SME Pals is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
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.

Business plan template

Starting out with a great business plan is especially important for online startups (like blogs, professional sites & eCommerce stores) because

Free beginner guides for entrepreneurs. Pic by James Jordan.

It’s hard work trying to find the time to develop a new business idea, create a business plan, build a website, create content, marketing, promotions, networ

The creative heuristic helps generate new business ideas

The creative heuristic algorithm can help spark new business ideas for your next side hustle, or even new blog post ideas to make money blogging.

Ways to make more money

Making extra money online with a fun side-hustle or second job can be a challenge that changes the course of your career (and life) in profound ways

Great YouTube vids for entrepreneurs

There's a stack of really mediocre instructional clips on everything from writing a business plan, understanding the science of marketing, or improving SEO and ranking higher in Google.

You could probably spend weeks combing through everything, but like most entrepreneurs you probably don't have the time.

That's why I've collected five of the most useful and important YouTube clips to help you get the basics right - especially when it comes to ensuring your business and website get the most from the Internet.

WAH with your own freelance writing job. Pic by Evelina Ander

Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to hire yourself as a freelance writer and turn that part-time job into a successful business that earns decent mo

$5000 passive income from a single post. Image by www_slon_pics from Pixabay

This step-by-step guide will turn unrealistic expectations of how to make passive income online into stone-cold blogging awesomeness, from scratch.

How to find a gap in the market for startups. Photo by Robert S. Donovan

Being an entrepreneur is exciting because finding gaps in the market is a tricky challenge that can lead to great rewards with exciting new business ideas an

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.

Passive income ideas to make money online

The Web is arguably the best space for passive income ideas because content (i.e.

Real world elevator pitch example. Pic by Joe Penniston

It's vital to come up with a polished elevator pitch because the first 30 - 60 seconds in front of investors can mean the difference between success and fail

University business startup competitions. Pic by tableatny

Starting a business can be a daunting task - often made all the more difficult by a small advertising/marketing budget and an insufficient network of contact

Back to Top