Expedia Hijacking Google Places Listings
If you haven’t Googled the name of your hotel lately, you might be in for a little surprise. Recently while helping a new client optimize their Google Places listing, I searched for the name of the hotel. The Google Places listing had a phone number that I didn’t recognize. So I called it and was greeted by an automated system that said “To make a new reservation, select 1.” After selecting 1, I was prompted to indicate whether or not I was traveling within the US, and then if my travel was within the next 3 days. Eventually I got a real person on the line and asked what company I was speaking with. At first the operator avoided the question but after the fourth time, he finally indicated that it was Hotels.com.
The best part about this story is that Expedia and Hotels.com doesn’t even have this hotel in their inventory! According to my client, while they did work with Expedia at one point, they have not had a contract with them for over 2 months. In my November article about the new Google local listings, I had stated that these new listings were great for hotels because it finally gave individual hotels a better chance of showing up on the first page of Google. Companies like Expedia and Hotels.com that had traditionally dominated page one of Google because of their wealth of content and strong optimization techniques would not be able to participate in the Google Places listings. Well, I was wrong.
It appears that Expedia and Hotels.com have also recognized that the new Google Places listings are a great way for individual hotels to get exposure, so they have decided to hijack them and take advantage of hotels that have not yet learned how to claim their own listings to drive people to their own call centers. I thought that maybe this was an isolated incident… giving Expedia & Hotels.com the benefit of the doubt, and went on to claim the listing for my client. Unfortunately, when I entered the Hotels.com phone number into Google Places in order to pull up the listing, more than one appeared.
What to do?
If you Google your hotel and find that Expedia, Hotels.com, or perhaps someone else has stolen the Google Places listing which rightfully belongs to you, simply log into Google Places using a Gmail address. Google will first ask you for the Country and Phone Number of your hotel. If they already have a listing for your location, it will show on your screen. Click “Edit” and then make the appropriate changes. Once finished, Google will most likely send a post card to your hotel with a pin code. When it arrives, just log back into your Google Places account and claim the listing.
At this point, you will either be able to control the listing, or you might find that a duplicate listing has been created. In the case of a duplicate listing, simply click on the one that is NOT controlled by you and click the link at the bottom of the screen that says “Report a problem” and indicate that it is a duplicate listing. Eventually Google will merge the two listings and you will be in control again. It is recommended that you advise your staff never to give out the Google pin number to anyone else.
Note: Google Places also does business verification over the phone where they call the business and provide the pin number with an automated system, but this is usually for a first time set up and not when you are trying to claim a listing that already exists. In the event that you are going to use the telephone verification method, it is important that you temporarily deactivate any answering machines or voice menus. You will need to answer the phone when it rings in order to get your pin.