Google has been ramping up local search monetization over time. Local search ads was introduced in 2017, which made ads show up in local packs. Two years ago, ads were put in local Knowledge Panels about two years ago. But now, the company is beginning to show competitor ads in local business profiles.
The ads, which are a part of Local Campaigns, are designed to drive visits to local businesses and retail locations. These units, which are fully automated, run across Google properties, including Maps, GDN and YouTube.
Last week Ben Fisher first noticed the development. The following is his smartphone screen grab:
The business listing was for Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep dealer in California, but the ad shown is for Valley Hi Toyota, which is about an hour away from the Chrysler dealer by car.
Although the discussion about the ad unit on Twitter is referring to this as the local Knowledge Panel, it’s technically the local business profile. There was speculation that Google is gearing up to charge business owners to remove the ad, but it seems that Google confirmed that businesses won’t be asked to or can pay to have the ad removed.
Google fielded a survey to business owners in April, which some agencies had received as well, asking about possible future features and capabilities for GMB. This was a just a test, so a lot of these things may not even come to light. There was one one proposed item that “gets leads from competitor profiles.”
The ad unit mentioned previously is not that proposed feature, but is consistent with its spirit.