“Google is using the new Business Profile to solicit small business support for Google’s opposition to pending anti-trust legislation,” wrote Mike Blumenthal, previous founder of LocalU and GatherUp, for Near Media. After the rebrand from Google My Business to Google Business Profile, many business owners received notification of the name change along with prompts to learn more about “new laws [that] may impact my business.”
Google appeals to SMBs to lobby for the tech giant’s case. While we could not replicate the in-SERP dashboard prompt, Blumenthal included screenshots of his Business Profile where Google tells listing managers, “Proposed legislation could make it harder to find your business online.”
On Twitter, Blumenthal also shared an email sent to Darren Shaw of Whitespark, a Canadian local SEO company, prompting them to “take action” on Google’s behalf to advocate for Google’s position to legislators. The idea is that changes to laws will make it hard for Google to offer the same support to small businesses and therefore will hurt SMBs in the long run.
This is not the first time. When in legislative trouble before, Google has previously tried to appeal to users to make its case when laws change. In 2013, they made the case for cookies by telling searchers in the SERP, “Cookies help us deliver our services.” This was a prompt in response to European privacy laws.
When European laws changed to allow people to request removals from the search index, Google emailed individual page owners to tell them, “We regret to inform you that we are no longer able to show the following pages from your website in response to certain searches on European versions of Google.”
The same happened when French laws required that Google “remove snippets from their search results for European press publications,” wrote Barry Schwartz on Search Engine Roundtable. When the EU told Google to stop notifying searchers of removals on individual searches, they followed the request by adding the removal notification to all search pages, said Sam Schechner in the Wall Street Journal:
Google has appeared to bend to regulators’ desire that the company refrain from indicating in search results when something had been removed. Google had earlier indicated it might highlight the removals, something it does when it removes links to pirated content. But EU regulators told Google in recent weeks that such a move would undermine the spirit of the decision by making it clear some individuals had wanted information about them suppressed, one regulator said.
Instead, Google on Thursday added a blanket notification that appears at the bottom of most results for individual name searches conducted on Google’s European search websites, according to an explanation the company posted to its website. The notification – “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe” – is added algorithmically to searches that appear to be for a name, a person familiar with the matter said.
“As we’ve said, we’re concerned that Congress’s controversial package of bills could have unintended consequences, especially for small businesses who have relied on digital tools to adapt, recover and reach new customers throughout the pandemic. We know our customers have questions, so we’re working to keep them informed about how these bills could impact the tools they rely on every day to run their businesses,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land.
Why we care. Google’s go-to seems to be to appeal to searchers and businesses who use their services when lawsuits affect how they will run their business. “This effort to manipulate small business folks with astroturfing is a whole new level of deception. It lays bare Google’s intentions to protect their monopoly at all costs. Their attempt to buttress arguments with manufactured alliances, for legitimacy, adds fuel to an obvious fire,” wrote Blumenthal in his oped on the matter. If you work with SMBs and they received the notification, there’s a chance they may be worried about how laws and resulting changes will affect their businesses. While marketers are often more skeptical of the search giant’s methods and motives, it may be worth being proactive to your local SEO clients to let them know what this prompt means.
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