Update: Boost Ad Buries A-Business Listing–> Not According to Google

Update Wednesday 8/17: Google checked into this situation and claims on the digital/computer science equivalent of a stack of bibles that this was just a coincidence. Here is the communication that was forwarded to me:

After looking into the customer’s situation, we can confirm that there is no connection between the AdWords Express ad being disapproved and his Places listing not appearing. There was a technical error that prevented the listing from appearing, but that issue was specific to Google Places. Participation in AdWords Express does not affect the ranking of free, organic business listings in any way.

More info on this can be found on the AdWords Express help center article: Does AdWords Express affect my website’s organic listing on Google?

The recently named Boost Adwords Express has more than a few oddities that might not make it the ideal SMB advertising tool. But this one is a show stopper: If business places an Adwords Express ad for a category for which they have a A position, their natural A position local listing will be removed from the main search results 7-Pack.

Last week Local SEO David Mihm sent me this note:

“I had an interesting prospective client email. His Place Page was not showing ANYWHERE when I first looked at some prominent keywords for his business. The client swore he was ranking #1 for a couple of key phrases prior to emailing me. He had been advertising on Adwords Express. He shut it off and IMMEDIATELY it went back to letter A for a generic phrase when I checked again.”

My Google local adwords rep called me later in the week and, in a totally unrelated context, said:

“If they are in the top position of Places – an Adwords Express Ad will cause the Places listing to not show”

He went on to sensibly recommend that a business NOT use a category from their Places page for which they were doing well and to use one of the other categories. Makes sense.

It has long been thought that taking out an Adwords campaign would not affect your ranking on Google search. In fact we have long been under the impression that there was a firewall of sort between the two results. This clearly calls that long held belief into question, at least in the Local space.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Update: Boost Ad Buries A-Business Listing--> Not According to Google by

20 thoughts on “Update: Boost Ad Buries A-Business Listing–> Not According to Google”

  1. Still useless and a stupid work around. Sometimes the categories are too broad. So you may sometimes rank #1 for some keywords in that category but not on others. Or your rank changes based on the geo location source of the search.

    This is not rocket science. They can make some smart filters for Adwords Express to prevent it from wasting the already tight budgets of local customers. Simple things like:
    - don’t advertise on my business name.
    - don’t show the ad if I rank in the 1, 2 o 3 spot.

  2. Mike wrote: It has long been thought that taking out an Adwords campaign would not affect your ranking on Google search. In fact we have long been under the impression that there was a firewall of sort between the two results. This clearly calls that long held belief into question, at least in the Local space.

    I’ve seen many instances (recently) where people are ranking top 3 in organic results, top 3 in Adwords sponsored results, and top 3 in Places all on the same search results page. Do you think this new issue is unique to Express, or do you think it’s a sign of things to come. It’s a great strategy by G to show the moneymaker ad over the Places listing, but strikes me as a little underhanded.

  3. @Keith
    This has only been reported in the 7-pack so far. I am not even sure that it affects the blended results. So I don’t think you can extrapolate from it.

    @Pashima
    Yes they could offer plenty of more granular controls thats for sure

  4. Mike – Do you think that has caused our problem (Dropped from #1 Page 1 to Page 5 for “Indianapolis Plumbers” on April 11th)?

    Prior to April 11th, we had a very low budget Boost Ad, then after our Places listing disappeared, we ramped up the budget just so we could be on page 1 again. We show up on page 1 for ALL other keywords.

    (Our local results return a Merged Listing).

  5. I never knew that adwords ads could potentially boost a website’s ranking… weird.

    As mentioned by keith, it’s odd to show a websites ad next to its own search research result…

  6. What a nightmare and sleepless night for that small business owner to see his spot in the “7″ disappear.

    Google and all that brain trust out there has got to sort this out if they want more small businesses to take advantage of this Boost replacer.

    All those quants out at the Google complex and they can’t put in some filters to make this work correctly?

    Not that I’m worried about their revenue stream but why introduce or enhance a product that only hurts their 7 spot listing.

    Been snooping around Bing lately and what they are doing for small business and was pleasantly surprised by categories etc. Yes I believe they will be charging for this at some point but Google could get some pointers from these guys.

    I would love for you to do some snooping and give us a breakdown between the new Bing “Places” and Google.

    Thanks as always and another great post

    Nat

  7. With adwords available, Adwords Express, (formerly Boost), is a miserable product. Too many bugs, too little control. The alternative is infinitely preferable.

  8. No comprendo, Miguel.

    Either Adwords DOES effect local/organic or it doesn’t. The reps appear to be saying two totally different things.

  9. @Miriam

    I have been going back and forth with the PR department on the clarity of their language. I would agree that it leaves a bit to be desired…. Bottom line is that Adwords Express does not affect a local listing but from what I gathered in our conversation… issues specific to a particular account and how Google may have cleaned up the listing could have independently made the local listing disappear.

    IN other words, the two events, the starting of the ad and the loss of the local listing were two independent processes.

  10. After your original post, I started doing some digging to see if I could replicate the findings. I used “indianapolis plumber” as the search and EVERY SINGLE TIME WITHOUT FAIL, if there was a Boost Ad on page 1, the company’s Places Listing was NOT on listed on that page. And vice versa…If the company’s Places Listing was on Page 1, there was no Boost Ad.

    And each one of those companies are large companies with fully completed Places Listings.

    Using other search terms related to plumbing, those same companies that were in the top 3 on Places for the “indianapolis plumber”, DID HAVE a Boost Ad show up on Page 1 and DID NOT APPEAR in Places on that page.

    Bottom line…No Boost Ad = Top 3 in Places. With Boost Ad = Not listed on Places. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

  11. Good digging Laura.

    Based on what you found I’ve also started to dig around with the same results.

    Granted this is not a scientific method but the closest we can get outside of Mountain View confirming this is happening.

    Thank you for your research.

    Nat

  12. @Mike
    Possibly. But it seems strange that I was able to accurately replicate your original post:

    “If they are in the top position of Places – an Adwords Express Ad will cause the Places listing to not show”

    And then a few days later, Google tells you that that case was caused by a “technical error”. ???

    When I saw your original post, I started thinking maybe this is why we dropped from page 1 to page 5 of the search “indianapolis plumber” (which we had been #1 for MONTHS). A few weeks BEFORE our Places dropped off (April 11th), we had started a new Boost Ad for the first time. A few days after our Places Listing disappeared, we increased our Boost Ad budget just so we could be on Page 1 again. Our Places Listing is STILL on Page 5, and we have no idea why. But our Boost Ad typically is on page 1 when searching “indianapolis plumber”. So instead of showing up in Places on page 1 for free (on a computer AND mobile), we are PAYING to be on page 1 with a Boost ad. Smart business on Google’s part, dontcha think?

    I sure would LOVE your Google Rep to take a look at our situation as I have done everything I can to get back on page 1 or to get the attention of Google on the forums to no avail. Wishful thinking………

  13. @Nat
    Oh, I’ve got research!!! Ever since we disappeared from Places on April 11th, I have done little else but dig!

    I have done research on “like markets” for plumber…i.e. “[city] plumber” and have found the same thing. Also, other strange results as well that match the stange Places results that we get in Indianapolis.

    For instance, Angie’s List, a plumbing supply company, a blacktop company and a company whose website goes to a dental company in CA, all typically appear on PLACES page 1 for “indianapolis plumber” search. And other companies, our size or larger, are buried in Places. This all started on April 11th, the day of the second Panda update.

    Something strange is going on.

  14. We have the #1 ranking in any organic results, be it blended, 7-pack, etc that shows up for our business. I ran tests with Adwords — not Adwords Express — and our ads even for top keywords never changed our organic position. We varied our spend so that at times the ad was 1st position, then first few, and so on. Note this was about a month ago and we weren’t testing for this issue, but we never had the organic listing impacted by anything we did in Adwords.

    It seems the article here is about Adwords Express, but I thought Adwords Express merely used Adwords and helped pre-populate the fields in adwords for the user? ie it wouldn’t make sense that only Adwords Express impacts position and not Adwords too?

    We have noticed issues for other businesses where Places listings seem to be getting removed from Places randomly (not impacting pure organic results, only local places listing results). Again there doesn’t seem to be a tie to Adwords or Adwords Express — it just seems in my opinion to be more a bug with Google Places.

  15. Late to the party, I know…been a busy last couple days

    @Laura my experience with this client was that it was literally an instantaneous rebound back to the #1 position…in a matter of seconds.

    @JeffM This thread is purely about Adwords Express…clearly they have not yet worked out all the bugs from the Boost transition.

    As far as Google’s response, I’ll choose to believe my own eyes rather than their PR department on this one :)

  16. To all

    It is conceivable to me that taking out an Adwords Express could force an algo review of the listing. It could also force some sort of reindex. Either situation might lead to the index getting confused/reoriented and not showing the listing as result. IE perhaps more than a coincidence but less than policy.

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