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Have you ever given a marketing company control of your Google My Business accounts and listings so they can help manage your local marketing? Have you ever tried to get your account bad after you decided to part ways?

It has been notoriously difficult and time-consuming to regain ownership of your Google My Business listings in the past, but Google has launched a new feature to streamline the process.

If you’ve been unable to reclaim your listings, you can now start the verification process to prove you are the rightful owner or representative for your listings with just a few steps:

  • Go to Google My Business.
  • Log in with the Google account you use to manage your business.
  • Enter the business name or address and select your business from the search results.
    • There is a chance you may see text showing part of the email address that originally verified the listing. If you control this email address, you can sign into that account to access your business listing.
  • Complete and submit the form.
  • Google will contact the current owner of the listing asking them to contact you. In the meantime, you will receive a confirmation email with a link to check the status of your request.
  • Allow seven days for the current owner of the listing to respond to the request. If they do not respond within a week, you will be able to verify your affiliation with the business and regain control of the corresponding listings.

Negative SEO alert

There’s a new malicious SEO tactic making the rounds and your Google My Business listings could easily be the victim, according to web security company Sucuri. The company says individuals are sneaking inappropriate or damaging photos into GMB listings with the intent of damaging a business’s reputation and image.

What makes this type of exploit unique, however, is that it doesn’t take any hacking skills to do. Unlike other negative SEO tactics, this specific technique does not include hosting images on a client server, malicious code, or even breaking into an account.

Ultimately, the attack is taking advantage of Google’s lax rules for uploading photos to a business’s location in Google Maps. Anyone can upload images to a business’s listing, and any of these images can be used for Knowledge Graph data about the business.

While Sucuri doesn’t have evidence of this, it is possible for a person to spam a business’s listing with lewd images and then send fake hits to them to increase their perceived popularity – all with the end goal of making sure they come up when people see your business online.

How to Protect Your Listings

Unfortunately, the nature of this type of attack makes it difficult to guard against. There is no way to limit who can upload photos to your listings or determine which image gets used in Knowledge Graphs. The best you can really do is to actively keep an eye on your listings and which photos are appearing next to your listings.

You can also watch to make sure no one is uploading inappropriate pictures to your Google My Business photos. While you can’t stop people from uploading lewd images, you can easily remove any associated with your location.

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When it comes to marketing your business, it’s all about image. How people perceive your business will decide whether they decide to come in the door or walk away. This is especially true online.

One of the first images people will see when they find your business is almost always your photos in your local listings on search engines. Thankfully, Google has given you more control and more data on how your images are performing.

With the new insights for photos on business listings, you can see how people are responding to your listing and images and compare them against your competition.

You can easily see the new insights in your Google My Business listing by clicking the Insights tab on the top navigation bar. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll find a graph comparing your business to “businesses like you”.

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You can refine the time-period you want to look at by the past 90 days, past 30 days, and past 7 days.

Unfortunately, you can’t select exactly what businesses you are comparing your site against, nor do you even get to know who the “businesses like you” are. But, the new tool can still be an effective way to make sure you are making a great first impression with your listings on Google.

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Your Google My Business Page is the epicenter of all your local online marketing for your brand or business. Now, Google is making it easier to see how users find your GMB page with enhanced insights that show where your visitors are coming from.

The biggest question the new insights help answer is where your GMB page visitors are coming from. Specifically, are they coming from Google Maps or Google Search? With enhanced insights, you can now see a simple breakdown of how many visitors are coming from each source straight from your GMB dashboard.

The new insights also help you understand how people are finding your page. Some may be searching directly for your brand or business name, but others are likely to find you by searching for a related keyword.

You can now view a comparison of who found your page by searching for your name and who searched for a related keyword. Don’t expect to be able to see which keywords they were searching for, however. Those are currently ‘not provided’.

While these new insights are being added, Google is also removing the Google+ statistics from the GBD dashboard.

Have your checked your business’s Knowledge Graph information lately? If you haven’t, you may be hearing from Google the next time you perform a search.

Recently, Dan Leveille discovered that Google is proactively reaching out to searchers and urging them to keep their business listing up-to-date. If you haven’t checked on your listings recently, you may see a similar alert to the one below next time you sign in with a Google account associated with a Google My Business page.

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Leveille notes:

“Other than asking developers to include social profile data, this seems like the first time Google is proactively asking business owners to directly suggest edits to their Knowledge Graph info.”

Leveille also uncovered a newly updated help document from Google detailing the criteria for being considered an “official representative of an entity in the Knowledge Graph.”

This is a significant move by Google to try to clean up out-of-date Knowledge Graph information and provide accurate listings. Both local businesses and major corporations can take advantage of the Knowledge Graph, so it is always a good idea to regularly check your listings and make sure they are current.

With Halloween in the rear-view mirror we have officially entered the holiday season, and Google is rolling out new features to help businesses prepare. Google My Business announced it is launching a new feature that allows businesses to set their holiday hours in advance, so shoppers will always know when you are open.

In the past, businesses had to manually update their hours manually if they changed their hours for the holiday season, and when the season is over you had to go back in and change the hours back.

Now, if you know ahead of time when you will start running your holiday hours, you can schedule your Google My Business page to automatically update your opening hours when the time comes. Google will also tell shoppers if what they are seeing are special holiday hours.

If your closing hours are flexible, there is also a new option to have a message displayed saying “hours may differ.”

The feature will stick around, so if you have regular special hours for other events or holidays you can also set those up ahead of time.

How to Schedule Special Hours on Google My Business

  • Log in to your Google My Business account and select the location the hours will apply to.
  • On the “Location details” page, scroll down until you see the “Special hours section” and click the link.
  • Select the date when the hours will begin and enter the opening and closing times for that day.
  • Click the box next to “Closed” if your business will be closed on a specific day. You can also set your hours to 12:00am-12:00pm if you are open 24 hours.
  • Click “Add another” to add more special hours for the location.

For more information on the features or setting up your special holiday hours ahead of time, check out Google’s help center article.

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As schools close and the temperatures soar across the country, it isn’t unusual for businesses to change their hours for the summer. It is especially common in tourist areas where shops often stay open longer to accommodate the longer days and increased store traffic.

If your business has special summer hours, now is the time to guarantee your business listing on Google shows your adjusted seasonal hours.

Today, Google launched a new initiative at gybo.com/summer to help businesses quickly check how their Google My Business listing is displaying, including whether they are currently open or closed.

Google says a recent survey of small businesses found 25% change their operating hours during summer, but only 1 percent of the businesses also adjusted their hours on Google My Business.

Considering recent studies have shown over half of all consumers use search to look for business hours, and even higher numbers use search to plan local purchases, having the wrong hours listed can be quite a big problem.

If you have special summer hours but haven’t updated your listing yet, be sure to update the listing in Google My Business. Be sure to set a reminder while you are at is so you remember to change the hours back again when fall arrives.

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If you run a local business and haven’t logged into Google My Business in a while you may be at risk of having Google unverify your listings, according to a statement from a Google representative today.

In a post on the Google and Your Business Help Forum, Google’s Jade Wang confirmed the news that the company has been contacting some Google My Business users that it considers to be inactive:

In some cases, we may contact Google My Business users via email to confirm that they are still actively managing a business page. If a user is unresponsive to our attempts to contact him or her and has not logged into Google My Business for a significant length of time, then we may unverify pages in the account. We’re doing this in order to continue to provide users with the best experience when they’re looking for local businesses like yours. If you find that a page in your account has been incorrectly unverified, please contact support to get assistance restoring verification.

The news was first brought to light by Brian Barwig of Integrated Digital Marketing, who posted a message today about a phone conversation he had with a Google support rep who told him that this may happen to accounts which are considered inactive for six months.

Mike Blumenthal has also shared the text of the email Google sends out to warn inactive accounts about being potentially unverified.

To help prevent this, Wang included some advice: “It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the inbox associated with your Google My Business (Locations) account. It’s also a good idea to regularly log into Google My Business (Locations) to confirm that your business information is current and accurate.”

GMB Put On Map

Google is doubling down on their efforts to bring local businesses around the world online with a new program called “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map.

The new program seeks to assist small businesses and local organizations from over 30,000 cities worldwide to set-up complete local listings on Google.

The search engine claims consumers are 38 percent more likely to visit and 29 more likely to consider purchasing from businesses with complete listings, yet a huge number of companies do not have local business listings on any search engine.

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For the new initiative, Google is providing each participating city with a custom website where local businesses can see how they appear on Google Maps and in search results.

Google is also giving local business owners an easy-to-follow guide for getting their business listed with Google My Business, as well as a free website and domain name for a year through Google’s partner Startlogic.

The program is also encouraging consumers to get involved, by inviting consumers to create postcards in support of their favorite local businesses which can be shared on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. However, Google makes it clear these postcards won’t have any impact on search engine ranking.

“Sharing the postcards won’t make businesses appear higher in search, but will hopefully spur them to verify and start managing their business listing,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Watch.

Google is also partnering with local organizations such as chambers of commerce and small business development centers to offer workshops aimed at teaching local businesses how to control the information listed about them on Google Search and Maps.

The release of Google My Business was intended to make it easier for businesses to maintain a consistent appearance across all of Google’s services, but one feature was seriously lacking. While Google My Business allowed businesses to upload an image to their profile, the companies still had difficulty controlling which images would be used in various listings.

That is a serious problem when you are trying to establish a consistent brand presence online.

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Today, Google announced a major update to Google my Business that finally gives companies some agency in their appearance across Google’s platform. As the announcement explains:

Starting today, you can tell us which image you’d like to appear when customers search for your business on Google. Just log in to Google My Business on the web or in the Android or iOS apps, and visit the Photos section. While you’re there, you can also give your business a fresh look online by updating your profile, logo and cover photos.

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The upgrade unifies Google’s three interfaces for images into one simple interface. There is no longer any guesswork in making sure your brand is always presented how you want it on the search engine.

Google Help Files explains the best practices for uploading photos for your business:

Your photos will look best on Google if they meet the following standards:

  • Format: JPG, PNG, TIFF, BMP
  • Size: Between 10KB and 5MB
  • Minimum resolution: 250px on the longest side for profile & logo photos; 720px on the longest side for other business photos
  • Aspect ratio: The longer dimension of the photo should be no more than four times the shorter dimension. Landscape photos look better than portrait photos on Google products. Panoramic photos may use different aspect ratios.
  • Quality: The photo should be in focus, well-lit, have no photoshop alterations, and no excessive use of filters. The image should represent reality.