Testing, Testing…1, 2, 3

As always, Google continues to test new search features. The most recent and noteworthy include:

  • Showing competitor ads on local business profiles
  • Highlighting content on-site based on the search result clicked
  • Bulk Google My Business review management

Competitor Ads on Local Business Profiles

One not-so-popular test Google is currently conducting is placing competitor ads on business profiles in the knowledge card. This was first noticed in mid-August by Google My Business expert, Ben Fisher. His screenshot (below) shows a Google listing for Browning Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram with a competitor ad for Valley Hi Toyota appearing under the call-to-action buttons.

Image Source:  Ben Fisher

There is speculation that Google may be trying to further monetize search. In April, Google released a survey asking some business owners and agencies about potential features for Google My Business. The survey had one section about “Most Popular Paid-for Features” including “removing competitor ads from listings.” However, Greg Sterling, previously of Local Search Association, confirmed with Google that businesses will not be asked to, nor can they pay to, have the ad removed.

This test is not being taken very well by the Local SEO community that believes Google should not be putting direct competitor ads on business profiles, while others argue it may be confusing for users looking for specific business information. Others think of this as a type of extortion, something similar to what Yelp has been accused of with removing competitor ads from paid profiles. The general consensus among the Local SEO community is, “hopefully this is just a test that will not materialize.”

Highlighting Content On-Site

Google confirmed it is testing a feature that will take a user from the search results page to a third-party site, then anchor them to that exact location on the site, highlighting the content that is relative to the search query. Google originally did this on mobile with AMP cache, but is now testing on desktop and Chrome browsers.

How it works. Users can click on a featured snippet on desktop search. The user will then be taken to the site and Google will shift the view down to the highlighted location of the relevant content.

Search Engine Land columnist Glenn Gabe was the first to notice this test, and has several examples on Twitter. David Bokan, a Google Chromium engineer, confirmed that Google is testing this feature on approximately 5 percent of Google searchers (I am not lucky enough to be part of the 5 percent and cannot reproduce the results).

While users probably find this very convenient, digital marketers should take caution. SEO professionals may want to track if your business’s site is doing this in Google search. Since this new feature will take a user down past ads and/or call-to-actions directly to relevant content, marketers may want to take measures to move ads/CTAs to a more appropriate location.

Bulk Google My Business Review Management

Last month, Google released an efficient way for people managing multiple locations to see reviews for multiple listings at once. Those managing reviews will no longer need to click into each individual listing to see its reviews, which should help save time and help spot or report on important reviews quickly.

Bulk reviews give the ability to view, reply to and flag reviews for multiple listings from one place. This feature is available in location groups with 500 or fewer locations, but is not currently available for organization accounts. Steps to find and utilize this new feature within Google My Business can be found on the Reviews Support page.

One thing for sure is that Google never disappoints with testing new features, whether good or bad in the eyes of the Local SEO community. Although there is speculation about Google trying to increasingly monetize search results, ultimately Google is attempting to make search more robust and more efficient for its users.

Worried about your visibility on Google? Contact Mindstream Media Group, a Google Premier Partner, to find out how our location listing and paid search solutions can amplify your brand’s presence. 

[SEPTEMBER 2019] Google Says Goodbye to Average Position

The old saying that the only thing constant is change certainly rings true in search advertising. Between frequent algorithm updates, modifications to ad formats and the introduction of new products, features and tools, Google keeps search marketers on their toes. Earlier this year the search giant announced it would be removing the Average Position metric from Google Ads reporting on September 30. As the time is drawing near, it’s important to understand the new suite of metrics introduced to take the place of Average Position.

How Does Google Decide Positioning?

First, let’s review how ad position is determined. Google decides which ads to show and the order they will appear in based on the ad auction. Every ad is assigned an ad rank, which determines position (ad rank and ad position are often used interchangeably). Ad Rank is based on five key factors:

How Ad Position Is Determined

Source:  Google Ads Help

  1. Max Bid – the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a click, specified by keyword.
  2. Quality Score – Google assigns a score based on how relevant and useful the ad and the website it links to are to the user.
  3. Ad Rank Thresholds – the minimum thresholds required for an ad to show based on various factors like ad quality, position, user location and device type, topic and related search queries.
  4. User Context – Google considers the search terms and time of day as well as the user’s location and device type and even the other ads and search results on the page.
  5. Expected Impact of Extensions – how the additional information included in an ad like phone number or links to specific pages on your website will impact ad performance.

What Is Average Position?

Average Position is one of Google’s oldest metrics. It’s been around as long as the search product itself. Back in the day, when ads reliably showed up in consistent locations on the page, it was a really useful metric for understanding where an ad appeared on a web page. Those were simpler times, when position on the page actually correlated to Average Position. But, as the search engine results page evolved, what the metric was actually showing became a bit muddled.

Average Position refers to the order in which paid search results appear. It’s an auction rank that refers to an ad’s position compared to others and has nothing to do with where on the page an ad is shown. For example, an average position of “1” means the ad is the first paid advertisement shown, although it could be appearing below organic search results. Confusing and not super helpful. Google gets it, so they’ve introduced a new suite of metrics to give advertisers a better idea of their prominence on the page.

The New Position Metrics

Googled rolled out four new position metrics last year in preparation for phasing out Average Position. These metrics reflect positioning at the top of the page (above organic results) and absolute top (the very first ad at the very top of the page). According to Google Ads product manager Pallavi Naresh, “These new metrics give you a much clearer view of your prominence on the page than average position does.”

Top Impression Rate:  The percent of ad impressions shown anywhere above the organic search results.

Top Impression Rate = Top Impressions / Total Impressions

Absolute Top Impression Rate:  The percent of ad impressions shown as the very first ad above the organic search results.

Absolute Top Impression Rate = Absolute Top Impressions / Total Impressions

Top Impression Share:  The impressions received in the top location (anywhere above the organic search results) compared to the estimated number of impressions an ad was eligible to receive in the top location.

Top Impression Share = Top Impressions / Eligible Top Impressions

Absolute Top Impression Share:  The percent of ad impressions received in the absolute top location (the very first ad above the organic search results) compared to the estimated number of impressions an ad was eligible to receive in the top location.

Absolute Top Impression Share = Absolute Top Impressions / Eligible Top Impressions


Source:  Google Ads Help

There are only a few weeks left before Average Position disappears for good, but considering how misleading it can be, many search experts are saying, “good riddance.” They feel these new metrics are more helpful for understanding placement and guiding optimization efforts.

Want to learn more about search engine marketing? Contact Mindstream Media Group, a Google Premier Partner, to find out how our paid search solutions can help your brand connect with consumers no matter how they search.