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I have a client whose site I rebuilt several months ago. I also took over their SEO when I did this. Their previous SEO company called them today and my client sent them an email. My client passed the info to me like this:

The company that we were paying to do our SEO just called and said they were contacted by google and told to remove their tags from all of our stuff. We canceled them last July... They wanted to give us a heads up that they are removing their tags and that you will have to take over that and put some work in.

Is there any truth to Google contacting a company and telling them to "remove their tags"? I thought that maybe this could be something related to Google's Search Console but there are no messages for this site.

I personally wonder if it's a tactic to try and get the client back but I thought I would ask to see if there is ever a chance that Google contacted them? Have others run into similar situations?

(What also perplexes me is they have no access to the site so I don't know what "tags" they could be referencing?)

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6  
The whole Google thing is horse puckey!! Plain and simple! – closetnoc Mar 3 at 4:30
8  
Client should have changed website access credentials back in July when they cancelled the work relationship. Any access and modifications made by that company after that point in time is criminal trespass. Check access logs for unauthorized activity. And, no, Google would not contact them. Typical Snakeoil SEO tactic. – Fiasco Labs Mar 3 at 4:50
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@FiascoLabs - They never had access to the site once I took it over. – L84 Mar 3 at 5:09
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It's possible that they used some dubious SEO techniques on your site (perhaps links from you to them that google classifies "bought links", or something similar) and figured out that google penalizes them for these and thus want to remove them now. After being mangled by PR people, this could turn into the message you received. – CodesInChaos Mar 3 at 11:28
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"I don't know what "tags" they could be referencing?" - Google Tag Manager? – w3dk Mar 3 at 16:02
up vote 19 down vote accepted

(What also perplexes me is they have no access to the site so I don't know what "tags" they could be referencing?)

That there tells me your old SEO company wants to make whatever extra dollar they can from you.

The company that we were paying to do our SEO just called and said they were contacted by google and told to remove their tags from all of our stuff.

If by "their tags" you are referring to decorations that specifically apply to the company such as the SEO company logo, then why not? delete those things and make both of you happy. If however, you mean keywords, then the company is stepping over-bounds, because you paid for them to put the keywords in your site. If they MUST remove the keywords to make your site rank not as high, then the least you deserve is a FULL REFUND.

Also, Google isn't a personal website tag-manager service, and even if it was, the point is, you hired an SEO consultant to improve your website, you didn't transfer ownership of the site to the SEO consultant. After all, you did pay your dues, and received service as requested back in the day. right?

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You confirmed what I was thinking. What's funny is I rebuilt the site with best practices and removed almost all of their code anyway. – L84 Mar 3 at 4:12
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Google contacted them? Yeah, right. – Martin Bean Mar 3 at 11:58

I agree 100% with @mike's answer. However to answer this question in short: Not true, Google will never call an SEO company nor a website owner to ask them to remove their website tags.

Side note: I am glad for your client that they have left that doggy SEO company

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This is the same company that inspired this question by me. – L84 Mar 3 at 4:41
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You're probably correct about tags but for the record, Google does call up webmasters sometimes. I've had calls from the Google Adsense team about improving ad revenue. – DisgruntledGoat Mar 3 at 12:36
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Yes, the adsende or adwords team will probably call you to "help" or "assist" you manage your expenses in your campaigns. But they will never call you for tags, image all the websites webmasters in the world the might need to call – titico Mar 3 at 20:25
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I think you meant "dodgy" over "doggy" – cat Mar 4 at 0:38
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@tac - The business that I'm speaking about is a pet store so doggy is kinda appropriate. haha (Although titico didn't know that.) – L84 Mar 4 at 4:10

This story stinks for several reasons.

  1. Google does not notify websites because their page-rank is in danger. When they suspect a website does fraudulent SEO, they just penalize their page rank.
  2. Supposed they would see a reason to notify websites before they penalize them, they would notify the website contact directly and not take the detour over their SEO consultant.
  3. Supposed they would have a reason to go over the SEO consultant, how would they even know who did the SEO consulting for your website?
  4. Supposed they would know who the SEO consultant is, what obligation would the consultant have to forward that message to a client they are no longer working for?
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This sounds very Amateur SEO to me, like in the way they try to tarpit people into nefarious SEO methods via scare tactics and terribly formatted spam emails. I would call their bluff, but you can also have a look around your client's platform to make sure there isn't anything in there.

First step to figuring out what is going on is to right click the page in your browser, then "view source" from the context menu. Visually crawl down the source looking for anything out of lines such as spammy metas/schema, text that is hidden off-page by css, abusive alt tags on images, and references to call inline scripts. Also look for other script calls for marketing/tracking/analytics assets, and anything related to Google tag manager.

Next, get out of source view mode (close the tab) and go into inspector instead by hitting f12 key while viewing full page. Where we wanna go with this is the tab on the top of the pane called "resources". When in resources tab you will see a sidebar. We wanna expand the one called "frames" and its child to expose folders that are named things like Fonts, Images, Scripts, Stylesheets.

The first place in Frames we should look is in the Scripts folder. Right away you will see a list of javascript files called. If any are not yours, not your clients, or not related to your platform, crawl through them to see what they do. If its tag manager, try to get into the account to see what's spooling. This will give you an idea of what's going on at runtime. You can hit up other areas in resources too if you like, such as cookies.

Finally you can do a platform source code search using something like https://www.fileseek.ca/ and a DB search using something like https://www.phpmyadmin.net/. Download the whole platform source (excluding images) and search for various strings, domains, names, etc related to the SEO company using fileseek. Do the same searches in DB with PHPMyAdmin. For images, you can leave them on the serv and use locate via SSH or webhost console to search for similar strings in their names.

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Good advice. In my case, I rebuilt the entire site from the ground up. Only text (that I verified with the business owner) came over from the old site. Everything else is my code so I know what's there and what isn't. – L84 Mar 4 at 4:12

This could refer to so many different things, some legitimate, and some not. You need to find out what tags they are referring to before you can begin to address the issue.

Bought links

If they are referring to bought links on other websites, then yes, these will need to be removed, and someone will need to pay to have them taken down. This is tedious, fiddly and expensive work.

HTML markup (h1 tags etc)

This would make no sense. They have no ownership over these. They may be being nice and alerting you to an issue, if they have done something crazy like wrapping all your content in h1 tags or something.

Metadata

Again, they have no ownership, unless they have done something crazy.

Links from your site to their site

This would be a strange thing for them to want gone. It will help their SEO to have links in.

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My first thought is that Google may have called your client and asked them to remove custom tags in the Google Analytic code that would have been inserted by the old SEO company. Maybe the old SEO company complained and either got Google to call or pretended to be Google. either way clean up the tag in GA and be done with it.

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