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Has Google's Security Gone Too Far?

Security lock Surprise, surprise: Google is making life more difficult for local business owners and online advertisers. This time, the problems have to do with Google’s new security measures, which have become markedly stricter in the last year. While tightening security is a good idea in theory, it’s been extremely problematic in execution, as it has created quite a mess for the many business owners who share access to their Google My Business accounts with their advertisers. Here’s what you need to know about Google’s security pain points so you can avoid being locked out of your account and keep your advertising on track.

Claiming Your Listing Is a Pain

If you are the owner of your Google My Business listing, then you don’t have to worry about trying to claim it. You can easily make your online advertiser the manager of your listing. However, many Google My Business accounts are created by a hired SEO company or online advertiser; when you stop working with that company, they abandon your listing without giving you back ownership. That company still technically owns your listing, but now you don’t have access to it because you don’t know the log-in information. Trying to claim these types of listings has always been challenging, but Google has made it even more difficult recently. When you (or a new advertiser) try to claim your listing, Google will first contact the current owner of that page. However, since the current owner is your former SEO company that no longer cares about your business, it’s unlikely to respond to Google’s request. Your listing will be stuck in limbo for at least 1-2 weeks while Google waits for a response from the owner. If there’s no response after a few weeks, Google will give you the option to claim your listing yourself by phone or e-mail—but this will only work if you have a corporate e-mail domain. If this doesn’t work, you may have to create an entirely new listing from scratch and start over.

Solution

You can avoid these delays by requesting your Google My Business account information as soon as you stop working with an online advertising provider. You may also want to consider creating an e-mail address on your company’s website domain.

Good Luck Logging In to Your Own Account

“But if I know my username and password, shouldn’t I be in the clear?” Technically, yes. However, you may still run into problems logging in if you don’t regularly visit your account. Google takes any significant absence (we haven’t pinpointed the exact time period yet, but it seems to be at least several months) as a sign that your account has been compromised. As a result, Google will grill you with hyper-specific security questions to make sure it’s really you signing in. This may also happen if you forget your password or try logging in from a new device or physical location. Some of these questions include:

  • On what date did you create this account?
  • What other Google apps and products do you use?
  • What is the date when you first started using these products?

In many cases, Google may also ask you for your mobile phone number so it can text a PIN to you, which you will then have to verify manually. Of course, because the vast majority of users won’t be able to recall the exact day and month that they created their accounts, the authentication process can get complicated and frustrating very quickly.

Solution

Be sure to log in to your Google My Business account on a regular basis (at least once per month). Not only will this prevent Google from thinking your account’s been compromised, but it will also help you remember your username and password. You can also turn off your two-step authentication process (which is an optional user setting) so that you aren’t prompted to verify your account every time you sign in from a new device or location.

Your Advertising Could Take a Hit

When Google’s security measures present these kinds of problems, your advertising efforts will suffer greatly. If you’ve hired an online advertiser, they won’t be able to claim your listing and, therefore, won’t be able to optimize your local search performance. Not only will they not be able to do their job, but they could potentially get blocked from your listing altogether if they try accessing it without the proper credentials. Even if you’re performing your own advertising, you won’t be able to do much if you can’t log in to your own account. Here’s the bottom line: If you can’t log in to Google, you can’t manage your listing. If you can’t manage your listing, you can’t keep it updated to ensure it matches all of your other online content. If your Google listing doesn’t match your online content, your local search performance will take a serious hit.