Home Channel: Local With new ‘pilot program,’ Google again testing ads on local business profiles

With new ‘pilot program,’ Google again testing ads on local business profiles

Google is testing ads again in local business profiles. The company did something similar in 2017 and again last year. Tim Capper was the first to notice this recent test, in restaurants and several other categories.

No opt-out. I confirmed that businesses cannot opt-out or choose the advertisers that appear on their local profiles. The ads can appear both on desktop and mobile.

The third-party ads so far all appear to be connected to the businesses themselves. Food ordering is for the restaurant itself — although Capper points out the ad potentially redirects an order that might otherwise go directly to the restaurant.

Groupon ads (below) take you to a page offering a deal for that business, which some businesses won’t like because the searcher might be someone who would buy without the incentive.

Third party ads on local business profiles. Source: Tim Capper

When asked for comment, a Google spokesperson said, “This is currently a small pilot program. We are always working on new ways to improve the experience both for users and merchants.”

A ‘whitelist’ pilot program. I asked if this was part of Local Campaigns, which some of the earlier tests were. This is different, according to Google. It currently applies to a small, whitelisted group of advertisers — Groupon, Seamless and Caviar are the three I’ve seen so far.

With restaurants and third-party delivery services in particular, Google says that it will not allow ads that misrepresent a delivery relationship when there isn’t one. The company previously announced it’s giving restaurants greater control over which delivery services are associated with local profiles and the ability to identify a preferred food-delivery provider. Unauthorized providers can be removed from profiles. Google said that the ability for restaurants to customize online ordering preferences will reach all restaurants on GMB in the next few weeks.

Why we care. Google is always testing new presentations of ads. And, it has been seeking additional ways to monetize local for some time.

In April 2019, Google fielded a survey asking local businesses about hypothetical Google My Business features and tools. One of the proposed items was “remove ads from your business profile.” This is one of the listed benefits of having a Yelp “enhanced profile.” In addition to revenue generated from clicks, Google may be contemplating something similar down the line.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.

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