Many companies create a Google My Business (GMB) account in order to gain online visibility. GMBs allow companies to enhance their business profile by increasing its visibility and effectiveness. Through GMB, companies can engage with customers by requesting and responding to reviews, while also answering questions. GMB features also allow companies to, highlight their business through a link to their website, obtain information about their audience and local search performance, and incorporate keywords into the business profile to perform local SEO. GMB is an effective tool for companies to find new customers and to continue to develop existing relationships in an online space. However, the issue of hijacked GMB listings is growing as scammers and spammers attempt to take control of companies’ local business profiles.
How Are GMBs Hijacked?
There are two ways in which GMBs are hijacked. First, unethical marketers use the “claim this business” link in the Google local knowledge panel. This generates an email request for control over the listing that is sent to the registered owner of the profile. If access is granted to the hijacker, they could use the hijacked listing to sell leads to a competitor. Google is aware of these phishing scams. A reported, “If a merchant ever receives a request to manage or to transfer ownership from an unknown person, they should decline the request. The rights to own or manage a Business Profile can only be granted if the verified merchant accepts the request or the requester proves their affiliation with the business.”
Therefore, be sure not to ignore or delete the request email, or access will eventually be given to the potential hijacker. You must open the email and specifically reject the request. Businesses should also limit the number of managers that have access to the GMB listing so that one person has control over the accuracy and legitimacy of the listing.
Second, the merger of duplicate GMBs can lead to an unintended hijacking situation. This isn’t an act of malice, but either a third party or Google will flag a location as a duplicate and merge the location into one listing. A merged listing can show a mix of information for both businesses, including photos, booking links, hours, etc. The GMB customer support team at Google suggests that if this occurs, businesses should delete the duplicate and re-verify their location.
Fake reviews, false local information in Google Maps and Search, and incorrect listings are bad for consumers and for businesses. Hijacked GMBs are especially harmful for small businesses because inaccurate information can have a severe impact on sales.
Bottom Line: How Can You Keep Your GMB Safe from Hijackers?
You must claim your GMB listing immediately to prevent potential hijacks. Be sure that your listing is verified and continually update your online business information. To keep your business safe from GMB hijacking, it is critical that business owners educate themselves about the risks of hijacking. Furthermore, Google needs to create more safeguards for small businesses. Professionals can also work with small business owners to learn more about GMBs and monitor their status. Don’t let this happen to your business.