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!