Local business listings are in five major categories of websites. They include search engines, social communities, 411 websites, GPS websites and business directories. They have existed for a number of years and the primary data source starts with the phone companies.
Security with local listing websites leaves much to be desired at a variety of levels. Examples include post cards that are easily identified with pin codes; creating new accounts easily without verification; duplicate listings causing security confusion and the list goes on. Considering these security problems exist with tier 1 websites, you can only imagine how easily someone can fraudulently impersonate another business with tier 2 websites. Tier 2 websites that later feed into the Internet system incorrectly.
The importance of protecting your brand stems from local consumers performing a significant volume of searches for businesses, products and services in their local area. They look up local information through web searches and through mobile searches. As they look up this information, they get to see pictures, videos, consumer reviews about your business, products or services. If this information is not appealing to the local consumer they will avoid your business.
If your geo-listings are hijacked, the listing can be used against you by having wrong information entered or it can be used to drive business away from you. Thus you run into the problem that local consumers will begin to have an impression about your business based on what they find online. This includes having too many negative reviews being placed into your geo-listings by competitors or the hijackers. Reviews that consumers use and will use to make a decision to come to your place of business or not.
If you are a business and believe that you will passively wait for “the system” to fix the problems, then I think you are going to be waiting a longer time than you would like. The best example we have for brand security concerns lies with Twitter-jacking that had been going on before celebrities went to court. Brand name protection and brand security are a very real problem with local listing websites. These websites that are not prepared to adequately provide the security necessary to avoid fraudulent criminal behavior by your competitors or from another country. Local listing websites by the very nature of their service do not have security as a primary capability.
Are the local listing websites working on security? Yes, I would say that based on news coverage and other writings, this area is being addressed, however, still not at a level that can avoid hijackings. Business directory websites certainly are not showing any level of security to “get listed”. These directories are much too easy to be hijacked with an existing listing or a new account.
Passively waiting for appropriate levels of security is not going to help with brand name protection and brand security. The answer to this problem is to claim, update and manage your business local listing at multiple local listing websites as soon as possible. You will be able to use this as a positive business marketing tool to the local consumers in web searches and mobile searches. You will also be able to manage your reviews, engage in new technologies like QR Codes and evolve with this business marketing tool over the next three years.