djbaxter

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@timcapper reports on a variant of the issue reported at Malicious Google My Business Edits | Local Search Forum by @JoyHawkins:

Hotel Affiliate Site Hijacking Hotels GMB Listings
by Tim Capper, OnlineOwnership.com
December 14, 2018


The Hijack
This affiliate site uses “Suggest Edit” in Google Maps to suggest their own URL, a few more accounts, then select the edit as correct, and hey presto the edit is approved.

I have been looking though some of the hotels listed on their site and a large chunk are un-verified listings which makes it even easier because the listings owner is not alerted to pending edits.
Hijacked-Hotel-Google-My-Business-Listings.jpg

They have even managed to hijack and change verified hotel business listings.

Verified-Hotel-Listings-Hijacked.jpg

Verified listings should be more difficult as the owner account is notified of changes made and to accept or deny the edits. However suggested edits can still be brute forced through with multiple accounts saying the edit is correct.

This just shows how weak and susceptible the Google My Business ecosystem is. The sooner Google starts to trust businesses over users, the sooner some of these vulnerabilities will be closed. It is also a very timely reminder why business must claim and verify their Google Business listings and monitor them.

Read more...
 

Phil Rozek

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Unreal.

I wonder whether it's just that one perp, or more affiliates are doing the same thing.

It appears each hotel targeted by tophotelsnearme.net is on a subdomain of that site. See:
site:tophotelsnearme.net - Google Search

Not much else on the site. Clearly it exists only for one reason.

Only ~50 hotels are in their cross-hairs. Makes me wonder how much affiliate lucre this tactic actually yields.
 

Margaret Ornsby

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Well it worked well for BeyondMenu (et al), so why not run a test in this industry and see how it works... Just sayin' ;-)
Tim is absolutely right - once a biz owner has claimed a listing, G should give the biz owner more credit than they do. Accommodation category businesses are the most vulnerable; G seems to think any OTA out there knows more about the premises than the owner.
 

JoyHawkins

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We used to see this a TON when I was a MapMaker Regional Lead. Some of the edits we'd see come through did a really good job of making it look like it was the real business site instead of a 3rd party. It was really common with restaurants too, especially ones that didn't verify their listing.
 

JoshuaMackens

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Wow. Intense.

I like the idea of being able to suggest changes and them go through if the owner doesn't catch them. We do that with our clients' incorrect GMB pages all the time. But approval threshold should be way higher probably.

Also, why not just set up a flag system for suspicious edits? If all the same accounts are approving each other, that's easy to catch. Oh Google...
 
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