Google Testing Paid Local Search Ads?


Dr. Pete just tweeted a screenshot of a Google search page that he spotted last night – Google appears to be running a test with paid local search results!

As you can see in the screenshot he grabbed, the local map results have the yellow “Ads” label that designates them as sponsored results:

paid local

Compare this to a typical organic local pack:

paid local results

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:

video snippets

Again, it’s just a test for now, but I bet local results go paid before the end of the year.

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Andy Kuiper
Aug 11, 2014

Paid Local Search - makes perfect sense - this seems like a better format (for Google anyways) than their last attempt at monetizing Local :-)

Elisa Gabbert
Aug 11, 2014

I'm pretty interested to see how this plays out!

Gerald Weber
Aug 11, 2014

This doesn't surprise me at all. Google basically wiped many niches clean out of the local maps listings in pigeon. Of course they didn't want to make a public statement because they don't want to say"we want to increase Adwords revenue at any cost to please the shareholders, we are running out of ways to increase revenue and EPS, and we must answer to Wall Street. We must increase reveue and earnings per share at any cost."And this time it was too obvious to create a lie that everyone would believe.My contention being that increasing Adwords sales has been the reason for the mass link penalties across the web all along but Google could easily spin that lie into something believable.. Now they are showing their true colors and it's getting harder for them to cover it with a lie. Hence the reason for no statement about Pigeon.Don't get me wrong I Advertise with Adwords myself and for my clients but, Google should at least be honest about why they are wiping businesses out of SERPs. 

Elisa Gabbert
Aug 11, 2014

Hi Gerald! Like you we obviously use and advocate for Google AdWords ... but I agree that Google is not always transparent and honest about their business decisions. I fully expect that local results are about to get monetized.

Dave Schneider
Aug 11, 2014

Hey Elisa,Definitely businesses are interested in local markets, especially small businesses. This is going to take some time to get right but is the way to go.Thanks again,Dave at NinjaOutreach

Elisa Gabbert
Aug 12, 2014

Hi Dave, it may in fact be easier for small local businesses to pay for this space than try to crack the local algorithm. We'll see!

norah downey
Aug 12, 2014

Not surprising at all. Eventually, we will all be paying to search!

Elisa Gabbert
Aug 12, 2014

Sure seems that way, doesn't it Norah?

Aug 12, 2014

It makes sense. Google can either allow SEO pros to make money off its search engine or it can find ways to make money off its own search engine.

Elisa Gabbert
Aug 12, 2014

ha, refreshing perspective!

Aug 14, 2014

Very interesting, thank you for the heads up.This will cause a lot of noise for Local SEOs if the change is rolled out globally for sure.

Andy Brown
Aug 15, 2014

Thanks for posting this. We need to not forget that Google makes their money through ad revenue. This move is not entirely surprising. It looks like Google is throwing out some new ideas on how it can make money to see how Internet marketers react. Although authorship and local results both benefit the end user, successful marketers were effectively using thse tools to drive organic clicks and taking revenue away from the Ads. Because local search is such a driving factor, especially with mobile, it was inevitable that Google would move to monetize these results. It will definitely be interesting to watch this develop as time goes on.Andy Brown

Kyle McQueeney
Jan 08, 2015

Bye Bye YP Local

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