The Local File – Google Local Business Hijacking Issues

As some of you might already know I experienced some issues with one of my client’s local business listing the other day and it royally pissed me off. It seems Google Local Business Listings have a hole bigger than the Grand Canyon. And apparently it’s been there for a while, talking to DaveN over IM the other day he ran into similar problems month ago. And it’s still not fixed, ARGH!??!!

Ok, so let me paint you a picture, at the moment local business listings are HOT property, especially in the UK and particularly in the hotel, restaurant and pretty much any service industry that is applicable to location in the search phrase. Most of these searches now includes a BIG FAT 7-10 pack in the SERPs, basically LBL (local business listings) are dominating the search result, having a 1st position in the organic results is now more like a 5-6 position. It’s had a massive impact. So, obviously for our client (which are in one of these industries mentioned above) the Google LBL are really important, and we have spent allot of effort on ranking highly in the local. Now imagine this, we get back from the Christmas holidays, login to our client Analytics and see that the local business listings traffic has halved!! We went on to search on the top “local keyword terms” on Google and found ALL OUR listings had been replaced! Our exact listing, with all the reviews, pictures, videos – everything was the same, including the phone number BUT the web address was to another website. A website that was loosely related to our client through a third party affiliate scheme. They were ranking for all the terms in the local result that we have been ranking for for months, they had in fact STOLEN our listings, and our hard work.

HOW could this have happened?
So after looking into it, we believe we found the HOLE that would have allowed these vultures to hijack our clients local business listings. I’m going to go through step by step what we think they did, and yes this will reveal how to do it, and you might say this is just teaching the dirty spammers out there how to do it. BUT I’m actually hoping that by doing this Google will finally close this massive hole for good. Oh and for the record, yes I have contacted Google, in fact I have contacted the UK branch, the European branch, twittered, emailed contacts and more, but have I heard anything back from anyone? NOPE.

So here goes our theory of how they hijacked our local business listings:

Step 1. They registered a new listing, with our clients name, but their address.

Step 2. If you are using the same company/organisation name as an existing listing, the below screen pops up, asking if your entry is the same as an existing listing, thus you can claim the listing!! The hijackers would have just gone,yep I’ll claim listing A) please, and “Bobs your uncle and Fanny’s your aunt”.

Step 3. It then clearly states that “By claiming this listing, you are saying that these two listings refer to the exact same physical business.” Which means that our listing would have been merged with theirs.

Step 4. They will then need to verify the listing, which they could have easily done via post to go to their address first then just changed the details later once they have verified.

The result = Our listing being dormant and them getting ALL the traffic until we discovered it. Now the above is just one avenue that they could have hijacked our listing, I’m sure there are several ways this could have been done (as the hole is rather large) but for this blogpost this will do for painting the picture. What we DO definitely know is that it happens, and that is VERY annoying when it happens.

SO how did we fix it?
What you need to do if this problem occurs with your company or your client is basically go through the re-verification process again. In our instance we changed the phone number to Verve Search’s phone number temporarily, as that prompted a verification process, then we changed it back to the clients details. As soon as you verify the account again the dormant listing becomes live again. ALSO it might be a good idea to do option B) track down those bastards that stole your listing in the first place (and rip them a new one), which we also did and our clients lawyers are currently looking into legal avenues for compensation. Maybe one of the most shocking things about this whole incident is that; currently there are nothing preventing this happening again, and us having to go through a yo yo process of verification! But I’m hoping, please, that Google will work to rectify this problem (aka get their arses in gear and fix it)!

Comments, theories and similar stories welcome!

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58 Responses to “The Local File – Google Local Business Hijacking Issues”

  1. Someone claimed my chiropractor’s locl listing too and I mentioned to him this morning that I would sort it for him after I discovered it.

    Awful bastards!

  2. Hey Lisa, thanks for posting this…

    Don’t even get me started on Google Local Business!

    The whole platform is a complete joke and always has done, it seems as if Google left this project only half finished… I have spoken with a Google representative towards the end of last year and have mentioned problems with the system and was basically told that in the future they will look to improve it but for now, they are not working on this.

    I have experienced numerous problems on GLB with a various clients of ours, duplicate listings, incorrect listings, wrongly claimed listings, stolen listings etc etc… All being a complete nightmare to rectify what with no helpdesk or phone number to contact and if you post a question in the help forums, no-one from Google even responds to it! One big headache.

    In many particular instances, clients have not even received the verification postcards that Google are meant to send out, I have to now verify all our clients listings using my own mobile number and then change it afterwards making such a pain in the arse.

    Seeing so much weight lies on the GLB listings, it would be nice to see at some point in the future some development work go into this system to make it much more secure and reliable for the thousands of businesses that rely heavily on this system… Guess that’s the problem with any free service though.

  3. Lisa Myers says:

    Hi Geoff, I totally understand your frustration. And yes it’s free but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t deliver a good service. ESPECIALLY now when it’s so domanating in the SERPs, as mentioned we don’t even bother doing Organic SEO if the local triggers a 7 or 10 pack. The local will just get most of the search volume. As it is so dominante Google really can’t afford to ignore the holes in the system, it’s so open for spamming it’s just ridiculous.

    I think theyr problem is that no one is really responsible, or if anyone is they are hiding well. As one of the guys from the organic spam team in Europe tried to help me out but I think the email I wrote to them is just being passed on continously. BUT this is where blogging can help, if enough people stand together and raises these quetsions, they might pull their finger out of their asses and sort it out. Here’s to hoping :)

  4. Jane says:

    Maybe try hitting up David Mihm about this? He and Pat Sexton are very knowledgeable about Local Search and may have some good insights as to how to safeguard against it happening again / provide some good quotes about this and related problems. You’re also way more likely to get a response from them than you are from a Googler, I’d think :D

  5. You’re quite right Lisa, this needs some exposure. I don’t have a personal blog and am not a widely recognised name in the search industry otherwise I would certainly have created a blog post in the hope someone from Google notices it but if the right people from the right companies all chip in, it will only be a matter of time before Google takes action and hopefully sort GLB out properly.

    One problem I’m trying to resolve on there now is a duplicate listing issue, but one was created by someone other than the company and is listed under the wrong category and some of the address details are very slightly incorrect; Granted, nothing too major but frustrating for the company nonetheless who have created their listing and are working to optimise it yet a search for their business name displays the incorrect listing on the first page and there’s nowhere to be seen.

    As the incorrect listing is unverified, it ought to be claimable and the option to proceed through a verification process but it appears that you can’t even do this now as when you click on the ‘Business Owner?’ link on the listing it just gives you the option to add new listing or upload a data file… However, I think I may try the process you have detailed in this article and see if I can merge the two accounts together perhaps, let’s hope that works. Heh

    I have just noticed a new survey posted in the GLB system if anyone wants to offer their feedback… Can’t say I noticed this available last week:

    https://survey.googleratings.com/wix/p2935530.aspx?hl=en-US&gl=GB

  6. Cher says:

    Great post Lisa! I’ve had similar problems with the insecurity of LBL. Thanks for getting the word out, hopefully G will take some action.

  7. David Mihm says:

    Hi Lisa, thanks for the ping — and Jane, thanks for the shout out!

    It sounds like this is the exact same security hole that Google claimed to have fixed almost a year ago. You have described the exact process that the locksmiths were using to steal listings. I wonder if perhaps they did not roll that solution out worldwide, and only in the US, or if the hole has been re-opened by them releasing newer features like Place Pages.

    Here is the private mapspam reporting mechanism although I will email Mike Blumenthal; he’ll be very interested to know that this hole still exists & he talks to LBC engineers on a weekly basis.

    Best,

    David

  8. Lisa Myers says:

    @david mihm: thanks for commenting David! Yep it sure does sound like exactly the same security hole actually. I did in fact ping Mike Blumenthal through Roy Huiskes http://www.royhuiskes.com/ after doing the Searchcowboys slot on Webmaster radio last week http://www.searchcowboys.com/podcast/1424 as we went through the incident there. It seems its very much still a security here in the UK, David Naylor also had the problem recently.

    Thanks for the heads up on the mapspam reporting link http://maps.google.com/support/bin/request.py?contact_type=maps_spam

    Hoping Google will close this hole asap, and hopefully also let us know they have done it :)

  9. The problem at hand might be algorithmic, at least in some cases.

    I run a vertical business directory by myself, and for some queries, Google’s local business listings have started using the URL of my directory home page, instead of the company domain.

    I have never done anything to steal anyone’s Local Business listings (I’m 100 % white hat). Thus, I conclude that the cause is Google finding my directory more relevant.

    Information architechture and SEO might explain something, as the directory is made on WordPress and it’s thoroughly optimized. I assume it’s among the most authoritative sites in the vertical (in Google’s eyes).

  10. Hi Lisa,

    thx for pointing me to this post. What I would advise is to set up local tracking (as you know ofcourse) but then using the Google Analytics alert set up some notifications when traffic reaches a certain level (f.e. a low level). As we all know we cannot monitor our stats daily to every detail. Setting up notifications in Google Analytics (or any other Web Analytics package) can really help in detecting these kind of things early. (resulting in happy clients..)

  11. matt says:

    Hi Lisa, good post! This LBL exploit has indeed been around for a while, and is also being automated to take over listings of unsuspecting businesses by the dozens (maybe hundreds…)

    I couldn’t see a way to email you directly, but if you mail me I can send you further examples of this LBL hole being exploited wholesale.. maybe that will bolster your case.

  12. Brian Yerkes says:

    That little trick is just another example of how poorly Google’s LBL is set up. The fact that they regularly show up above the main organic results area should be enough for Google to improve them.

    The only thing they’ve done recently is clean up their display a little so that most listings are forced to one single line, no matter how long the title / biz name is.

    Sorry to hear this happened to you and your client, glad you got it sorted. No idea why Google refuses to make much needed improvements to this feature on their SERP’s.

  13. David Mihm says:

    @arttu

    “Thus, I conclude that the cause is Google finding my directory more relevant.”

    That is entirely possible in the case of UNclaimed listings. But not if a listing has been claimed. Something more malicious is happening.

  14. Lisa Myers says:

    @martijn Yes we do already have local tracking in place for this account, but good point about the alert! Unfortunately in this instance it was over the Christmas holiday which made it much harder to detect, but luckily it was much less traffic in that period. I’m just shocked someone can hijack a listing so easily. thanks for commenting :)

    @Arttu: no it’s not algorithmically, it’s definatly hijacking.

    @Brian: Absolutely, such a prominent placement should get some attention you should think :)

  15. john andrews says:

    I totally appreciate the background work but I wish everyone would NOT be so quick to publish hearsay or conjecture that this sort of hijack is done purposefully/maliciously. Google Local BC is broken, but Google has done an excellent job of insulating itself from responsibility and any need to communicate with the real world. When you post that this sort of thing is done as an intentional hijack, you fuel the flames of paranoia while granting Google further immunity from responsibility as well. We don’t need that and can’t actually afford it.

    Not only that, but you remove some of the incentive for Google to fix it. We need it to be known as the Google error it really is.

    Sure it’s done by some as a hijack… as is true of all cracks and exploits. But people with crossed listings will find this and think they’ve been hijacked, when they may be the victim of a Google screw up. Google won’t respond, and there are plenty of small business lawyers looking for Internet experience right now.

    I say this as one who has been on the receiving end of a 30 page lawsuit claiming just that.. backed by no evidence of wrongdoing at all, yet still considered worthy enough to consume nearly 6 figures worth of legal and administrative costs, while generating tons of bad blood in the local business community.

    I won’t detail it in public. The ignorant and abusive small business owner who initiated the lawsuit was and is completely convinced someone intentionally hijacked his business listing, and more. I can see how posts such as this one fuel that sort of belief. A very significant amount of money is eaten up by the sue and defend process, long before it gets to a legal status where Google can be forced to even answer a basic inquiry, let alone support either side of a claim of evil doing by someone. If you don’t believe me, ask your small business client what would happen if a competitor served them with a 30 page claim and demanded they hand over their websites and pay penalties for lost business going back 6 months. Be sure and check on the competence of their current representation for such Internet matters, and the cost of the nearest “expert” counsel (I’ll hold back the suggestion that said expert be evaluating for actual expertise… another story)

    In our case it was a Google screw up, very likely algorithmic. To say more would give up a competitive advantage that, in this particular case, came at very significant costs, which are not likely to ever be recovered. Of course Google would want clues to know how to fix it, and of course everyone looking for an edge would want to know how to exploit it.

    Thanks to Google’s behavior and apparent ignorance of how local business really works, we are living with this ridiculous system where we can’t even help fix the problem without increasing our exposure to costly, malicious threats and litigation.

    Focus on the problem — the world is not the free and open marketplace Google assumes, and Google should not be free to disrupt commerce through the prominent promotion of unverified information, sans responsibility for veracity.

  16. Jami Broom says:

    When is Google going to cut the crap and allow for rotating results, so SEOs don’t start committing murder? Nice post, Lisa, and great comments, everyone else. There are so many flaws in this system, and so many of my clients’ business hinges on ranking in these local results. I hope it doesn’t take a murder to get Google to do something about it!!

  17. Aaaaarrrghh! I’ve just spent the last 2 hours trying to claim an unverified incorrect business listing for a client and it doesn’t even detect it. This system is shocking beyond belief!

    I’ve tried about 20 variations of address and details (using your method above) and in one instance it matched the business to a football club listing about 25 miles away and asked me if I wanted to claim that listing!!!

    Even using the exact same business name and address details, it still didn’t offer the unverified listing for me to claim.

    Come on Google, sort it aaat ffs! :(

  18. Luci says:

    I’ve noticed before the ability to claim other listings, and whilst occasionally that’s what you need to do, I’d wondered what was stopping somebody from doing it maliciously… apparently nothing? Tut tut, Google. Hopefully your post about this will urge them to fix the hole!
    @martijn – great idea about the alerts!

  19. Unfortunately I think this happens far more than we’d like to imagine. I haven’t noticed this on any of my client’s listings but I notice it fairly often when using the LBL’s to find local shops and restaurants. It’s not easy to discover when the entry points to some spammy made for adsense site. These entries ruin the experience for all users.

  20. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for the detailed info on Google’s LBL. I had heard that listings could be hijacked but didn’t know it was getting to be such a large problem. I’ve had my frustrations with the LBL when setting up for clients but it’s mostly been double listings and incorrect pin placement on the map. This is something I’ll be keeping a much closer watch for.

  21. Kelly says:

    I’m just wondering how long it will take for problems like this to actually affect Google’s business. If any other company provided services the way they do (with very little or no support)they couldn’t make it. Luckily Google has been able to hire very smart and good people to produce products without too many issues…and they are generally free so no one can really complain.

    But are we starting to see a kink in their armor? The more they expand, the more problems we will see (at least I believe) and if they don’t start taking customer service/support seriously…it could hurt them in the long run.

  22. Pixelrage says:

    At my full time job, we re-upload an entire list of our franchise locations to Google Local Business once a month…perhaps doing so on a regular basis might help any stray ‘hacked’ listings disappear, too.

  23. Gordon says:

    One way to keep track of your listings would be to set up an automatic alert with Google Analytics. If a sudden downward trend were spotted then GA administrators would be notified. I am going to do a bit more research in this area.

  24. Without going into too much detail, as your post and the comments have already covered the main issues, yes, guess what, we find LBC listings an (insecure) pain too. Perhaps this will become more of a priority now that they’re no longer trying to invade China.

  25. [...] Lisa Meyers made a post last week over at SEO Chicks sharing the problem they ran into when the local listings for one of their clients was hijacked. …we get back from the Christmas holidays, login to our client Analytics and see that the [...]

  26. Google Local Business is a killer.

    Ever had the problem of uploading 30 odd business addresses (all affiliated / separate branches) and only two of them being visible on Google Maps and showing visitor stats. All the others are showing up as ‘Active’ but not showing up on Google Maps or showing traffic activity. Grrr. Help!?

  27. Heiko says:

    I’ve made similar experiences with G’s local business here in Germany – it’s a mess. Some ‘companies’ simply claim any location even without an existing address there and use just keyword terms as ‘name of the company’. As it is a really powerful tool to be on top of the SERPS this is really annoying that google don’t change that. The only way that google suggest to fix such issues is to post in the maps forum (what?!)- but what happens after? A few weeks later the same entry comes up with a different street name… if the business listings weren’t so popular for local search (as you said, they are simply always on top for ‘search term + city’) this would be not such a big issue, but at the moment this is just annoying that Google isn’t able to fix that.

  28. Albert says:

    Same Problem, if anyone knows how to fix it, please contact us asap

  29. Eric says:

    Wow, almost up to 30 comments on this issue in less than a month. I too actually ended up finding a client because he needed help sorting out what appeared to be a crossed listing. The listings now appear to be sorted out, but the competitor (who doesn’t have a website) shows up in a local search for the desired term, and my new client doesn’t. Might have to try the double reverification process. The listing is up there, since it shows up when you search for the company name, but not for the keyword and town name. Any advice is welcome.

  30. [...]  have made great pains for this to be less of an issue. Because of that, the attempt to claim a local listing not your own will incure that much more wrath. If someone owns someone elses listing, that locks out the real [...]

  31. Phillip says:

    Hi, my client websites are suffering from the same symptom. First I was trying to steal my own entry to see how it works. No luck :) . Here’s my steps.
    - create a secondary google account
    - login into G.L.B.
    - add a business
    – same business name forcing “claim” to appear
    – filled a different “address” and “phone”, next
    – OK, the real business show up, hit “claim”
    – now step4 (I think am missing something here)
    – I hit “edit”
    – then next
    – verify the business using the new phone

    Now if I search for the companies name into google maps the two entries show up. The original entry isn’t dormant. Am missing something for sure. Could you give me a clue!

    Thanks for the research.

  32. Ngoc says:

    Google wants to venture into its customers business. Move away from the traditional search engine to be something more.

    This is not only wasting time, but completely well good for the competition, its just that the space they want to take up will hurt those in there. Ie. The local directories will be hurt, but since google is so big (yet so limited), it wants to do everything.

    Bing please take google out. or someone, because google is being the microsoft of the e world now, wanting to branch out and do everything.

    Now that’s something.

  33. Grow Traffic says:

    Great blog, I’ve been optimising a hotel chains maps listing and one of their hotels is very dependant on maps, I have claimed and verified 12 duplicate and variations of the account in question however there is still something not quite right, they aren’t displaying where they always have done in the maps listing and their whole month of February was down because of it – what’s worse is I’ve just had a meeting with the client and it went something like this:

    “The optimisation for XXX isn’t working, we are down 10% on last year, whereas everything else you’ve been working on is up by at least 15% – so we are thinking of pulling that hotel’s SEO”……

  34. Clark Mackey says:

    The Google Local problems continue. Another client account today with missing reviews. I would support anyone’s efforts to set up some outside reporting of our own and start putting real pressure on Google. Their own forums are filling up with ignored post after ignored post – and not silly ones either.

  35. Lisa Myers says:

    Hi @GrowTraffic Yikes that sucks, I really do feel for you. So when you say you have verified 12 duplicate and variations do you mean for the same listing? In difference accounts? Or are you saying 12 different locations of the hotel? Do they all have different addresses and post codes? Also I would advice the title isn’t the same, so change it to “Hotel Name Location” for example “Marriot London” etc

    It’s something really weird that’s going on with local listings the last month, we have seen some really weird activity. In fact I’m writing another blogpost about all these issues today on the State of Search blog, will update with a URL here when I’m done.

  36. [...] listing (which was pretty much ranking number 1 in every hotel orientated local search) had been hijacked and merged with some dodgy affiliates.  Which meant that this affiliate website was replacing us in the listings (all those number 1 [...]

  37. Google really need to get this sorted out – we’ve had a nightmare with maps, it’s such an important part of our online marketing strategy and then Google split our listing and created duplicate listings – having to fight to get things back going again!

  38. Jamo says:

    Have this same issue going on rite now. We are a new business in web design and development we have two small offices in two locations. We placed them on Google local as part of our marketing campaign and verified them. Now some joker has entered a Google map entry which tries to spam Google maps serps and succeeded with our business name in the title but with nuisance info in the map listing, however there’s no link so we can proceed or even find out who.
    We logged in and claimed the listing and are awaiting re-verification by mail, same story whats to stop someone doing this again ans again?

    Clearly we have rattled someones cage in the locality and have been busy since we launched, nothing wrong with a bit of fair competition is there?

    Jamo

  39. SEO Doctor says:

    Has this loop hole been closed yet? I have just tried to hijack one of my own listings and after it was verified it says “we currently do not support the location”.

  40. SEO Preston says:

    Hi SEO Doctor

    This will happen to start off with then it will allow you to view the listing in a few hours.

    Can’t guarantee anything though I’ve been having some fun with maps accounts recently!

  41. Anton says:

    Here is my story. I had several duplicate listings on LBC. I decided to clean it up a little. I deleted all but one and very quickly end up on top of the local results. Great success! Just yesterday i’ve noticed that my local listing disappeared. I searched frantically and found it at the end at the very bottom (5-6 page) with no address at all(that was the reason that it is not showing), with wrong phone number and link to the company that sells leads back to me. And the thing is, it looked like one of these listings that i supposedly deleted.
    Being a mover and not a SEO expert I made complete mess out of it trying to fix it.
    Now I have to wait for like 4 postcards from google…
    Visit my website

  42. Anton says:

    Try search your company name. Look carefully through search results.
    You may find links to “local marketing companies” such as localeze.com
    and dexknows.com Maybe more. That is where problem start. You may find your company there with a wrong info.

  43. @arttu – You are right, even our claimed and verified listings have been interupted by business directories and we somehow ‘share’ ownership.

    It’s a shame people above dismissed your comments as this does happen. We manage 185 office listings for our national network of accountants and it’s hard work. We still remember it’s free though!

    I find searches like ‘Accountants in Stockport’ annoying when it serves up a hotel chain! Surely categories should be recognised!

  44. Anton says:

    Hotel chain is half bad. What kills me is a lead generating companies, using small businesses, like yours and mine and our hard fought for reputation, to dominate search results, then trying to sell these leads back to us, making us literally fight over our own customers. This is just plain wrong. I understand, it’s a free enterprise and money always talks,but let me tell you – there is huge imbalance in the system where marketing companies dominates underlying businesses.

  45. jon says:

    I am afraid your theory is completely wrong. It has nothing to do with people claiming listings. Google are in an utter and total mess with listings. Is is all to do with the images of the business ;-)

  46. Anton says:

    There is no theory , there is billion dollars industry, that is exploiting very dissent creation- local business results.
    In the good old times, for national chain or company to establish local presence in some aria, they had to buy local merchant, or had to built a store of they own. Now, all they have to do, is make fictitious listing with fake physical address and link it to OK looking website and that’s it. They grabbing unsuspecting public and then calling me:
    “… Hey, we have customer in your area- you’ll do the job and we’ll keep 15%”
    P.S. Our debacle with local listing is over. We are back. Took us about 3 weeks.

  47. Steve says:

    Google seems to have made some changes to Local Business Listings over the last couple of days, where on the main listing, instead of a website link it is giving a link called “place page”. I have been watching all this very closely over recent months as like in one of your comments I noticed a couple of my websites being linked from other peoples listings, and I just thought they had put in the link themselves, then when the local Crown Court listing linked to my website I realised it must be something that Google was doing automatically, it certainly was not a case of me hijacking the listing as I don’t think that would be wise even if I knew how to do it!

  48. Steve says:

    The “place page” only appears on the main listing ie “Bellagio Las Vegas” not the multiple listings ie “Las Vegas Hotels” where the website link appears still. I noticed a load of the links missing over the last week from a couple of my websites which have business directory listings.

  49. David says:

    I think that google knew in advance that their would be some issues with local search that they would need to solve. Therefore, I postulate the following and welcome all those to agree or disagree.

    Google’s logic is – “hey we need to get in on this local search game but if we wait to long, we might lose out…but wait a minute, there are all of these issues that spammers would do which we don’t know how to fix….in addition, there might be issues which we can never even imagine would come up….lets release a preliminary version to see what people can come up with….lets create a melting pot of spammers to find out who and how people are taking advantage, and then we will rebuild our local search with all of the issues fixed.”

    I think that google experiments with its users much more than we think. This 7 box system can be one big experiment to see what potential issues can arise in order to create a better second version.

    Thanks,
    D

  50. James says:

    Put yourself in Google’s shoes, it’s a free service that they aren’t making any money out of so why should they pay teams of people to manage the listings. It’s all a game and the one who understands it for long enough, wins.

    Download anything that’s free on the net and it will probably have bugs, download something you have paid for and it will work fine. If it doesn’t then they will have a team to support you. This is no different.

    I know it’s not perfect and it’s frustrating at times but I get zero access to Yahoo local listings (unless I pay for them) and I still don’t know if Bing is beginning to list local places as there data never moves!

  51. David says:

    actually I have gotten a phone call from google to verify a listing. I have also gotten a sales call from google in order to help me start an adwords campaign. Did you know that accordingto another blog on the web less than 10% of businesses have claimed their business on google maps? My point is that companies gve away free things at a price that is not necessarily a Financial one. In this situation google could be giving away this free service in order to attract more businesses to use google for financial gain, and in the process expanding the web and creating an untapped source of Adwords spenders. I currently do not have an adwords account and google would have never known to call me unless I opened my place page.

  52. Dannie Waisath says:

    i loved Zulema Cavett comment

  53. Shane says:

    Couldn’t the client just cancel the affiliates account – making it “free” traffic for them?

    Saying that – I’ve printed your guide on how to fix it incase I need it in the future. Hopefully Google will sort it before that happens though!

  54. Nat says:

    Its just happened to me after 2 years of service. I picked it up after 10 minutes of it happening, not by plan or sophisticated alert system either, just pure plain luck! The dude who’s done it is actually a serial pest, I did notice his business name come up a few times on others listings …. guess it was only a matter of time he came a knocking on my door. Its late night over here, will ‘try’ to contact someone alive/non-alive at the folks at google to advise what they will do about the ‘pest-e’ problem.

  55. I had the same problem a few months ago, the customer wasn’t happy at all – but i managed to get it sorted!

  56. Nat says:

    @ freelance seo manchester, can I kindly ask how you managed to do it. I’ve followed the instructions above and verified by phone etc but a week later the pesty advertisement is still there! Would love to hear from you or anyone, Thanks

  57. gadgets says:

    All I can say is this is fubar. I’ve also had problems with competitor leaving bogus negative reviews on competitors maps listings.

  58. Hi there,

    I’ve had many issues with Google places and local business being hijakced, the thing is Google don’t review the businesses well enough. Almost anyone can get a postcard or phone verification to create a listing. Personally I think Google need to clamp down on this

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