Google Maps: No Stone Unturned in Search of Ad Space

As Facebook pushes the boundaries of privacy, Google is pushing the boundaries of ad placement. Like all corporations, Google needs to respond to the demands of a market that requires ever increasing income growth. One way to do that in the absence of significant page view growth is to monetize every remaining square inch of Google.

That seems to be whats happening in Maps where Laura Alisanne points out that Google is now placing ads on the info bubble for a given business. This ad, from a competitor, shows on the branded search for the Hartstone Inn & Restaurant.

Next on the “Ad in every square inch” agenda? When visiting Maps we can expect to hear the Pegman start shouting out daily deals.

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Google Maps: No Stone Unturned in Search of Ad Space by

26 thoughts on “Google Maps: No Stone Unturned in Search of Ad Space”

  1. It’s quite obvious in my new business presentations in person or by way of web conferencing, that very few in attendance can discern the top three paid positions from organic results any longer, including organic listing results on the blended SERP due to the addition of the local extensions in Adwords. The question for Google is, does the new SERP adversely effect relevancy over the longer term?

  2. @Jim

    On my cheap LCD display at home, the color Google has chosen to “highlight” the ad is totally washed out and nearly invisible.

    If Bing is the decision engine maybe Google is working to become the “ad engine”… their motto could be “all ads all the time” or “no ad is too irrelevant”.

    There could even be a link at the bottom of the page that says “click here to see ad free results”. :)

  3. I am usually fairly lenient/forgiving when it comes to commercials, ads and the monetization of web space, but IMO this one to me seems to be pushing it a little too far.

  4. Mike… wouldn’t it be awesome if you could have an advertiser “sponsor an ad-free page” … It could say: “XYZ corp will remove all ads on this page for you – just click here!”

  5. @James
    This one is over the top… As Glen Gabe noted it essentially “forces” an SMB to take out an offsetting ad.

    I can hear the Google slm on the street sales pitch now: “Well your competitors are advertising on your bubble…”

    @Scott

    Greg Sterling had an idea… a Pandora like ad free subscription to Google

  6. Even with offsetting ads (we run both Adwords & Adwords Express campaigns) our balloon shows an ad for ’25% off’ from FTD.

    Absolutely infuriating.

  7. HI Mike,
    First thank you so much for your quick response time to this development on the part of Google.
    I’d like to comment on your comment #5:
    “This one is over the top… As Glen Gabe noted it essentially “forces” an SMB to take out an offsetting ad.”
    I have a client on Cape Cod that we perform online marketing services for, as well as PPC. Yesterday I found that this business’s Place Info Bubble had an ad showing that was theirs! A call to Google AdWords is in order here to have them explain exactly how user’s clicking on the ad rather that the organic link, will serve the client. (Sounds like a pocket liner to me).

  8. @laura

    A real Hobson’s choice. You are dammed if you and you are dammed if you don’t. You can pay for a click on your name or you can not pay for a click on your competitor’s name.

    The only winner in this scenario is google.

  9. Is anyone surprised?
    Google is a multi billion dollar publicly traded company that generates the bulk of their revenue from advertising on their Google search engine. So in a nutshell those that pay will get the best placement, those that pay more will get the best of the best. Everything Google does is with the eventual goal of increasing revenue. They tackle this from two sides,

    1) They continuously work on improving the search experience for the user with the goal of becoming the search engine of choice.
    More Users = More Traffic, More Traffic justifies higher advertising rates

    2) They continuously seek out more options to provide advertisers in order to obtain a larger portion of advertisers spend.

    Googles challenge is trying to balance the two.

    I have often wondered just how long it will be before the 3 paid ads at the top of the search results became the “4 paid ads”. I can’t think of an easier way for Google to up their revenue virtually overnight. However the risk to Google is that if the front page becomes no more than a billboard, users will be frustrated and may migrate to another search engine.

    My suggestion to any business working to increase on-line revenue is not to put all your eggs in the Google basket. The reality is that you could find that your on-line business drops substantially based on the next Google update, or the one after that.

  10. @Doug, Good points all. One thought about why Google might be keeping first page ads to 2, rather than a move to 4, is that 2 fit so nicely onto a Smartphone screen, right above the map. :)

    @Mike, We called the Google AdWords Team toady and the Rep was unaware of the change. Later, in an email response, the Rep states:

    “Thank you for your call today. The ad we saw on a google maps’ info
    bubble is a search ad served on the Google Search Partners network. Just
    for your reference:

    The Search Network: Your ads may appear alongside, above, or below the
    search results, as part of a results page as a user navigates through a
    site’s directory, or on other relevant search pages. Our global Search
    Network includes *Google Maps*, Google Product Search, and Google Groups
    along with entities such as Virgin Media and Amazon.com.”

    Yes, yes, thank you, we know what it is. We want to know how it is benefiting the business.
    We did find one very humorous instance of an ad in the bubble this morning. On the map for Walmart, was an ad for Target. (Are we LOL yet?)

  11. From a basic business perspective that stinks. On the other hand, Mike, I’m sure you have stated it before: Google Controls the Places page…not the business. This latest change is a painful example of that.

    From my experience overall there is a small percentage of traffic that migrates into the places page versus one’s website. Google has also stated that (somewhere)…

    If that is the case, if the percentage is so small…why do this in that it is a brutal affront on a business!!!! Google is out after smb’s to claim their listings…get more googly….get a google+ account. etc etc. use google express ….now being offered with a $100 discount…yada yada yada.

    Then they take the page they’ve been working to get you all excited about…and throw in direct ads to the competition.

    That is like stabbing the smb in the back.

    ….still its not our page…and a lot of people don’t go there….but geesh.

    From a certain perspective it really makes facebook a lot more attractive to deal with!!!

  12. Well, well. I’m not at all surprised. I’m not all that horrified either except for the offsetting ad extortion. As the competition in the local space heats up, it’s getting harder and harder for local businesses to be found, even for those who are investing a lot into SEO. So I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many businesses applauding this. At least they can buy visibility.

    On the other hand, I feel bad for the little guys who are getting their pockets picked everywhere they turn.

  13. Wow, this one seems to really be pushing it. I also agree that many people cannot tell the difference now between ad and SERP. I have had to explain it more times than I care to people now with the changes in the layout and color. Next we will see ads of competitors on your GP listing.

  14. @Matt
    A Minor league stadium with abortion ads. :)

    @Doug
    Not surprised per se, more disgusted. :)

    @Laura
    See my new posts for examples of LOL(COL?) examples of misguided bubble ads.

    @Earl
    Certainly the gain does not seem worth the scorn in this case. Google is making clear that is not just smbs that are “at risk” but every place in the US… churches, memorials, parks…

    @Kathy
    You are not horrified by what you have seen but would you be horrified for an abortion ad on a women’s shelter? an ad for a commercial tour of 9/11 site? They are here, they are real and they (in my experience) is that they are somewhat “horrifying”.

    @Brandon
    On my cheap LCD screen the pale yellow looks white at the the top of the serps and other than the very, very small Ads – Why these ads? you can’t tell at all.

  15. At least Yelp gives you the option to shut off ads if you’re an advertiser.

    How about if Google offered a $25-year no-ads-on-your-Place-Page-plus-customer-service-for-Places product?

  16. Just out of curiosity I thought I would check out my village (Bilbrough, York) on google maps, and the only pop up was of a picture of tree… apparently the’ Ye Olde Oak Tree of Bilbrough’ nonetheless, plus various comments posted against it from various tree huggers… Don’t let anyone ever tell you that Bilbrough is dull !!

  17. Although I dislike the changes as much as the next guy, I have to admit that I always find these discussions of interest.

    In general people seem to have this feeling of entitlement to Google, like it was put on this Earth as a public service to the masses. The fact that it is a multi billion dollar business seems to be forgotten on many occasions.

    Typically, individuals who have worked hard for organic placement and as such are receiving a free ride from Google are the ones that are most taken back when Google makes changes that will potentially increase its own bottom line and may at the same time impact the organic side.

    The bottom line here is that Google is the “phone directory” of the internet. Advertisers on Google could be compared to “Yellow Page” advertisers of the past. They are the ones the Google will cater to. Unfortunately Google has NO obligation to ensure that those not paying get the same treatment as those that do. Up to this point, Google has been smart enough to realize that if their system does not benefit the user first and foremost, in turn advertising revenues will disappear. Unfortunately the user does not care that Google slips a paid advertisement into the “bubbles” as long as the bubble returns the response that they are searching for.

  18. @Doug
    I do not feel a sense of entitlement to Google. I do however think that they need to behave consistently with societal norms.

    I have mixed feelings about the ads showing on bricks and mortar locations. I do not however any mixed feelings at all about the impropriety of abortion ads appearing on Women’s homeless shelters or gay church ceremony ads appearing on the the place bubble for the Archediocese of NY.

    While Google may have a right to use their property as they see fit, they also have an obligation to live with the norms set by the society in which they exist.

  19. Mike,
    I suspect Google will fine tune the system to avoid stepping outside “the norms set by the society in which they exist”.

    Why?
    Simply put it is in the best interests of their revenue model not to offend the user. Again, no users, no advertisers.

    The examples of impropriety you describe will come to someones attention at Google and the algorithm will be rewritten once again.

    Google is simply too big a money making machine for anything else to take place.

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