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Google Testing Paid Local Search Ads?

July 23, 2018

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!

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:

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.

MORE: 4 Ways Local Businesses Can Get More Out of Google

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is WordStream's Sr. Manager of Content Marketing and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.