Businesses know that Google listings on maps, connected to Google Business profiles, have enormous significance.
Cybercriminals know it too. Do not let them impersonate your business.
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Why Google Maps is So Important for Businesses
Over the years, the Google Maps platform has evolved into much more than ‘just’ a virtual map that helps us get from point A to point B.
The platform is a place to explore, compare and evaluate local businesses.
It offers marketing tools that benefit businesses big and small, and provides reach to a huge audience ready to make a decision.
Google allows users to search for “Find Nearby”, such as if a customer wants to search for “coffee shops nearby” or “apparel stores”.
Additionally, if you look for the type of service that local businesses typically fulfill, such as “restaurants” or “yoga studios”, Google will display a list of food and yoga places in your geographic area.
The same is true if you add a geographic reference to your search, such as the name of your city.
The listings that appear at the top of the page in a list accompanied by a map are the Google Local 3-Pack.
When a business listing comes up, you can see the location, directions, distance and time to get there.
It’s a map after all. Yet it offers so much more. Google Maps Listings include information such as ratings and reviews, as well as photos.
With just one click, you can get to the business website or click to call.
Users can also customize the search with “open now”, “top-rated” and other options.
As a result, locals and tourists alike can discover local places or the location of big brand names.
Customers can also use the platform to check information about a business they already know and like.
The benefits of Google Maps:
- Helps people find your business
- Enables users to seamlessly contact your business
- Increases the visibility of your business
- Provides helpful information about your business
- Displays reviews and photos of your business
Recognizing the benefits of Google Maps, you can create your business profile and listing and use them effectively.
But then you may one day find out that somebody else has been free-riding on your business.
Fake Information on Google Maps
Google Maps gets millions of contributions each day: new business profiles, ratings, reviews, photos and more.
Most are honest, but some are by bad actors just looking to make a profit.
Google wants to make it easy for legitimate businesses to create listings and add information. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of this fact.
Fraudsters use different techniques to try and deceive consumers, businesses, and the Google system.
Spam Listings on Google Maps
Spam listings come in different forms. The main types are:
- Listings for fake businesses created to deceive consumers.
- Businesses that stuff keywords into their Google Business profile name.
- Businesses that have multiple profiles.
- Businesses that use fake reviews to improve their ranking and attract consumers.
When fraudsters pose as real businesses on the platform, they often do it to trick consumers into divulging their personal information so they can generate leads and then sell them.
How to Protect Your Business on Google Maps
To stop cybercriminals, Google has systems and policies in place. Google’s guidelines for representing your business on Google include basic rules such as the fact that only business owners or their authorized representatives are allowed to manage a Business Profile.
Google looks to remove fake profiles, yet as soon as it is taken down, scammers can create a new listing and continue impersonating the business.
So what can I do to protect my business on Google Maps?
1) Create and Verify your Google Business Profile Listing
A verified listing has multiple advantages.
It reassures potential customers and existing clients that the listing is legitimate. In addition, Google prioritizes verified listings on its search.
2) Optimize your Google Business Profile
Go into your verified listing and optimize it with the most accurate and valuable information unique to your business that will help customers recognize it.
3) Use Technology to Monitor
An automated monitoring system can help you protect your business and clients from impersonation and other violations on Google Maps and other online channels.
With a dedicated technology, like the Wiser Market Monitoring System, you can identify fake profiles and listings that target your brand and act to eliminate them.
Google is actively working to detect and eliminate fake business profiles.
The Google Business Profile verification processes have been improved, with machine learning models that help identify fraudsters.
According to the company, it “stymied millions of attempts from fraudsters aiming to steal customers from legitimate businesses by crowding them out of search results.”
How to Report and Take Down a Google Maps Listing
Once you find a fake account of your business (or any other business), you can go to the Google Business Redressal Complaint Form.
This form, meant to stop fraudulent activity, lays out the instructions and allows you to upload any evidence you may have.
When you fill out the form, make sure to include specific details and as much information as possible.
A verified account makes it easier to make changes or remove a listing or location.
How to Identify Spam Listings on Google Maps
Identifying potential fake listings on Google Maps is helpful for businesses and consumers.
As a customer, you want to try and protect yourself and not fall victim to cybercriminals.
When you look at listings, have a healthy dose of suspicion while acknowledging the fact that Google actively takes down fake Google Maps listings and works with businesses that report potential fraud.
So what are some things to look for on Google Maps?
- Business address
Fake listings that attempt to scam customers are typically not located at the specified address.
If the business is relatively close to your location, drive there to see if it exists at this address.
Scammers often use fake addresses where no business exists, such as a P.O. Box, unoccupied or abandoned building, residential addresses, or the address of a different business altogether.
- Business name
The business name on the listing should reflect the name of your business.
When criminals want to attract customers just so they can scam them, they are likely to have a business name stuffed with keywords (Affordable haircuts, The best locksmith, and so on).
Real businesses can have similar names, but it is not as likely, and they usually look for something more distinctive.
Another way to check the business is to give them a call.
One obvious warning sign is if you call a business by one name, but when they answer, they use a different name.
- Customer reviews
Fake listings often have very few or no reviews at all. This can be true for new businesses as well, yet it is worth taking a closer look to verify its fit for your needs.
Businesses and individuals should be aware of the growing market for both positive and negative fake reviews.
When a business has reviews, check to see if they make sense.
For example, if a listing has too many reviews in a very short period of time, it is probably suspicious.
As a business owner, negative reviews can be extremely harmful. Customers are less likely to use your business or service if they read bad reviews.
Also, if you are rated lower, the Google search engine also ranks you lower.
The Advantages of Protecting your Business on Google Maps
There is no question about the importance of owning your Google Maps listing and having no impersonators exploiting your business or information.
Protecting your listing can also drive your business to be in the Google 3-Pack.
Getting there ranks your business in most Google searches and makes it more visible to potential customers.
Wiser Market – Online Brand Protection on Google Maps
Brand infringements on Google Maps and Google Search take various forms, from stealing personal information to promoting counterfeits.
Fighting fake listings can be overwhelming and time-consuming.
To protect your business online, you need a partner with the expertise to devise an online brand protection strategy and carry it out.
Without it, brands risk loss of sales, diverted traffic, and damage to consumer trust.
Wiser Market’s proactive online brand protection strategy uses technology to create an efficient and scalable brand protection solution for business of all sizes.
Advanced tech and expertise ensure the successful removal of fraudulent listings so you gain control of your business and protect what’s yours 24/7.
Wiser Market’s superb brand protection services, from detection through analyzing to enforcing takedown actions, result in over a 90% success rate.
Need to protect Your Brand?
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How to verify my business on Google Maps?
For Google Business Verification, go to Google’s help page.
How to optimize Google Business Profile?
You can use various methods to create a distinctive business profile, including accurate information, good photographs, a website URL, and positive customer reviews.
Does Google charge to add my business to Google Maps?
No, inclusion in Google Maps is free. Therefore, if you get a scam call, an ad, or an invoice from someone claiming to be Google, make sure that it is really Google and find out whether or not the services are free of charge.