A local business works hard to maintain its reputation since they probably operate near their target audience's homes. Besides having a local SEO strategy, a well-curated Google Business Profile lets people know that customer service and your company's vision matters to you. However, if you are not vigilant about the details you publish on your online assets, you might find your GMB listing has fallen prey to malicious actors. Here are things you should watch for when monitoring your Google Business listing.
Google is clear about not wanting brands to use keyword stuffing on business names. It is because keyword stuffing seems to affect local pack rankings. Some business listings, unfortunately, get edited or hijacked. Angry customers, competitors, or other third parties with a motive might maliciously edit a listing. They could do this by changing the website to which a listing redirects. Instead of the official website of the store or business, it might go to a competitor's.
A customer who sees this might laugh or be amused, but they might seriously doubt a hacked business' credibility. The best safeguard against this type of attack is prevention. In this case, the GMB listing itself is not the one with the security vulnerability but the website—in all likelihood, it has suffered a hack.
When your listing gets maliciously edited or hijacked, document and report it at the Google My Business Help Community. Members can provide you with the steps you must follow in resolving this situation. There isn't a surefire way to prevent this from happening in the future, but you can ensure that you're less likely to become a target. Besides securing your GMB listing, you should also ensure that your website has the proper security protocols in place.
Though your GMB listing contains your business name and information, it still belongs to Google, and they decide whether to make listings public. Since images are crucial to a business' click-through rate, they should present a company in the best possible way. As such, it can be unpleasant for an owner to see their brand misrepresented or embarrassed through user-uploaded photos.
Note, though, that you should not sweep embarrassing photos of business realities under the rug. If a customer has spotted a leaking pipe in your store bathrooms and uploaded it to your GMB listing, you need to address it instead of flagging the photo. Besides, unless the photo violates Google's guidelines, they aren't likely to take it down just because it paints a critical picture of the business.
Like with hijacking, the best way to deal with unflattering user-uploaded images is prevention. As with local SEO, you attract leads through high-quality content. See to it that your premises and products are always high-quality and upload plenty of pictures of them. In case someone still attempts to wreak havoc with photos, they won't do much damage.
If the image in question violates Google's guidelines, it is easier to address. Click on the uploader's name, copy their URL, and report them to the Google My Business Help Community. You can request them to remove this profile for failure to adhere to community guidelines.
There are several types of false reviews on GMB listings. First, there are ones that companies leave for themselves. These are supposed to be from people not affiliated with a business, so owners and employees should refrain from providing a listing with glowing reviews. At most, it will look to others like the company had a lapse in judgment.
The second type is the false review designed to paint an often undeserved, extremely negative picture of the business. Google's community frequently receives posts from owners who think they have received scathing reviews from people who had never bought anything from their business.
It is always good practice to adhere to the U.S. Consumer Review Fairness Act. If you are a local business, do not review your product or ask your employees, both past and present, to do so. Also, do not review competitors' products; no matter how "fair" you are, it is still a conflict of interest. Do not post reviews on behalf of another entity or give rewards for people to review your products.
If you think you had been the subject of a spam attack, document all of the false reviews and flag them from within your GMB dashboard. Each review has three dots; click on this to report or flag the post. If you do not hear from Google after three days, you can follow up on your concerns through their chat option.
Ultimately, it is on Google whether or not they will remove the reviews. The company has detailed guidelines about what constitutes misrepresentation; they are serious about discerning between fake and negative reviews. If the company lets the review stay, you could report the review to a website like Review Fraud, which exposes fake reviews. In case the damage is severe enough, you can approach a lawyer to discuss your legal options.
Something a little trickier to solve would be unreliable business listings. No customer wants to think that a business has tricked them, and they will be unlikely to return to you. If the hours and days you display on your profile do not match your real-life ones, they will most likely feel duped.
Fortunately, there is a quick fix for this problem. Google has a tutorial for setting special hours, and it will guide you through the few steps you need to take regularly to ensure that your profile displays the right information no matter what day it is in the year. If you follow Google's guidelines for your GMB listing and update your website, you can guide your customers adequately.
You can use other features on your GMB like Google Questions & Answers to post FAQs. Spend a few minutes writing and responding to questions people ask about your business and monitor it to see if customers find it helpful. Having a Q&A section, though not a requirement, will create more opportunities for you to show that you value transparency.
Your business' GMB listing is a valuable asset in lead generation. However, it can be prone to malicious use, especially if you don't monitor it consistently. Guard your reputation online by putting these measures in place. When you do, you can spend less time putting out fires and more time serving your customers.
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