lot of small business owners find that they need a corporate email address on their own work domain, but aren't entirely sure what is required to set things in motion, beyond needing a domain name.

And while using something like mycompany @ gmail.com might be sufficient for the first few weeks, you'll want something more professional going forward - because it promotes you better.

Also, given how much spam arrives from the free email systems, it's unlikely anyone will take email from a hotmail address seriously.

home business ideas to make money fast

Finding a way to make money quickly is really not as good as finding a way to earn a stable income in the long term - get rich quick schemes tend to be a was

Gap in the market startups. Photo by Robert S. Donovan

Being an entrepreneur is one of the best vocations in the world because it encourages you to view everything as an opportunity for innovation.

Whether to choose equity or salary

Deciding whether to take a job working for a startup company is a decision that can lead to fabulous riches or years of wasted effort with little to show.

In short, it's a high risk decision.

So how what factors must be taken into account when working out how to take an offer?

This article lists six questions you should ask yourself before considering any job offer - to help ensure you get a fair deal and make the right decision.

Our goal is to provide you with free, unique tips & insights into the world of small business. To support ourselves we use ads and affiliate relationships. We may, or may not, earn a small commission (at no cost to you) as a result purchases you make via links clicked on SME Pals.