A little over a week ago Google introduced a new feature to its map results that has been getting on the nerves of a number of small business owners. Many of the same business owners who have had to deal with Google falsely listing their business as closed now have to deal with obtrusive bubble ads.
Up until this point, Google has given businesses the freedom to do with their places page what they wish. Their fate was in their own hands, and any success businesses saw in the local arena was typically due to the fact that they had enhanced content, great reviews, and a number of accurate citations across the internet.
With its introduction of the bubble ad, Google seems to be going against its very mission to provide searchers with the most relevant information and instead seems to be giving low-quality businesses an easy way to out muscle their competition. I am definitely not the only person who feels this way as there have been a number posts such as the ones here, here, and here that share this sentiment.
Here is one of the posts that captures the fear and anger of many SMB owners:
It's a bit disheartening to go to the trouble of creating a good Google Places business listing only to see an ad for a competitor prominently placed right smack in the middle of your map pin bubble – with a highlight color, to boot!
I understand this is probably How Google Wants it to Work. So how do you fight it? Does Google let you buy "Anti-Adwords" to prevent this from happening? Or do I just go for retaliation by buying Adwords that place my ad on my competitor's listing?
If the ads were only on the side of the page with the listings I guess I could live with it, but right in the middle of my bubble – it just strikes me as mean. In Mike Blumenthal's post addressing the issue, he states that Google should be "providing tools and techniques that improve advertising returns and tracking information. Rather than feeling forced to take out ads to defend their good name, businesses should be motivated to take out ads that increase business and improve analytics."
This is exactly the approach that we are taking with the PowerListings product across our entire network. We don't believe that businesses should be able to muscle themselves to the top of the results. We DO believe, however, that if a business has a high quality offer or great pictures from a recent event, that they should be able to highlight these in their search listings.
Many businesses have worked too hard for Google to allow a competitor to instantly make their listing irrelevant. What do you think about Google's new bubble ad? Let us know in the comments below.