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.