Local business listings began with a basic business directory more than a decade ago. Chances are, your business has a local listing wherever you have a physical address location.
Check it out --- go to Google, type in your company name. You'll probably see a map locating your business and an address. Of course you may find other information too.
Local business listings are treated passively by many businesses. But that could be a mistake. You've probably read that prospects have something specific in mind when they are shopping.
So try this test. Go back to Google, type in the name of a product or service your business provides plus your hometown. Did your business show up? If it did: congratulations. If it did not: you're missing a major marketing opportunity.
Times have changed
From a marketing standpoint, the use of local business listings has exploded with the increase of social media and mobile devices. Consumers not only use these interactive yellow pages to locate a business, product or service in their area; they are also posting reviews of those products and services.
Today, there are over 60 local business listing websites on the Internet in five different categories. They include the search engines, social communities, 411 websites (aka yellow page type websites), GPS websites and that age-old business directory.
You can no longer be passive
To make your interactive yellow pages listing a stronger marketing tool, you must first "claim" the listing with all the search engines, social communities, websites and organizations that lead people to it. Once you prove the listing is really yours you can update it with your business marketing material.
Businesses are realizing the importance of this claiming process. Once you have claimed your local listing you can update information with text, keywords, business descriptions, products, services, photos, videos, coupons, and more. Some websites, such as Google, allow you to use all these options while others charge a fee for enhanced listings making this information present for local consumers through web or mobile searches.
So what's the "security challenge"?
The claiming process is crucial to security because if the wrong person gets access to your business local listing they can direct customers to a different location by phone or website address.
Additional damage can include incorrect information on photos, videos, coupons, and more. Because consumers are using local business listings to locate a business, product or service in their immediate area, the security around local business listings must have a high priority for any local listing website.
Phishing was described in 1987 before the Internet was a commercial boom. The first recorded use of phishing was in 1996. The question is whether the business industry is going to wait for something similar to occur using Local Business Listings.
The security holes are quite evident with Local Business Listings and I don't think it takes a genius see what could happen if businesses do not "claim" their listings -- the first step in closing those "holes."
When hackers capture a Local Listing it's called "high-jacking"
It is absolutely important that businesses not passively wait for local listing websites to put the appropriate security in place before you claim your listing.
Installing security starts with the obvious claiming process, but many sites allow data to be inserted from other databases on the Internet and I am not sure there's good security around this later process.
If someone wanted to hijack a local business listing, they could easily insert the wrong information through a low level business directory that sells its data upstream or inserts its data directly into a higher level local listing website.
While the top search engines like Bing, Google and Yahoo have "some" front-end security; their API's (Application Programming Interface) make them vulnerable through the back door.
Data is provided to their local listings from 3rd party sources including "get listed" services.
Additionally, if someone cannot claim a listing easily, the process within these local listing websites allows for additional listings with the same address to be submitted by anyone.