Dr. Pete just tweeted a screenshot of a SERP that he spotted last night – Google appears to be running a test with paid local search results!
Just popped up on Google last night - Is this paid local? pic.twitter.com/9VUanoXpfX
— Dr. Pete Meyers (@dr_pete) August 11, 2014
As you can see in the screenshot he grabbed, the local map results have the yellow “Ads” label that designates them as sponsored results:
Compare this to a typical organic local pack:
Following the recent loss of local “pack” results, which came to be dubbed the “Pigeon” update, this is an extremely interesting development. It’s just a test for now (I couldn’t reproduce the results on a live query), but it would make perfect sense for Google to monetize the local results, because that’s exactly what happened with Product Listing Ads (now known as Shopping Ads).
Yep, if you can remember back that far, the image ads at the top of the SERP for almost any product-related search query used to be organic, but Google stopped giving you those free clicks in 2012. There’s a clear pattern here: Google gives SEOs a cool way to stand out in the SERP, then takes it away and/or makes it pay to play. Any feature that makes organic results more compelling than, or equally compelling to, the sponsored results gets taken away:
- There’s been a drastic reduction in video snippets on the SERP. You still get snippets of videos hosted on YouTube though – and guess what? When you click through to YouTube, you’re forced to watch an ad before you can see the video. Ch-ching.
- SEOs lost their authorship photos too. Both Rand Fishkin and Larry Kim suspected it might be because results with author photos were stealing clicks from the ads. We found one result where it seemed to be true, but larger data sets are inconclusive. I theorized that we lost author photos because Google+ is going away. A third theory? Maybe authorship results are going to be paid in the future! If there was just one result with an author photo on the first page, would you be willing to pay for the clicks? What if it was as big as the YouTube/Vevo video snippets are now?
Again, it’s just a test for now, but I bet local results go paid before the end of the year.