Scammers may be able to steal your customers.
In this blog, we want to share some crucial information that every business needs to know. Our usual topic is websites because we're a web design company. But your online presence includes more than your website. And if you don't know some important facts, your business may be at risk.
Most businesses realize the importance of securing their website and monitoring their social media channels. But many fail to realize that their business is profiled on dozens of other unsecured public reviews sites.
Why might these sites be a vulnerability problem?
Let's look at just one example, recently reported by CBS News: When Courtney Pearson's washing machine broke down, she looked on Google and called the number for Al's Guaranteed Appliance Repair. But she wasn't talking to Al. Scammers had changed the phone number on Al's Google listing.
Two men showed up, "fixed" her washer, charged $420, and left. They cashed her check immediately. But the washer wasn't fixed. When Pearson tried to call back, the "repairmen" blocked her calls. She looked online again, this time on Yelp, an online review site, and found a different phone number. When she called that number, she talked to Al—the real Al—who had no idea what Pearson was talking about. In fact, Al hadn't worked all week!
When the scammers changed the phone number on Al's Google listing, Al had no work because his calls were going to someone else--someone who was stealing his customers and ruining his business reputation!
Google declined to comment on this specific incident but made the following statement to CBS:
"Merchants who manage their business listing info through Google My Business, are notified via email when edits are suggested."
There's the vulnerability. Did you catch it?
- Merchants who manage their business listing
- When edits are suggested
Anyone can suggest an edit to a Google business listing. If a business owner doesn't object, Google makes the edit. And unless you claim and manage your Google listing, you won't even know the edit has been suggested! That "edit" may be anything from a changed phone number, location, web address, or contact information to products and pictures.
The same is true of other reviews sites. Most likely, your business is listed on several critically important search engines and reviews sites and 20-30 additional less-frequently used sites. The information on these sites may or may not be correct. And unless you have claimed your business on each of these sites, you run two significant risks:
- Someone else may claim your business site. Basic safeguards are supposed to prevent this, but it still happens. Reclaiming your business listing is frustrating and extremely time-consuming!
- Information about your business may be incorrect and could even be scammed without your knowledge.
Here's the solution
- Use the top three search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo) to search for your business.
- Make a list of all the reviews sites that list your business. Be sure to check at least the first two pages of search results in each of the three search engines. Note the reviews sites that show up repeatedly on the three search engines.
- Claim your business on each of these sites. Reviews sites try to sell advertising, but claiming your business is free.
- Develop a full free business profile (complete information and pictures) for each business claim.
Once you have developed your business profiles, manage these sites by posting current information and responding to customer reviews. Reviews significantly impact your business reputation--and even your search ranking! Your response to reviews leverages that impact. Google My Business and other sites offer guidelines on how to respond to online reviews. Read and follow them.
Here's the insider secret: Good reviews won't help you if you don't respond. You look like you don't care. Poor reviews won't hurt you if you respond well. Your response can defuse customer frustration and demonstrate that you really do care about customer satisfaction. Well-crafted responses to both good and poor reviews require sensitivity, objectivity, and thoughtful application of your business narrative.
We know what you're thinking—and you're right! This is a time-consuming task! That's why many businesses find it beneficial to outsource this job to a social media manager, someone who is an expert in managing these public profiles so you can focus your expertise on running your business.
We can help with that. If you don't have the time or the desire to handle these tasks yourself, our social media manager can set up and manage these sites for you. Just let us know, and we'll set up a plan.
One way or the other, please recognize the risk in this growing problem. Prioritize and solve it. You've invested too much in your business to leave it vulnerable to scammers!