by Nikki Brown
We often see posts on the Local Search Forum from people wondering why business details on their Google My Business (GMB) listings (name of the listing, categories, business hours, phone number, etc.) have changed without their knowledge or consent. Unauthorized changes on GMB (no matter how minor they seem) can lead to major issues with ranking and tracking. It can also show customers the wrong information about your business. The best way to make sure you’re sending the right message to your clients on GMB is to monitor your listings for unauthorized edits. Which leaves us with the million-dollar question, where are these edits coming from?
Why Do Unauthorized Edits Matter?
Before I get into where the edits are coming from, I need to address the impact these edits can have on your business.
The first issue is user experience and I’ll use an example to illustrate this issue. If an edit changes your business hours, someone could show up to your business when you’re closed. That is a bad user experience, which is something Google tries to avoid. You also don’t want to be unknowingly upsetting your clients or turning away potential future business.
Tracking is another issue that can affect the way you do business. If you’re using a call tracking phone number or UTM codes, they can be stripped off the listing, leaving you with incorrect data in Google Analytics.
The final and most important issue is ranking. Having your name or categories switched without your knowledge can completely change how you rank. We had an HVAC company whose primary category was changed from “Air Conditioning Repair Service” to “Air Conditioning Contractor” and they dropped from 1st to 31st overnight. The primary category holds more weight than any other category so when it’s changed, it has a large impact on ranking.
How Are These Changes Happening?
Since having details on your GMB listing change without your knowledge can harm your business, it’s important to figure out where they’re coming from. In most cases, the edits are coming from 1 of 4 sources; 3rd party data, 3rd party apps, another owner/manager, or a public user.
3rd Party Data
While this may seem obvious to anyone who knows even a little bit about Google’s Local Search Ecosystem, I still need to mention it because it’s such an important factor. Now I’m not suggesting that you run out and get a full citation audit but when you keep seeing that same edit come up. However, 3rd party data is something you should keep in mind.
To see if this is an issue for you, start by Googling your business name and take a look at the directory sites that rank on page 1. Do they have the correct information for your business? You might find that your office hours keep switching on GMB because you forgot to update Express Update when you started doing business on Saturdays 6 months ago.
It’s not always going to be that easy, sometimes you’ll have to do a little more digging. It’s important to know what data the top 10-15 sites for your market have about your business. Some quick edits on those sites might help stop unauthorized GMB changes.
3rd Party Apps
This is something many people overlook when analyzing an issue with GMB. You’ve likely given a ton of 3rd party apps access to your listing over the years. Some that you probably don’t even use anymore. You can check what apps have access to your account under the security section of your account settings (or use this link).
Apps like Yext or Moz Local can be set up to push data to GMB so you’ll want to make sure to either remove authorization, turn that setting off, or make sure all information in those apps is correct. If you see any apps that you don’t recognize or don’t use anymore, remove their access to your account.
This is another edit source that might seem obvious but many people don’t think about when trying to figure out where their edits came from. It’s important to periodically review all authorized users and remove old employees and users you don’t recognize. Any user on the listing can make edits at any time without your knowledge so you need to make sure that only people you trust have access to your listing.
A Public User
Google Maps and GMB are both set up to allow the public to make edits to listings. It’s important to note that just because someone makes an edit it doesn’t necessarily mean it will go live, but if Google trusts the source (for example, a Google Maps user with a high trust level), it’s more likely to get approved and pushed live.
How do you know if a public user made an edit?
There are 2 places where you can see if a public user suggested an edit to your listing:
- The local finder. When you pull up your listing in maps, you’ll see in orange “A user suggested” followed by the edit they made.
- The dashboard in search. When you’re logged in, do a branded search on Google. You should see your knowledge panel show up on the right. Under the ads on the left (if there are any), you’ll see a box that says “Your business on Google”. If there was a user suggested edit on your listing, you’ll see it in that dashboard.
Updates from Google
The final takeaway is that when you see “Updates from Google” from within your dashboard, those edits have already been published.
If you see this in your dashboard, carefully review those edits and fix any incorrect information. Google sends out alert emails to the managers and owners on the listings when something has been updated, so make sure to check that email account regularly. The longer you have incorrect information on your GMB listing, the more harm it can do to your business.