Google My Business (GMB) pages are a vital component of local and overall SEO. When GMB pages are optimized, they provide critical information to customers including contact information, reviews, service catalog, and more. As the pandemic continues, the value of GMB pages has never been more vital as customers continue to search for updated store business hours, online dinner menus, and virtual doctor appointments.
Search Engine Roundtable reported that there have been increased attempts at hijacking GMB pages using legitimate Google request emails. While the emails originate from the correct address (email@example.com), the contact information listed is someone attempting to hijack the listing.
Because the email itself is legitimate, unsuspecting business owners may inadvertently grant access to a hacker. If this happens, the hacker can remove the legitimate owner’s access and change all of the information to promote whatever they wish.
What to Do If You Get an Unsolicited Request
It’s important to note that although the SEO professional cited in the article advises readers to delete the unsolicited request emails, Efferent Media’s local SEO experts recommend otherwise. Not responding promptly to the emails can lead to the hijacker getting page ownership. On their GMB support page, Google states that they may grant page ownership in as little as 3-7 business days from its request.
Efferent Media’s GMB expert Mike Roberts advises, “Don’t just delete the emails. Google can grant them ownership. These ‘attacks’ are commonly done on a Friday so it hopefully doesn’t get noticed and they can be granted ownership/management.”
Part of the recent GMB con involves scammers calling unsuspecting business owners and telling them that they represent Google and require payment for continued page publication. GMB is a free service, so any call requesting payment is illegitimate. Google may call a user to verify a GMB page but only when the page owner requests the call.
How to Protect Your GMB Listing
- Respond to any ownership requests immediately. Set the Google GMB request email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) as a VIP so that notifications are displayed first on your phone and have inbox priority.
- If a business employs a marketing company, the business owner should verify if one of their employees requested administrative access. These requests should use a company email address, but someone might accidentally use a personal email. If the request wasn’t made by a company representative using a company email address, deny the access request immediately.
- Limit access to your GMB page. The fewer people who have access to your page, the less likely it is that a comprised Google account could lead to a hijacked page. You can also limit the page access level. There are four levels of page access.
- A business owner should set their email address as the primary owner and grant permissions based on need for their marketing agency or other users within their business. In most cases, the manager or site manager level access is sufficient for the most commonly needed activities.
- Secure your Google account.
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) and secure your Google account against unauthorized access.
- Periodically review potential Google account security issues and which third-party apps have access to your account. In your Google account dashboard, located at https://myaccount.google.com/, there are options for reviewing and updating your security and privacy settings. Spend a few minutes and ensure that your account is secure.
Why Should You Protect Your GMB Listing?
To some business owners, these may seem like unnecessary precautions. Why is your Google My Business page so important, and why should you secure it? To answer this, we must take a quick look at local SEO and its rising importance for overall website SEO.
Local SEO is increasingly vital. According to Google, 30% of mobile searches are related to location and 76% of users who searched for something on their mobile phones visited a business within a day. “Where to buy” + “near me” queries grew over 200% between 2017 and 2019 and mobile searches for “store open near me” grew over 250% between 2017 and 2019.
Reviews are critical to a website’s SEO efforts as well. As a trust factor for Google and potential customers, positive reviews can improve a company’s results in the local map pack results – which has a definite impact on the company’s website traffic and foot traffic.
Who Would Try to Steal Your GMB?
All of this begs the question – Who would want to steal ownership of my GMB page and why? There are several possible answers to this.
- Competitors – A competitor who gains access to your GMB page could take advantage of your hard work in gaining positive reviews and point any links to their site. They could change the contact information to point at their site and business, stealing customers from your business.
- Unscrupulous Marketers – A dishonest marketer could access your page, assign themselves as the primary owner, and hold your page hostage. They could use their access to sell you their services since they were able to “miraculously” unlock the page for you, all while retaining ownership. Unwary business owners might fall prey to this scheme, particularly if they have a medical practice GMB with appointment setting software connected or a restaurant GMB page with a reservation app installed.
- Random Scammers – There have always been scammers who try and steal access to things that they have no use for, other than to be disruptive. This is always a possibility, so don’t be an easy target for a random scam artist.
Let Efferent Media Manage Your GMB
Efferent Media stays current with security news and issues that can potentially impact our clients, and we take proactive steps to stay ahead of them. By employing security procedures such as 2FA (among others), we ensure that our clients’ assets remain secure. To get started with the local SEO and GMB experts, call Efferent Media today at (631) 867-0900.