Oct 25, 2013
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I've seen this mentioned a few places, but if you haven't heard yet there are some big changes coming down the pipeline as it relates to Google's upping the paid real estate available to local business owners.

I think I saw 3 stories about this in my feed today, but I liked SEM post's angle the best, so theirs is the one I'm linking to:

Many Google searchers have noticed ads showing up on the Local Finder page ? the page Google shows when a searcher clicks through from a local 3-pack in the regular organic search results. But it seems like Google has made some significant changes to Google AdWords that affects many advertisers...
read more

If you want another angle, Search Engine Land wrote about it too.

Obviously this is a huge thing to pay attention to this week for anyone here doing adwords for local businesses. Maps is not part of the Google partners list now, they're part of the core Google traffic... meaning if you've got your settings to just appear in Google search, you might have a very unexpected spike in impressions and clicks. Keep an eye on things.

This also means that business owners struggling to get in the 3 pack may have another good thing to try to get some extra exposure. All you need to do to get in there it sounds like is have location extensions available.

Anyone already exploring using this to help clients? Thoughts on how this might add to the marketing mix you're planning on offering? At the very least, this is going to be an important thing to be aware of in case clients ask you about it.

Linda Buquet

Local Search Expert
Jun 28, 2012
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Thanks James.

More buzz about this today! But on a slightly different front. Hotel ads.

From Mike: <a href="">Hotel Local Finder – Ain’t Nuttin’ but Ads</a>

And more ad news from Search Engine Land yesterday:
<a href="">Google makes 2 ad updates that will affect local search marketers</a>

So what % of local listing real estate do you think will turn into ads, paid tags or some type of pay to play? (Like the home services ads.)
Oct 25, 2013
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I know my take, is that Google's got two prime directives, and they're kind of at odds with each other. One of the goals obviously is to make money, but the second goal (that they're hugely serious about, given the amount of R&D, some of it pushing at the forefront of modern AI research, among other areas) is to give the most intelligent, appropriate, satisfying answer to user queries possible. A lot of the effort they put into that area (answer boxes for example) aren't even related to monetization, they're there purely to give the user the clearest answer in the shortest amount of time.

Because of that, I don't see local SEO ever switching entirely towards pay to play, and I think the prime real-estate is always going to be algorithmically determined instead of being about payment, if for no other reason, than because businesses willing to shell out for exposure aren't always the best businesses out there. Heck, the TRULY best businesses in many verticals often don't spend money on advertising at all. I can think of a few different business owners I know personally (Tattoo artists, photographers, etc) that are perpetually booked out 3~6 months in advance, and would be wasting their money getting themselves out there more than they already are. Those kinds of 1% businesses often get so much social sharing, positive reviews, and press written about them, that under Google's algorithmic approach, they'd get great exposure often times without having to even try. On the other hand if you committed to only showing businesses that take the time to explore and set up paid ads, in a lot of local business markets you're going to end up with second tier businesses doing that, especially with single practitioner industries where scale is limited by the amount of time the owner has available to actually do their work. I know that in practice in many industries though, the 'winners' are often the businesses paying for SEO, web work, and potentially PR help, so I know this isn't exactly an airtight argument, but it at least makes it very challenging for a mediocre, isolated business to rank well compared to someone getting a lot of good local media exposure with deep community ties to other business owners.

So I think all it really is, is a balancing act that Google's got. How much profit can they extract from a given keyword area and city without damaging the integrity of the SERPs and pissing off users? If anyone can figure out how to 'solve' that equation though, it's Google, and I expect that the optimized solution is going to be very different for different industries. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some industries (and even cities!) end up being massively more pay-to-play than others somewhere down the road.

Tony Wang

Oct 13, 2014
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That's a good assessment James, and I hope you're right. But Google is sure making it hard to believe when they keep pushing more and more ads to the top of every type of page.


Jun 18, 2015
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The recent push for more ads in SERPs and Local are not coincidence with the establishment of Alphabet. Alphabet's first earning report clearly showed its intention - to please investors by making Google the shining star.

Prior to Alphabet, most of Google's ventures were losing money. They effectively reduced Google's reporting profit. With the new umbrella, Google stands on its own and shows a lot more profit.

As James pointed out, this is actually good news for SEO practitioners who are good at what they're doing. You either be the top 3 in organic or pay up. There's less ground for mediocrity.

Google wins either way; top 3 performers get traffic for free because they provide the results users are after, big businesses pay to get exposure.


Dec 23, 2013
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I'm certain this is more of a all other things being equal the listing that pays will win the higher rank. Listings still need to hit on best practices tactics and not be mediocre. The highest rank will go to the listing that proves most relevant and most profitable for Google.
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