Google investigating Local Services Ads bug

Google is investigating a Local Services Ads bug that’s causing businesses to appear in search results for their competitors’ names.

The issue comes just weeks after the platform started piloting branded Local Service Ads (LSA) called Direct Business Search. This new ad type allows brands to show up in search results when someone directly searches for a brand or business.

Google has clarified that through Direct Business Search, only your business should appear in search results when your brand is queried, and charges will be incurred solely for leads from new customers.

Why we care. When users search for a specific brand on Google, their intent is to find that brand, not a general service or product. If your competitors appear in the search results for queries related to your business’s name, Google not only fails to fulfill user intent but also risks directing your customers to competitors.

First spotted. The issue was first flagged by Joy Hawkins, SEO consultant and founder of Sterling Sky Inc, on X:

  • “I wonder how many of these businesses know they’re bidding on a competitor’s name. Really dislike this rollout with Local Services Ads. I don’t see how it’s better for anyone.”

Hawkins shared a screenshot of the Google SERP for the query “a1 garage door service” in January 2024:

Google Lsa Bug 1

Highlighting the impact of the LSA bug, she then shared a screenshot for the same search query in February 2024:

Google Lsa Bug 2

Opting out. Although brands are automatically enrolled into Direct Business Search ads by default, you can disable it by manually adjusting the settings for your campaign.

What Google is saying. Google Ads Liaison Officer Ginny Marvin responded to Hawkins’ post on X, writing:

  • “This is a bug (and it was thought to be a non-brand query) – a fix is underway.”

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Deep dive. Read our article on Google’s Branded Local Service Ads pilot for more information.

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About the author

Nicola Agius

Nicola Agius is Paid Media Editor of Search Engine Land after joining in 2023. She covers paid media, retail media and more. Prior to this, she was SEO Director at Jungle Creations (2020-2023), overseeing the company’s editorial strategy for multiple websites. She has over 15 years of experience in journalism and has previously worked at OK! Magazine (2010-2014), Mail Online (2014-2015), Mirror (2015-2017), Digital Spy (2017-2018) and The Sun (2018-2020). She also previously teamed up with SEO agency Blue Array to co-author Amazon bestselling book Mastering In-House SEO.

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