The New York Times recently highlighted a new form of local search sabotage where competitors, disgruntled employees and dissatisfied consumers are going beyond negative reviews and instead claiming businesses are permanently closed in order to inflict more harm than a one-star review. When a business is flagged as being closed, they can lose rankings that they’ve worked hard to achieve and local sites that scrape their information from Google may also mark them as closed.
Every local listing service has the ability to report businesses that are no longer open but Google’s size and traffic make it the main target for sabotage. Google tries to avoid some of the problem by having a “not true” link but many businesses report that weeks after disputing their status, they are still listed as being closed.
While this kind of behavior may seem juvenile, the serious economic consequences have Google scrambling to fix their flagging system especially after they were embarrassed by two internet marketers that managed to close the company’s own listing. Google immediately implemented email notifications for businesses after they have been labeled as closed but that doesn’t solve the problem of trying to dispute your status before you get flagged.
I really wish I didn’t have to say this but you should check your business listing status periodically to make sure you haven’t been sabotaged. It’s also a good idea if you’ve specified hours of operation to check those as well in case you’ve updated them.