Google My Business (GMB) is a Google tool that helps businesses provide information about their products & services — thereby improving their online visibility. Google displays this information across its various properties (such as search results, maps, etc). Google also collects information from various other sources (end-consumers, customers or businesses, or its tools), and may incorporate such information on the GMB page. When a potential guest searches for a hotel on Google, a business card-like segment is displayed on the right side of the page. Although one can claim ownership of their GMB page, it is eventually a Google tool and is largely controlled by Google.
Why should GMB matter for hotels?
Google utilises the data on GMB to display it across different high-traffic Google properties and also on Google Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs), Google Maps, etc. We believe that GMB data is relevant for SEO and is significant to rank higher on Google. Therefore, it becomes a critical part of a hotel’s SEO strategy.
The map marker on GMB is the marker that Google Maps provides guests with directions to their hotel.
Google often asks hotel customers to leave reviews, and hotels respond to them via their GMB console.
Hotels can ring in more phone calls via the call button shown on the mobile version of the GMB page.
Google additionally displays the rates of the property on its GMB Page organically or if the hotel has enabled Google Hotel Ads.
How to verify your GMB page?
The user must be a verified owner of the GMB page to make changes to it. Visit https://business.google.com to edit your business information. However, Google may not always consider the suggestions of the verified owner. To verify, Google provides the following options:
The user essentially needs a code.
The codes may be sent through a postcard by Google.
Google may also offer email as an option.
If the hotel has uploaded its phone number, then Google gives the option to receive the code via a voice call or an SMS.
Google has been known to authenticate through video verification as well, and is known to constantly change its authentication methods.
If someone else has ownership of the GMB page, Google also provides an option to reclaim it. Again, visit https://business.google.com. The search-engine giant will email the current GMB owner asking them to grant the requestor ownership. If the owner does not accept it, after a few days, Google grants the requestor the option to access the GMB page by authenticating through an OTP (sent via postcard, phone call, SMS or email).
How does Google update data on GMB?
Google uses several ways to update information on the GMB page, and the entire set of processes is perhaps not knowable. But, we have observed that it takes the following three things into account: data provided by a verified owner suggested edits from Google users and information (location accuracy, reviews, etc) it asks from users.
How can GMB pages be compromised?
We have seen that GMB pages are compromised when unauthorised people take ownership of the GMB page. This is usually done through one of the authentication processes listed above. Another technique that seems to work is when someone unauthorised creates another GMB page, gets it verified and gets the original page marked as duplicate by various other users. We have no way of knowing the full modus operandi of the impersonators.
These unauthorised people can then change the website link or the phone number and act like the hotel & get guests to make payments. They can also then drive traffic to an incorrect page. We have also seen GMB pages being compromised in order to drive customers to another neighbouring hotel.
Therefore, it is essential that hotels secure their GMB page.
Our proposed best practices for safeguarding your GMB
Hotels can implement the following suggestions:
For hotel chains, keep ownership of all GMB pages under one Google account (ideally, one that belongs to the organisation). For independent hotels, your Google account, which manages your GMB, should be owned by a highly-trusted individual.
If you wish to provide access to someone, only provide them with a ‘manager’ access and not the ‘ownership’ access.
Train your team to NEVER give out any Google OTP (received via phone, email or postcard) to anyone EXCEPT authorised personnel. Sometimes, impersonators pretend to be calling from Google and get the codes from the hotel front desk team.
Establish a regular audit process (perhaps weekly) to check that the website address, phone number and name of each of your properties are accurate. Verify the information that includes amenities, etc., as Google is known for constantly altering its algorithm. Fix inaccurate details immediately and review the list of people who have been granted access.
Every quarter, audit accounts that have access to your GMB pages & remove old agencies or people who may have left the organisation from all GMB pages.
We also suggest responding to Google reviews regularly. This is as vital as responding to Tripadvisor reviews. Although your GMB page may still be compromised, our proposed best practices will help reduce the probability and manage your online brand credibility.