Therapists: Has Your Google My Business Listing Been Hacked?

Therapists: Head’s Up! Has Your Google My Business Listing Been Hacked?

When was the last time you took a look at your Google My Business Listing? You might want to check it out.


What’s up?

We’ve uncovered a listing problem that could be adversely affecting traffic to your site. Unauthorized changes in Google My Business Listings indicate a hacker (or two or three) is targeting therapists with incorrect affiliations to religious organizations.

This creates a significant problem if you own a private practice.

What Is the Hack?

Often we hear the word “hack” and think of large compromised companies or government organizations. But, your private practice can be affected too.

In this situation, the perpetrators are not changing code on your website. Rather, they are taking advantage of a flaw in Google itself. Specifically, they are actively changing the category listings for therapists, the description which defines your business or occupation, which greatly affects how traffic is driven to you.

If you check your listing today and note that the hack hasn’t yet affected you, it’s still wise to check back routinely to ensure your listing is safe.

How Can I Tell If I Have Been Hacked?

To determine if your business has been affected, take the following measures:

  1. Do a Google search for therapists in your community.
  2. Google responds with a map of therapists in your town, along with a listing of therapist and their contact information underneath.
  3. Look for your name or your business’ name.
  4. Underneath your name, your category should be displayed. This is typically a term such as “psychotherapist,” “counselor,” “marriage and family therapist,” etc.

Does everything look normal? Then you are fine, for now. If, however, the description has been changed to a religious denomination, you’ve been hacked.

Our general assessment found that therapists’ job titles have been most commonly changed to “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints” or “Episcopal Church.” However, we even saw a reference to a Mosque for one listing.

How Does This Affect Me?

This hack affects you right where it hurts the most, your bottom line. If someone does a search for a therapist and finds your name under a religious affiliation, they may be less inclined to seek your help.

Moreover, it misrepresents your work and your affiliations if you are not associated with one of these religious organizations. Being misrepresented online this way may lead to web traffic that tapers off suddenly, fewer people interested in clicking on the Google link to your website, or a decline in those reaching out to you personally.

Has This Happened Before?

This recent hack appears to focus on therapists and counselors. However, these kinds of hacks have happened before in other industries.

Wired Magazine reported in a story how a restaurant’s operating hours were changed without the owner’s knowledge. The result? He lost so many customers before the problem was fixed that he eventually had to close.

We don’t want to see your business harmed and hope this information effectively helps defend your listing going forward.

Why Are They Doing This?

We don’t know why the hacker(s) are changing the search results. It could be that someone is playing a joke. Or, they want to affect your Google search results to favor theirs.  Either way, if the problem isn’t fixed it will cause real damage to your business.

What Can I Do About This?

Fortunately, there is a simple way to fix the problem.

Try the following 9-step remedy:

  1. Do another Google search for therapists or counselors in your area.
  2. Find your name and link.
  3. Click on your business name.
  4. A box should appear on the right with more detailed information about your business.
  5. In the box, there should be a link “Suggest an edit.” Click on it.
  6. The box will change to edit mode.
  7. Under “category,” click on the pencil icon on the right side.
  8. Another box will open which allows you to change the description.
  9. Once completed, click on the “send” button.

Here is where it’s important to pay attention. You should get an email that says Google will review the change before it is made. Then you’ll likely receive a message saying the change has occurred.

However, some people receive the final change email before the first email that says that Google will review the suggested edit. This is the Google loophole that is allowing people to make edits to your listing with no review.

Either way, I would suggest that you check your listing at least monthly, if not weekly, to make sure you’re not hacked. Just set a notice on your calendar. It will only take you a minute each time, and it will be worth it!

Let Us Know If Your Listing Has Been Affected…

If you check your listing and something is off, please let us know so that we can get a sense of how wide-spread this problem is. Also, let us know what changes were made so we can let others know.  Thanks!

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