Microsoft HQ Listing Hijacked on Google Maps, Briefly Becomes 'Microsoft Escort Service'As we become increasingly reliant on location-aware handheld devices, and on GPS or other map-based software services, claiming one's local search business listing on platforms like Google Maps becomes incredibly important. Why? Well, as was the case with Microsoft's Redmond HQ over the weekend, if you neglect to take local search seriously, you can easily have the listing hijacked and replaced with a Microsoft Escort Service, complete with a new URL and a fake "review." Something tells us the software engineers were very happy that day.This is exactly what blogger Mike Blumenthal did recently, and if it doesn't seem like that big a deal to you now, know this: In September Blumenthal interviewed a San Francisco florist who had the same thing done to him. Business tanked to the tune of 30%, as customers were redirected or misdirected when searching for floral arrangements or those "sorry I boinked my secretary bouquets" that are all the rage today. That super-connected device you're carrying in your hip holster? It really is a weapon now, so be wary. So Blumenthal, whose blog is dedicated to talking about Google Maps and Yahoo Local Search, "hijacked" Microsoft's listing to prove a point. Most businesses, big or small, have not yet warmed to local search, nor do they understand the power of that tool (see: the 30% anecdote, above). Who else was guilty of negligence on the Google Maps front? Try Apple, Morgan Stanley, Coca-Cola, GM, Lehman Bros. and Wachovia (although those last two probably aren't worried about a 30% drop in local business). The ultimate irony is Google has not claimed its local listing either, although Blumenthal doubts this local search loophole will exist too much longer after his investigation. The lesson in all this is be careful. Next time you pull out the ol' iPhone and do a search on local mega-powerful software companies (e.g. for a job interview), you might end up at the Bunny Ranch. [Blumenthals]