One of the more prominent Geo-Listing (a.k.a. local business listing) hijackings occurred in New Zealand. A florist was found guilty for hijacking competitor local business listings at Google Maps. The business owner was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service after it was discovered she changed the business listings of rival companies in Google Maps to direct traffic to her own business.
This is a real situation that can and does have an impact upon a business that is not paying attention to their local business listings. If your business relies on the local consumer market for its primary revenue and you are not clear about local business listings, then you need to get caught up real quick.
Hijacking the geo-listing of another company does require the hijacker to be fraudulent and thus this activity falls into criminal court versus a civil court. This is far from being merely a domain name registration and why the florist in New Zealand was found guilty.
For security purposes we are not going to identify how a criminal or competitor can actually make the changes and redirect phone numbers and web addresses, however, please be certain that it can be done. Oh, and incidentally, don’t think that we’re talking just about a competitor in your local area. Consider criminals from other countries where we have seen activity from continents like Africa and Asia.
Furthermore, since geo-listings are free to the business from multiple geo-listing websites, you, as the business owner, cannot expect these websites to provide high level of security. These websites are in the business of providing information, not security. Since there is a way for you to insure your own security, you will need to become an early adopter and engage!
Local Business Listing Primer
Feel free to read our previous articles on Geo-Marketing that explains the big picture of Local Business Marketing through Geo-Listings, Mobile Marketing and Geo-Social Marketing. We will stay focused on Geo-Listings for our discussions here.
Local business listings are the demise of the traditional yellow pages. If the traditional yellow pages have not already seen their coffin and at minimum a door stop, then free local business listings are the nails in the coffin. Certainly you will find that you can save money in this space.
Local business listings give the local business the ability to not only have their general information available, but photos, videos, coupons, offers, discounts, promotions to name a few item. Additionally these can be updated 24x7x365 24 hours per day. Certainly none of these are features of the traditional yellow pages.
The process gets even better. Not only do these listings show up on the first page of Google for a search result in which a local listing is appropriate, but they show up on mobile devices while local consumers are driving around town. Studies have shown that there is an increase in local search and local search via mobile applications on mobile devices. We won’t get into all that detail here, but you can certainly search for the stats yourself.
Just in case you still are not convinced that you need to pay attention to your local business listing, think about the consumers walking through your store and writing reviews about their experience, products or services. If they don’t like something they can twitter or write a review in any local listing website before they even make it back to the car.
These consumer reviews are very important because in part they determine your ranking amongst other local listing websites for a web search (vs. mobile search). They also have a tremendous value to the search engines, which is one of the reasons Google wanted to acquire Yelp recently.
Local Business Listing Security
So, let’s get back to the issue of local business listing hijackings. To prevent this process the first action is to claim your business listing at multiple local listing websites. Certainly Google Local Business Listing will be your first stop, followed by Yahoo, Bing, Local.com, Ask.com and Yelp. You will find that there are many more locations, this is only a start. We have indentified 60 websites that provide geo-listing information to the general public in four categories (Search, Social Community, GPS, and 411). This does not count the countless business directories that have been on the web for years.
Claiming, updating and managing the ongoing updates and reviews to your local business listing can become a time consuming process. It may at some point require more time than your website. Certainly the local business listings can become your website too.
Because there are multiple locations that have to be updated you may need to consider a low cost service that will help you maintain and manage your local listing at multiple local listing websites. When it comes to the web, Google may be the 800lb gorilla, but in the mobile marketing space, the mobile application developer will ultimately decide what database they will use. Furthermore, the local consumer will be the one to decide which local listing they will use to write their reviews. Therefore, for both of these reasons, you will want to manage your local listing at multiple local listing websites.