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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Maps Bubble Ads and The SMB State of Mind

Awareness of Google’s new, aggressive & annoying Bubble ads has been creeping into the SMBs field of vision since their introduction 10 days ago. Articles have been posted at a number of sites (here, here & here) questioning their purpose. On Saturday alone, there were 4 posts in the Places Forum from SMBs specifically about Google advertising against a given place (herehere, here and here). And as you can imagine the posts were hostile and fearful.

Here is one of the posts:

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.

I have been strongly opposed to the ads on broad social grounds and have not touched on the SMB perspective vis a vis these ads as much. Google has made it clear over the past 18 months that they perceive the Place Page and now the business’s Info Bubble their property to do with as they wish.

That’s the current reality. They own the sandbox and they can do what they want. But should they?

While in a business environment it may be true that Google needs to explore all options in an effort to increase their revenue, the question really is: Is advertising against specific local businesses the best way for them to increase local revenue over the long haul?

The answer that I would provide to Google is an unequivocal NO!

To a large extent, Google has made the previous local top advertising venue, the Yellow Pages, irrelevant. Part of that was Google’s better and more widely disseminated technology and part was Google’s ability to provide more return on advertising.

But another significant factor was the pent up resentment the SMBs felt towards the Yellow Pages. As soon as there was a perceived, viable alternative SMBs abandoned print YPs quickly to work with a friendlier and less manipulative Google. Sometimes the choice was rational (ie better returns) but often it was an emotional response based on years of abuse at the hands of the YP FUD (fear, uncertainty & doubt) selling techniques.

The print YPs had a monopoly for many years and faced revenue growth issues like Google does today. Their answer was to send out swarms of sales reps that would not worry about the real value nor return of the ads but would play on the emotional vulnerabilities of the small business person who reacted in horror as they saw competitors take out another ad in their space. The SMB felt compelled to respond.

The current Bubble Ad smacks of a similar FUD selling. Rather than a productive ad space that will generate positive returns, for most SMBs it will feel like the an ill designed attempt to extort them for money. And some, more driven by emotion than returns, will buy the ads. And for many, the resentment of Google will build, just like it did for the YPs.

Does Google really need to follow this path? And again, the answer that I would provide to Google would be another resounding NO.

Google could and 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, ads that create a bond with Google not a deep seated resentment based on Google’s ability to manipulate.

Here are a few suggestions (I am sure that you can think of more) for Google that might function as alternatives to the Bubble Ads that would increase Google’s income while providing real solutions to the SMBs:

If Google feels the need to sell that space in the bubble then bring back the Tags and allow the SMB to use the space for that.

Provide a meaningful coupon solution that has visibility.

Offer up a low cost call tracking mechanism that doesn’t muck up a listing and works across the internet.

Report out substantial local analytics (what ever happened to that Places analytics upgrade that briefly made its appearance last year?) that provide additional insigts.

Add additional transactional capabilities (like Hotel Booking) that disintermediate more expensive alternatives.

These are all solutions that would increase Google’s income and NOT be perceived as lame attempt to force advertising. I am sure that you can add more ideas that would be improvements over the bubble ads. What would they be?