Google Apologizes For The Hotel Listing Hijack In Google Places

Jan 16, 2014 • 8:12 am | comments (14) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Maps

Pegman Google MapsI have to assume most of you by now heard about the huge mess going on with Google Maps business listing in the hotel sector? Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, with the team, wrote up an awesome story explaining the how Thousands Of Hotel Listings Were Hijacked In Google+ Local.

I can tell you this story was in the work for a few days and Danny broke it just the other day. It is honestly shocking how something like this can happen to huge hotel chains. It is even more shocking how Google tries to sweep it under the rug. Yea, I know Google Maps is plagued with issues, especially on the Google Places business listing side. But this is a huge mess.

In short, some how, spammers hijacked listings of hotel chains across the world, replacing the hotel's URL with a URL to book the listing on their own affiliate site. This likely ended up costing the hotels a tremendous amount in affiliate fees, which I wouldn't blame them if they didn't pay and end up suing the affiliate that did this.

Here is an example showing one listing with a hijacked URL:

Google Responds To Hotel Listing Highjack

Google barely said anything but now they have their community manager, Jade Wang, respond in a Google Business Help thread that no one really looks at. She wrote:

Spam issue for some hotels in Places for Business:

We've identified a spam issue in Places for Business that is impacting a limited number of business listings in the hotel vertical. The issue is limited to changing the URLs for the business. The team is working to fix the problem as soon as possible and prevent it from happening again. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

At least they apologized for "any inconvenience" it may have caused "some hotels."

It is just amazing how bad Google Maps for business is and how many hacks and issues are within it.

Forum discussion at Google Business Help & Cre8asite Forums.

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Alexander Hemedinger

01/16/2014 02:15 pm

I hope they pay more attention to the matter in other industries etc.

Durant Imboden

01/16/2014 03:19 pm

Remember the old adage that said you should always wait for version 2.0 before trusting a software application? That's even more valid in the online era, when software is released into the wild for public testing--especially by Google. Some Google products, releases, etc. are labeled as beta tests (remember Froogle?), but even when they aren't, it often takes Google a while to get things right. (Authorship, which is still flaky, comes to mind.) It's unfortunate when something like this hotel screw-up happens, but it certainly isn't amazing.


01/16/2014 04:49 pm

I love how she says it impacts a "limited number" of businesses. What that limit is, noone knows.

Yo Mamma

01/16/2014 08:04 pm

I know of many that have had their Google Business profiles 'hacked' to show the competition's contact info and not theirs. Google wouldn't take responsibility then and this way 2 years ago. Nothing has changed. Its the big kid with no brains syndrome. Google paid how many billions for a thermostat? Jeez can't wait to buy that and shove it in my house

James R. Halloran

01/17/2014 12:02 am

I bet you there's so much more to this problem than just hotels. We'll be hearing about other industries in the next few days.

Courtney Cox

01/17/2014 02:51 pm

It certainly didn't impact every hotel. For example, my hotels (in the Arkansas and Oklahoma regions) were not affected. "Limited" certainly makes the problem sound smaller than it might actually be. Some of these chains have more than 4,000 hotels. So even if only 5% (I don't know the actual number) of properties were impacted, that would still be 200 hotels just for one chain.

Yo Mamma

01/17/2014 03:33 pm

This is the God's honest truth in what Google is doing now with natural search sites on PG1. Google chooses a key player. Usually one that has an active but moderate PPC account and promotes them high in the naturals. This continues for months, then wham-o, they plummet. This forces them into an expensive PPC campaign. As far as rich snippets, Google has held onto those that have good SEO sites but also active moderate PPC accounts. Everyone else has been deleted in certain industries. Bottom line: Google gives you a 'trial period' of good natural, free results, then hits you for no good reason. This has nothing to do with blackhat or good seo. Just the new Google I forgot to mention. This is only with small companies. Big companies have different rules


01/17/2014 04:05 pm

google, we not care about it. better penalize amazon for sidewide (including home page) footer links spam (to all their sites - 50+). Otherwise you hiding spammers yourself.


01/17/2014 04:08 pm

their programmers looks like experimenting on billions of websites and their owners. google not care about their lifes, about time spended for content creation, etc. google tell us fairy tales about spammers, but hide main spammers (amazon - 50+ footer anchor keyword links in homepage and sitewide), wikipedia - LOTs of doorway pages with no content, but only internal links), etc.


01/17/2014 04:10 pm

google not cares, looks like it testing their products on live humans. where is human rights orgs?

City VIP Concierge

01/17/2014 08:47 pm

This has happened to our company and began on January 4th, 2014. We are centrally located on The Las Vegas Strip and anyone would kill for our Google Business listing. Approximately a week and a half later "January 15th, 2014" Google claimed to "fix" the problem but that really has not been the case. We were not given back our Hijacked account with all of our posts, photos and most importantly reviews and we were forced to create another listing. We have been a business for over 5 years and do believe we have done a superb job of marketing and SEO as prior to the hijacking we ranked #1 on a number of industry related google searches. Since the hijacking of our Google Business Listing we are receiving less hits daily than our hourly hits to the site before the hijacking. This has literally been a catastrophe and has cost us thousands of dollars in business. The timing could not have been worse as we had been marking for the upcoming CES "Consumer Electronic Show" here in Las Vegas January 7th - 10th and anticipated a substantial increase in business this year. Unfortunately due to the hijacking our site was nowhere to be found and I'm sure the company that has taking it over had never experienced such numbers in their company history. Today is Friday January 17th, 2014 and the problem is back. The same company has hijacked our listing. The worst of it is that it is not a licensed business in the state of Nevada and and the actually address that has been placed on our listing does not match our locations yet it is indeed our listing as everything is the same, "photos, posts, reviews, etc." This has crippled our business and if it lasts the entire month January we will be out tens of thousands of dollars in business. If anyone has any suggestions on how to speed up the fix or prevent something like this from happening? Your input is very appreciated. All the Best City VIP Concierge

Yo Mamma

01/19/2014 03:56 am

Sorry, but its not good news. You can go to the Google forum but you will likely be criticized for even valuing a 'free' bus advertisement from Google. Its run by pimpled-faced dweebs that live in the basement of their step mothers homes. The more attention your draw on it, the worse it gets. I've noticed the vindictiveness of these Google volunteers and they prey on suffering, so be careful because they can make it much worse for you. Making it better is never the goal. Just eat the loses and get a healthy $1000's per month in PPC like all the other very good sites that got hit. Google: Your search results suck


01/20/2014 11:14 am

Saw a tweet from Patrick Altoft this morning and according to searchmetrics Expedia has seen a 25% decrease in search visibility in part probably due to the recent hotels issue on Google. Bet they are a tad annoyed.


01/20/2014 01:07 pm

This is a ridiculous statement made by someone who refuses to even attempt to grasp the reality of search. Please, if you are new to this topic, do not think that this poster has any actual information to give; it is paranoid drivel that does little to help move the conversation forward. Google promotes a key player to a high flying organic ranking, assuming they have a moderate AdWords spend: No evidence to support this claim. Google then slams that business organically, resulting in their being forced to run a much more expensive campaign: No evidence to support this claim. Google is only concerned, in regards to rich snippets, with those who have a moderate PPC account; everyone else is deleted (in certain industries): No evidence to support this claim. Bottom line statement: No evidence to support this claim. Big companies have different rules (and presumably their own ranking algorithm (s) nested on the current algo) for ranking: No evidence to support this claim. Please, those that are new to this topic, do not give 'Yo Mamma', and the others like him/her any authority on this topic. Stumbling into this line-of-thought will only stagnate you in your goals and blind you from the larger picture and changing reality of how search operates, who is playing in search now vs. just a few years ago, and reacting to an ever changing and growing 'industry'.

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