"As part of our continuing effort to provide a positive advertising experience for users and advertisers, we are always exploring ways to improve the way we display ads," Google stated, adding: "We are currently conducting a limited test of ads on Google Local." The company declined to offer more specific details.
Kelsey Group analyst Greg Sterling said these types of ads have potential far beyond simple display images. "The possibilities are great," he said. "You could plug e-commerce into this, you could plug video into this, chat, pay-per-call--you could do any number of things that would be really interesting on these modules on a map."
Various bloggers, including search marketing blogger Shimon Sandler, noted the ads late last week. Sandler reported that the beta testing had been underway for about two weeks, and is accessible through the Google AdWords interface for advertisers on Google Local.
Sterling said that the offering doesn't necessarily put Google ahead, as competitor Yahoo has a similar function on its Maps.Yahoo.com--but it would certainly make their mapping product more advertiser-friendly. "It makes the mapping product more interesting to advertisers and potentially to consumers, who are looking for brands or locations of chain stores," he said. "Even if you're a small business, you can just add a logo."