Invasion Of Google Maps Ads – Helpful Or No?

As PPC pros, we are usually excited about new opportunities and places for ads to be displayed. For each new set of ad inventory, so potentially expands our ability to reach a desired audience. And, largely, this has been great. But can it or has it started to reach a tipping point where it is no longer helpful or positive for said audience?

Ads In Google Maps

For my clients that are service area businesses (provide services to their clients or customers at their locations) ads on Google Maps have long been highly sought after. If the service area business (SAB) has only one or two physical locations, but serves say a 4 county area, ads on maps seems like a godsend to them – getting exposure in areas that they serve but wouldn’t show on a non-expanded map. Hooray (for businesses)!

How is that experience for an actual person though? Not as awesome…

After receiving a notice in the mail from Toyota that the weird stuff we have been experiencing with our tailgate is, in fact a problem, and one that they will cover under warranty if the work is done at a dealership, I set about figuring out the closest Toyota dealership to me. So I searched and then clicked on the map (as the first map listing does not show full street addresses).

Notice no street addresses are shown at this step.

If you click on the map to see more options or to see exactly where one of these locations is, next to the larger map that loads, you will also see listings, with two Ads at the top of the list:

Google Maps Listings With Ads At Top

Top two listings in this screen are ads & also nowhere near my location

When I clicked through onto the map, I found it slightly confusing as to why I was seeing the two ad locations rather than the list starting with the two I’d seen in the Local Pack after my initial search. I thought at first that I must have inadvertently shifted the map in the window for it to put these two locations at the top of the list, until I looked again and saw the subtle green ad label. I zoomed in and out on the map and got this view too (different ad in top position) – note my location is approximately at the X and the two ad locations are highlighted in hot pink:

Full Google Maps Detail View

These are not service area businesses. I have to go to them, so I think it is safe to assume that all other factors being equal, location is a major factor in the decision making equation. I wonder if others get thrown off when they see this too? After all, I do this for a living and it took me a few seconds to realize what was showing here.

I have had to accept for some time now (because there is no other option but to accept and maneuver accordingly) that what Google considers to be a map is not how regular people would define a map – at least when it comes to what is displayed on the map in any given view. I wrote about this for the first time in 2014, and the points from that post remain relevant.

How Do You Get Your Ads On The Google Map?

The control over map ads is not terrific for advertisers. It was only recently that it was broken out from general Search Partners. Advertising on Google’s Maps is now done via a verified Google My Business listing with a location and phone number for a business. According to Google, if you opt for having ads show in maps, your ad will be shown to people relative to their physical location and your physical location (you can specify in your GMB listing if you go to your customers’ locations). It is not terribly well defined, even in the page that is supposed to explain it to advertisers.

If you use tracking phone numbers, other than Google’s, you are in for a whole other set of headaches, but that is a topic for another post.

Advertising on the map is something most businesses should probably do. If you are seeking foot traffic, you absolutely should have a complete Google My Business listing and also advertise on the maps. If you have a service area business, I would also highly suggest taking advantage of this. You should do your own searches to see what people will see in your top target locations. It becomes even more important as screen space keeps shrinking and mobile use keeps rising.

For Users Of Google Maps

Understand that a Google Map, particularly one with listings and/or ads, is not an empirical map. Factors other than literally what is located where go into things you will see on a Google Map at any given time. Know that there may be options that are not showing on the map. But, given human nature, we are most likely to choose one of the options we see via a map.

This is all particularly interesting as searches with geographic modifiers or even “near me” are declining as people are realizing (and Google is encouraging) that those things will be inferred and applied automatically when you do a search. So unless you need results from a place that is not where you are right now, the geo modifier becomes redundant.

What do you think of ads on Google Maps? Had any strange experiences with them as a user or advertiser? As always, sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).


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