Google is looking for yet another way to make more money with their search engine platform. Barry Schwartz reported this morning on seroundtable that Google announced yesterday they would now start placing ads at the top of the local pack results. Which was once 7 to 10 local businesses, has been shrunk down to three within the past year, and will ultimately be moving to just 2 top local listings, and a paid advertisement at the top of the results. A search on a mobile device will now likely show 4 advertisements at the top, a paid listing in the maps, 1 to 2 organic listings, and then the organic results. Ultimately, it means more competition for local businesses, and another revenue stream for Google.
Changes to the way ads have been displayed are nothing new in the SEO world. In February of 2016, Search Engine Watch reported that Google killed all the pay per click ads on the right hand side of the page, and implemented a new format that includes four paid advertisements at the top of the page, and the additional ads on the bottom below the organic results. Here is a screen shot of how the results look now for the snack pack and a search for Maryland SEO Services.
Going forward, the top listing of Hit Me SEO, LLC will be replaced with a local business paying for the top spot. What is unclear at this time is how customers will bid for these top spots, and what criteria will need to be met in order to secure the top positions on Google’s local map listings. Under the current Adwords platform, companies bid for the top listings on the page. Some companies with larger budgets may have no issue always paying top dollar to secure the top spots. Others try to look for value and are comfortable with a 3rd or 4th position, as long as they stay above the fold with their existing ads.
Here are some questions that will be on the top of all online marketers focusing on local results in the months to come:
- Will the companies with the biggest budgets simply be able to pay for the top maps listing and push all others down the page?
- Does the company that bids on the top spot have to have an physical location in that particular city?
- Can you advertise at the top of the page with a paid ad as well as in the maps listings?
- Does the current optimization of your website impact the price you will pay?
- Can you be listed in the paid section of Google Maps as well as one of the other two listings?
- Will you be able to implement site links and other extensions on the Maps listing?
- Will the ads for Google Maps cost the same as top listings, or will there be a premium charged?
Google Loves To Experiment With Paid Ads
A month ago The Verge reported that Google maps was to begin experimenting with showing logos or the businesses in the geographical location of the search on both mobile and desktop searches. According to Katherine Boehret who wrote the article, Google calls these “promoted pins” which simply means the companies willing to spend the money would receive these pins. What is even more interesting, is the bottom of the page would then offer the advertiser the ability to promote specials and other discounts to customers as a enticing call to action for potential buyers.
A positive note with all of this is that current businesses currently listed in the top 1 or 2 position on the local maps should stay in those positions, just below the paid ad. This is why it is so critical to have all of your information listed accurately online. If you are not familiar with NAP – (Name, address, and phone number) you will be in the very near future if you want to crack the top 1 or 2 listings on the local map. In one of their famous Whiteboard Friday presentations on June 17th, MOZ broke down the importance of listing accuracy for your business. To save you some time, your NAP must be consistent on every listing you have on the web in order to rank higher in the local results. Google breaks down their guidelines in their support group and stresses the importance of precise and accurate listings online.
Why Would Google Charge For Paid Maps Listings?
If there was ever a doubt exactly why Google would charge for these listings is because these results are extremely popular, and a lot of people click on these local maps listings. At the end of the day, Google is the best search engine on the planet, and the results they provide are amazing. Their goal is to end search. What I mean by this is they want to provide the best listings possible, and they want people to click on the most relevant listing, find what they are looking for, and end their search at that point. This is why click through rates, time on site, and bounce rate are so critical to your overall organic results.
If Google has an organic listing that made it to the top position of the search results, and people click on the listing, then immediately leave the page, this indicates that the searcher did not find what they were looking for, and went to another website who had better information, or the product or service they were looking for. Google wants to put the best results at the top. That being said, Google is a business, and they want to continue to add zeros to their revenue each and every year. Google made 17.3 Billion dollars in the first quarter of 2015. Of this amount, 15.5 Billion was from advertising sales. With all of the businesses and acquisitions, they still made 90% of their first quarter revenue from just ads. Like all businesses, they want to continue to grow revenue, and this is simply an easy way to do so. The “snack pack” is a very coveted and popular area for searchers, and businesses can grow significantly just from the traffic and phone calls this map listing generates. Google now just wants their little piece of the pie from those willing to see the value in this top spot.
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In order to keep investors happy, and the stock price of Alphabet growing, new and innovative ways of advertising must be introduced. This new method may be one of the most profitable yet for Google. Let the bidding war for the top local spots begin!