Search Marketing

Hijacked Google Business Page? Here Are 5 Steps To Getting It Back (And How To Prevent It)

If you’re a regional business, the Google Map Pack dominates the search engine result page (SERP) for new customers finding your business. When I discuss local marketing strategies with businesses, I often discuss the investment in their Google Business page being as important – if not more critical – than their website.

Why Your Google Business Page is Critical

Your Google business listing (not your website) is how your business is visible on the map pack. The map pack dominates the SERP, and search engine users seldom scroll beyond the local ads and the map. Your business’s ranking on the map requires ongoing effort to gain recent and frequent reviews and updates that ensure you’re visible. That’s a significant investment that drives those results.

Not having a presence on the map pack for a regional business is like your business not having roads that lead to it or signage for people to find you. Without knowing a business exists, how will new customers find it? Most won’t.

How Google Business Pages Get Hijacked

I’ve been contacted three times in the last month by businesses complaining they no longer have access to their Google Business page. Most are due to an employee using a personal Gmail address to claim and launch their Google Business page listing, and then that employee leaves the company. Worse, one company contacted us with a disgruntled employee who left the business and renamed the listing for their new business. Another had a rogue employee who kept the listing and updated the name, address, and phone number (NAP) to hurt the business.

I want to be very clear on this… it’s not Google’s problem when this happens. It’s your responsibility to ensure that your business retains ownership and control of your digital assets – from your domain registration to your Google Business listing. Just as you wouldn’t hand over ownership of your company and property to an employee, you should never have an employee own your digital property.

How To Ensure Your Google Business Page Can’t Be Hijacked

Ownership of the Google Business listing is by email address… so it’s imperative that your domain registration and business listing ownership be aligned with your business and not your employee, agency, or contractor.

  1. Ensure the company’s owners own the domain registrations. Register the domain for a decade or the longest option. And… ensure the domain is on auto-renewal and that notifications are sent to a monitored email address.
  2. Register your business with Google using a corporate email address tied to your corporate domain. Many companies don’t realize that you can use a corporate email address because it’s not prominent on the registration page… but you absolutely can.
  3. Utilize a public telephone number for your business that can also receive text messages (SMS). Many people use a traditional landline, but Google can validate your business via text, not phone. Use a corporate phone number that supports text messages. If your telephone provider doesn’t support this, I’d highly advise porting your business phone number to a newer service that does.
  4. Never allow an employee or agency to be the primary owner or an additional owner of your listing. In your business listing settings, you can add those people as managers, enabling an owner to delegate updates but never ownership. The best part of this feature is that you can revoke their access if the manager leaves.
Google Business Page - User Settings for Owner or Manager

When we take control of a client’s business listing(s), this is the first thing we do to ensure the ownership of their digital properties is never compromised. At times, our new customers push back and are frustrated in this step… but if you don’t do this, you will hate the headache, the lost business, and the time it takes to resolve this later.

What To Do When Your Business Listing Is Hijacked

If your company has found itself in the unfortunate situation where it doesn’t have ownership over your Google business listing, I recommend the following:

  1. Ask – Contact the person who registered or claimed the business originally and ask them to add an email address owned by your company as the primary owner. If the person outwardly refuses, I’d recommend going through the following process.
  2. Request – If you’re not sure who the primary owner of the business page listing is, you can still click Claim this Business on the Google Maps listing. If it’s already claimed, this will email a request to the registered email address or a text message to the registered phone number. You can also upload a video to validate the ownership.
Verify Google Business Listing
  1. Appeal – If your claim is rejected, you’ll receive an email with directions on how to appeal. If you don’t receive a response, you’ll also receive an email with directions on what to do next. Follow these instructions.
  2. Report – A third party not utilizing your listing per Google’s terms of service (ToS) is in violation and can be reported to Google.

Report a Google Business Violation

  1. Legal Action – Just as you would seek legal assistance if someone entered your business property and changed the locks, so should you pursue legal action if your digital property isn’t returned to you. I’m not an attorney, but I believe a claim could be made for lost revenue if you no longer get visibility, calls, and visits due to a hijacked and inaccurate Google Business Listing. It may just require a strongly worded certified letter from your attorney to get the hijacked listing returned. I’ve never had a client that had to go down this road, but I wouldn’t count it out.

Prevention, of course, is the best cure to dealing with this mess! Take the time to ensure your digital properties are owned by your company and that access is properly managed.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is CMO of OpenINSIGHTS and the founder of the Martech Zone. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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