Google has been slowly ramping local search monetisation over time. It introduced local search ads in early 2017, which put ads in local packs, and began putting ads in local Knowledge Panels roughly two years ago. Now, the company is starting to show competitor ads in local business profiles.
A ‘Local Campaign’ placement
Part of Local Campaigns, the ads are designed to drive visits to local businesses and retail locations. These fully automated units run across Google properties, including search, Maps, GDN, and YouTube.
Can’t pay to remove the ad
Discussion about the ad placement on Twitter refers to this as the local Knowledge Panel but it is technically the local business profile. There is also speculation Google is gearing up to charge business owners to remove the ad. However, it’s been confirmed with Google that businesses will not be asked to nor can they pay to have the ad removed.
The SEO community generally feel that Google shouldn’t be putting ads for direct competitors on business profiles. Further, some argue it may also be confusing to consumers looking for specific businesses.
Why we should care
There’s a sense that the GMB profile is “owned” by the business. However that’s not correct; it’s Google’s property, just as Facebook owns and controls local Facebook Pages. This is something that businesses should be sober about. However, Google must also be mindful of too-aggressive monetisation of local. Some SEOs are saying this is such an example.
It’s probably better that businesses can’t pay to remove these ads because that would be perceived as a form of “extortion,” something Yelp has been accused of — it’s advertisers don’t have competitor ads on their profiles.