Google has announced a small feature change to the local map 3 pack.  Local map results will now contain paid local ads and represent a new element in local and SEM strategy.  We believe it will create big opportunities for local brick-and-mortar businesses.

Background

Google moved to a mobile-first approach when mobile search queries surpassed desktop searches to meet an ever-shifting user demand.  As mobile search has evolved, Google reports location-related searches, the “near me”, “nearby”, or “close by” searches, make up nearly 33% of all mobile search.  Local search continues to grow at a faster rate than all other mobile search types.

In addition to the focus on meeting local search demand, Google also continues to add features that connect users with products and services they are looking for.

Why This Change is Big

Sometimes local companies find it difficult to bid their way into 1st page search ads (the ads that appear at the top of Google searches).  This update gives these local companies a way to get their ads into local search results and advance their SEM and paid search goals.

To take advantage of this update, a business needs to have a Google My Business account in addition to bidding on SEM search ads.  This gives local brick-and-mortar companies a way to gain more digital real estate on the first page of Google Search results.

At this point, we don’t know exactly how the ads will look or where they will appear.  But we do know these ads bring two big changes with them.  Where possible, users will be able to search inventory of local businesses to help them identify retailers who can immediately provide them the products they’re looking for.  These ads also make it possible for businesses to advertise local in-store promotions.

Another change to maps includes the use of brand logos on the map at the point of the location.  This is different than how it has been done where the logo only appears alongside the map with a dot to indicate its location.

Google’s approach also increases opportunities to reach highly targeted audiences.  Although the ads appear based on a users search, Google has stated it wants to show results based on even more personalized context.  This includes personal browsing history, time of day the search is made, what users with similar interests clicked, and user interests and behaviors.

What This Means for Local Business

At BFO, we see this as a big opportunity for local business.  These new map ads make it possible for local businesses to:

  1. Capitalize on local searches to drive their search engine marketing efforts.
  2. Promote and unite their brand image and location through on-surface map results.
  3. Reach an even more highly targeted and purchase-ready audience
  4. Leverage inventories as a promotional and closing tool.
  5. Advertise local in-store promotions to nearby users.

Summary

The combination of location and promotion increases the power of local search for business.  We believe every local brick-and-mortar business can enhance their current SEM and local search strategy with this new ad feature.  It’s a great way to expand brand awareness and stay in front of current customers.  It also creates increased exposure to build the customer base and drive revenue.

If you are looking for an agency to help guide you through the process of setting up ads in the local map 3 pack, check out our Paid Media Agency Research ebook! It’ll help you define the most important criteria in choosing the right partner for your business.

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Also published on Medium.