Congratulations to Wired for their article “How Google Map Hackers Can Destroy a Business at Will.” This provides very useful insights into how Google’s business directory Google Places and its Google Maps location finder have been cracked by hackers relatively easily.
Two cases, both in the US, are worth highlighting because of their differing outcomes:
The restaurant Serbian Crown that had its Google listing spammed, showing it was closed over the weekend and on Mondays, its busiest times. The owner, who did not use the internet, was at a loss to know why his custom fell away drastically and being out of town there was no passing trade to replace it. The result was that his business was ruined and he was forced to close down.
Attempts to get compensation from Google through the courts seem doomed to failure, not least because it is so difficult to establish cause and effect. How can you prove that the loss of business was due to the tampered listing and not just a result of a dramatic decline in popularity?
Barbara Oliver & Co Jewellery had its Google Map listing maliciously altered to show that the shop was permanently closed, while at the same time experiencing a rash of fake negative reviews.
Unlike the Serbian Crown, however, the company retained an internet consultant and the listings were corrected before any irreparable damage was done to the business.
The lesson from these two different results has to be that it’s critical for businesses to regularly and frequently monitor their Google listings. Furthermore, for those that do not have the resources or inclination to carry out this activity in house, then it is well worth investing the relatively small outlay that should be required to gain specialist help. It is a sensible risk management exercise and really worthwhile, similar to protecting your online assets with firewall security.
BBI Brandboost provides monitoring and support to our clients, ensuring that their information on Google remains accurate and secure. Contact us on 01494 452600, by email or via the Live Chat function on our website to discuss how we can protect your presence on Google.
By Andrew Libra
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