As you can see, the business listing is for a car dealership in California. If you look closely, you’ll see an ad featured for a Toyota dealer located approximately an hour away, according to Search Engine Land.
Due to the close proximity of these businesses, it’s likely that Google is using location-specific data to serve up the most relevant business ad to the user.
This feature offers marketers opportunities to get in front of more customers, but it also has potential to take away business if people click on a competitor's ad on your profile.
What we know about Google My Business’ competitor ads
I wasn’t able to recreate this feature myself, so it’s likely that this is still in the testing phase — or just being rolled out slowly.
However, it appears Google has confirmed that this ad placement is at least a possibility for businesses taking out “Local Campaign” ads.
According to Google, Local Campaign ads are designed to drive visits to local businesses and retail locations. Google states that Local Campaign ads appear within Google Maps, Google Search Network, YouTube, or Google Display Network.
It seems that these “competitor” ads are not considered their own ad type, but rather part of the Google Search Network ad placement, based on the photo Google shared below:
On Google’s Local Campaign guide, it states that search network placement “matches your ad to search terms that are relevant to your business and its location.”
So, these ads aren’t necessarily aimed at landing on competitors pages, but rather matched to similar keywords. Because competitors are likely using the same relevant terms, it’s clear why this is a side effect.
When the news first broke on this feature, many assumed that this was an attempt by Google to get businesses to pay for “premium” profiles to remove competitor ads. Google has tossed around the idea of creating paid Google My Business features — but confirmed that businesses can not pay to remove competitor ads.
What this means for marketers
Many digital marketers, especially those with local businesses, aren’t happy about this new feature.
For one, many feel it's an attempt to drive more ad revenue. After all, if your competitor's ads are showing up on your profile, wouldn’t that motivate you to run ads on theirs?
While this can certainly help boost brand awareness, businesses can’t tailor ads to a specific placement — meaning you can’t create an ad speaking to how your business is different from a specific competitor that will appear only on their profile.
Moreover, it’s possible that the longer these ads stick around, the more likely they’ll succumb to the “banner blindness” phenomenon where people will eventually learn to ignore content in that space.
So, the main takeaway is that if you’re already running local campaign ads, this may create a potential opportunity to drive more relevant traffic and awareness to your listing. However, because this placement isn’t guaranteed, this shouldn’t be the only motivator for these ads.