A Google Places Listing is the easiest ways for a local business to appear at the top of search results. It’s a free service if you do it yourself, but it does need to be monitored. I talked about changes to Google Places in October. People with a Google account can make updates to your verified Google Places listing.
Because of these changes and the ease of third party updates, I do recommend you check your map marker and log in your Places page regularly to check for changes that don’t align with your business services.
Yesterday I had a call from a past client. His listing wasn’t showing in search results.
Now, people look at me as if I have two heads when I say that your local listing does need to be maintained by regularly adding new citation sources and updates to images, videos, offers etc. I don’t say this to get business, but because local search is becoming more and more competitive and you can be knocked out of the rankings.
At first I thought that this is what had happened. He is in quite a competitive area. I advised him to log in, do some updating and start building more citations.
He called me back later after logging in…
Your Verified Google Places Listing Can Be Claimed By Someone Else
It turns out his Google Places listing was hijacked – that is claimed by someone else. I will be honest, I didn’t think that it could be done so easily with the postcard verification system. Obviously it can.
So I tried it.
And yes, I could claim some poor business owners Google Places page with ease. I could leave the map marker pointing at their business and change the phone number to show as another businesses.
I’m not going to go into detail about the how’s and whys. There are strange people online who do this sort of thing for fun and profit and I certainly don’t want to be encouraging it.
No, I won’t be verifying it, that would just be wrong and dishonest. I don’t work like that. I took the process far enough to see if it would generate a new postcard – and it will.
Fortunately, my past client had been checking his map marker to notice it had disappeared. A listing does get removed while it goes through the re-verification process.
He has made the changes so everything is his own again and is now waiting on a new PIN postcard. I also advised him to notify Google. That is much easier these days. Google are making a half decent nod in the direction of customer service since the end of last year. It hasn’t always been that way!
Can Someone Else Really Claim Your Verified Google Places Listing?
This is the scary part – yes they can. It’s also possible for 2 businesses to own the same listing and Google take the latest update to be the current owner.
After a quick search I found this statement originally posted regarding responding to reviews. I have bolded the important phrases.
Google Places allows multiple people to own a listing. So you may have claimed your account, but someone else may have claimed it before you and is still considered an “owner” of the listing. The last person to have updated the listing is considered the main owner, and only responses from that account will appear live on the listing (so, if the other owner updates the account after you had left your response, your responses will be removed from the listing). Here’s something you can do to make sure you’re the most recent owner: Go into your Places account, click to Edit your listing, don’t touch anything, and hit “Submit.” That should ping our system, to let us know you’re the most recent owner.
What Do You Need To Do Now?
A well optimised Google Places listing can not only drive local traffic to your website but also get local people through the door and on the phone to your business. Listings show your full business address and telephone number directly in search and on Google maps.
Please put maintaining your listing on your to do list. It won’t stop a Google Places listing getting hijacked but it will minimise long term damage. The loss of a well established local listing can directly impact your business.
At least monthly:
- check your map marker is where it is expected to be
- login and check there are no obvious changes that do not fit your business – these can be done automatically by Google gathering data from around the web or by people suggesting updates
- while you are there why not add a page update, an offer or refresh your images and photos
- click submit even if you have not updated your page to ensure Google knows you are the current owner
- regularly build new citations to maintain your ranking
And. if that is all too much time and effort, check out my Google Places maintenance package.
Either way – keep your Google Places listing maintained. It’s really not worth the stress and loss of business that comes from neglecting it.
Hijacker image Copyright (c) 123RF Stock PhotosGoogle Places Listing Hijacked - Why You Need To Regularly Check Your Listing by Jan Kearney