Web security company, Sucuri, has made it known that there is a new negative SEO tactic going around which involves photos being maliciously inserted into Google My Business listings.
The photos are distasteful by nature, which is why we will not be showing examples here. They are designed to tarnish a business’s reputation when someone searches for the business in Google.
Unlike other malicious SEO tactics, which can often involved site hacks, Sucuri found this particular tactic does not involve images hosted or linked on the client server. The images coming up are hosted in the Google Maps Images section.
How is This Happening?
This attack all has to do with abusing Google’s Knowledge Graph. In fact, it may not require much effort at all. Anyone can add photos to a business’s location in Google Maps, and the Knowledge Graph frequently displays the most recently uploaded image.
In theory, if an attacker spams a business’s Google Maps listing with lewd images, there’s a strong chance they’ll be displayed in search results. A really savvy hacker could send fake hits to the malicious images to make it look like they’re popular with users, which would further increase the chances of the unwanted photos showing up.
As Sucuri puts it, defacing a business’s Knowledge Graph panel is a lot like defacing its website. Perhaps even worse because Google is often the main referral source for organic website traffic. Needless to say, this could have potentially detrimental effects to a business’s reputation.
How Can A Business Protect Itself?
To see if your business has been targeted by this particular attack, the best thing to do is search for your business name and see which photos come up. You can also go through the photos section of your GMB listing, where you’ll have the opportunity to remove any lewd images if some have been uploaded to your location.
From there, the only thing you can do is be proactive and check your GMB photos periodically for anything you wouldn’t want searchers to see. With a verified GMB listing you have full reign to add or remove photos from your listing, so this attack can easily be thwarted if detected.
Sucuri gave no indication as to how widespread this negative SEO issue is becoming, but for the company to write about it on its blog indicates the issue is worth watching out for.