Google is determined to make sure searchers are shown options when they search. They've moved into giving searchers options to see competitors even on branded search.
Prior to this - Google seemed to take the branded query at face value - that a searcher was dedicated to finding information about that particular business. Now, by surfacing competitor information, they're signaling that they don't trust that the searcher really knows what they're looking for.
They're surfacing these alternative refinements right at the top of search with the "See Similar Places" visible the very first thing you see when looking at a business on Google Maps.
Google is also showing three full rows of competitor listings that appear at the bottom of a mobile SERP for a business's Google Homepage/Branded search. More evidence that Google is determined to plant doubt in the searcher's mind when they're looking for a particular brand.
Capturing attention is difficult in high-competition verticals and geographic areas - and now it's even harder to keep attention when it's becoming easier and easier for searchers to find their competition with the tap of a finger.
One could put on the tinfoil hat and speculate that this could be a point where Google monetizes the Local Knowledge Panel and maps listings - pay to keep competitors OFF your listing? 🤷 What do you think?
On Jan 24, Krystal Taing shared on Twitter that she's seeing links to Brand KPs directly in another brand's Local Knowledge Panel!
— Krystal Taing (@krystal_taing) January 25, 2020