Google shared some big changes during their Performance Summit last month, including updates to local search results and Google Maps, with their main focus being on mobile. About 50% of all searches made on Google annually are via mobile devices. Of those, a third are location-related queries.
This statistic poses a huge opportunity for businesses to promote themselves at the moment when people are searching on their phones for places to eat, shop, etc., and drive them into their physical stores. Google recognized this opportunity and announced changes to their local search results and Google Maps that will impact these businesses with physical locations.
What Changes Are Being Made To Google Maps Local Search Ads?
Google has been showing ads in the Google Maps app since 2013. But recently, they began showing ads in the Local Finder results within Maps and also making Maps part of the ad inventory for Search, removing it from Search Partners. These two changes set the groundwork for what Google’s calling the “next generation” of local search ads where advertisers using location extensions can create new, richer local search ads — including customizable logos and local inventory displays — and take advantage of Promoted Pins.
The Key Features of New Local Search Ads
Advertisers using location extensions can now create more branded, customized ads that will appear within Google Maps (desktop and mobile) as well as across Google.com. In these new ads, brand logos as well as any offers the business is currently promoting will appear directly on the surface of the map. When the customer clicks on the logo, a customizable business page will expand, displaying features unique to the specific location, including a local inventory display showing whether specific items are in stock at the location. Here’s an example of what a Walgreens’ customized business page looks like, including the current in-store promotion and a search bar for local inventory:
Understanding Promoted Pins in Google Maps
Users will soon be able to see Promoted Pins, or branded pins, within Google Maps along their route or nearby their location. Promoted Pins are eligible to show up as a listed result below the search box as well as on the map. A purple icon showing the location of the business will appear on the map, as opposed to the usual red icons indicating the organic location results. For the business, the branded pins are a great opportunity to stand out to people in the vicinity and convince them to walk into the physical store. Below is a promoted pin for Walgreens. If you were near the Walgreens, this ad might appear on the top of your search results and the purple pin will appear on the map. In addition to the location details about Walgreens, there is also a store promotion visible ($3 off contact lens solutions). This Promoted Pin may be just enough to convince the customer to walk into the Walgreens.
Final Thoughts: Implications And Questions
With these changes, Google hopes to integrate ads seamlessly into the Google Maps experience and use it to convert mobile users into in-store sales. Their vision is to bridge the gap between mobile and physical, driving more online traffic from Maps to local businesses. That said, these new local search ads are currently in beta. Google hasn’t revealed yet when the ads will become more widely available.
While we wait, we can only speculate on the specific implications of these new ads. Google says the Promoted Pins will be serving targeted ads, but out of the hundreds of businesses in the vicinity, how will they determine which ad to serve? More specifically, what kind of personal information will Google be using to serve targeted ads? Google exec Sridhar Ramaswamy says Google is not currently planning on using a phone’s location history to serve ads. He said Google is working on finding the best way to deliver ads that are personally-tailored yet privacy-sensitive. He also mentioned Google is not currently planning on providing an opt-out option for promoted pins within Maps.
So is this update going to be huge improvement to the Google Maps experience or a huge nuisance? Only time will tell.