Over the past six months Google has increasingly shown Local Service Ads (LSAs) on brand (business name) queries. More and more brand queries are now showing LSAs.
Coming to a Business Near You - Maybe Yours
What was once a test (that a business couldn't opt out of) appears will be a feature on every Local Service Ad. LSAs were designed to be easy to use, a "set it and forget it" ad product. According to the AdsLiaison, businesses will be forced to opt-out if they don't want to pay – somewhere between $25 and $200 per call – for a customer who was already coming their way.
It's not all bad. Some discovery searchers do in fact do brand searches as they explore reputation before they call. Accordingly, Google is saying it's only going to be charging for new customers, not existing ones.
Despite this assurance, Google has never demonstrated the ability to parse data at the level of granularity needed to accurately bill ads from non-customers only. It isn't clear how many calls from existing customers would, in fact, be billed. That puts the onus of disputing erroneously billed calls onto advertisers.
Also, testing this feature on unwitting business is unethical. And putting it behind an opt-out button is even worse. A large percentage of LSA advertisers will likely not realize what is happening or, if they do, not know where to look, leaving this "feature" turned on, leading to inaccurate billing.
While some businesses might want to run LSAs on their brand, this should be an opt-in only feature. But Google is fully aware that very few businesses would actually opt-in.
From Organizing the World's Information to Organizing the World's Money
We long ago came to think of Google's informal tag-line of "do no evil" as a quaint artifact of the early founders. We presumed that their "do the right thing" saying was more achievable. We have also always believed (hoped) that their motto "organizing the world's information" was both sincere and immutable. Yet, whom Google chooses to "do the right thing" for has always been a bit muddled.
It has become clear to those on the front lines that Google's singular focus is on increasing revenue at all costs. Partners, businesses and consumers be damned.
While the public still generally perceives Google in a positive light, small business people are starting to have much less favorable views of the company.
Where Is Google's Satya Nadella?
The many issues we see with LSAs are but a microcosm of what can rightfully be called the era of Google enshitification.
Employees are dismayed and think management lacks vision, agencies have had their fill and small businesses are getting the picture. My wife, who suggested we buy Google stock when it came on the market years ago, thinks Google is now "evil incarnate." Assuming Google keeps walking the path they're on, the broader general public may soon follow. Wall Street loves a-holes whose profits are still rising, so who knows what they will do.
While Google has no direct corollary for a Steve Ballmer, institutionally they are much like Microsoft after the departure of Bill Gates, living off old good will, past glories and arrogance. Google needs its own Satya Nadella, who can put the company on the path of both profitability, useful software creation and public respectability.
It can't come too soon.