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Yesterday, thousands of hotels with Google+ Local listings had their pages manipulated to replace their links to official sites with links leading to third-party booking services. Google+ Local listings are what Google uses to provide local results in Google Maps and Google Search.

It currently appears to be isolated entirely to hotels, and Google has already said they are aware of and fixing the problem, but Danny Sullivan’s research into who is responsible for the hijacking has yet to turn up anything concrete. What we do know is that thousands of listings were changed to point to either RoomsToBook.Info, RoomsToBook.net, or HotelsWhiz.com.

Source: Search Engine Land

Source: Search Engine Land

The problem is, we can’t be sure any of these companies are actually directly responsible. Only one person responded to Sullivan’s inquiries. Karim Miwani, listed on LinkedIn as the director of HotelsWhiz.com, replied saying (sic):

We have recently seen this issue and have reported to Google webmaster already. If you have seen any links please forward it to me and I will submit the request.

Our team is already in the process of blocking list of certain domains and IP addresses from back-linking us.

Thank you for pointing this out if you have any more external domains acting in aboce manner please report it to us on

You can get all the details on the hijacking from Danny Sullivan’s investigative report into the issue, but this event has a broader relevance outside of the hotel industry. The mass hijacking of Google’s local listings suggests their is a security flaw in the Google+ Local listings which needs to be addressed and resolved. It may explain why Google has largely remained mum on the subject aside from confirming that it occurred.

You most likely have nothing to worry about with your own local business’s listings, so long as you don’t work in the hotel industry. However, it could have implications about the future of Google+ Local listings. Either the security flaw that allowed this to happen will be fixed, or issues like these could affect other industries on a larger scale.

Considering how important these listings are to Google Maps and Search, a larger attack could be a serious problem for Google.

Hotel FrontEverybody talks about SEO as if it is a monolithic entity. At most, you might hear conversation about local SEO and every few weeks someone will chime in to remind us about international SEO, but the vast majority of the dialogue just refers to SEO as a whole.

But, ignoring its constantly changing nature, SEO is also a lot harder to pin down. Great optimization bends and molds to match the client and the unique needs of a market. What works for a nearby plumbing company may not translate to a small tech startup or a healthcare provider. The absolute basics are the same, but all of these companies have different online needs that can’t be handled with a “one-size-fits-all” mentality.

Hotels are one market with especially unique needs, and now that summer is winding down and many people are trying to squeeze in a vacation before the kids return to school, now is as relevant a time to talk about SEO as any. Aleh Barvsevich broke down the topic in detail, covering how search results for hotels are chosen and displayed and what opportunities hotel clients have in PPC and SEO.