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Cyber criminal

Don’t let bad guys hijack your Google My Business listing

Cyber criminal

Don’t let bad guys hijack your Google My Business listing

Several websites specialising in search engine optimisation (SEO) advice have noted an increase in unethical use of Google My Business (GMB) listings, including underhand tactics being used to access and change details of businesses.

Local search website LocalU.org cites an example of a business management consultancy having its name and phone number changed to a scheme for selling leads to personal injury lawyers. Meanwhile, Search Engine Land draws attention to a somewhat different problem, whereby the listings for a Danish supermarket and the opticians’ firm Specsavers were mistakenly merged by Google, potentially giving administrators of one company’s GMB listing access to the other.

A spokesperson for Google says the company is “aware” of the problem of GMB hijacking, but business owners should be aware of it too and monitor their listings closely. Here are a few ways to nip any problems in the bud:

Check your listing regularly

The first course of action is to simply log into your GMB account often and check the details, or just Google your company and go through the details in the Knowledge Panel on the right-hand side. Sometimes, rather than any kind of hijacking incident, incorrect details can appear here having been scraped from other sites – in fact, we noticed our listing on rival search engine Bing had an out-of-date address for our office until recently.

Frequent checking of your listing is good practice anyway, as it helps you keep track of reviews, and get onto any poor ones quickly.

Don’t accept suspicious requests for ownership of your GMB listing

The Knowledge Panels for businesses that appear on Google’s search results page include an “Own this business?” option. Anyone can click this and claim they own the business, and the manager(s) of the GMB account will receive an email saying “Someone has requested ownership of [your GMB]”.

If you get one of these emails, do NOT grant access unless you know it’s a genuine request from someone you want to authorise to access the listing. If it’s suspicious, delete it. On a thread on the Google My Business Help page***, some users say they are receiving these dodgy requests on a daily basis.

Limit your number of GMB managers

LocalU.org writer Joy Hawkins suggests it’s a good idea not to name too many people as managers of your GMB account. Every manager will receive the email informing them of a request to claim ownership of the listing, so by cutting the number of humans involved, you reduce the risk of human error and somebody making the mistake of accepting the request. Perhaps limit it to senior company managers or dedicated SEO staff, and remove a person’s manager settings immediately if they leave the company.

Report any problems to Google

Search Engine Land’s anecdote of the merged listings of the Danish store and the opticians, coupled with Google’s apparent difficulty in understanding and rectifying the problem, suggests that Google’s support in these instances could be better. That means prevention of hijacking is better than the cure, but even so, it’s as well to report any strange GMB listings activity via the Google My Business Help page, especially if you can’t get to the bottom of it yourself.

For help with setting up and managing a GMB listing, and with other ways to bring more meaningful traffic to your website, get in touch with Engage Web today.

John Murray

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