Millions of people search for local businesses on Google Maps. Local businesses have clamored for ways to reach these searchers.
Today, Google said it is experimenting with several ways that the twain shall meet.
The company rolled out several new mobile ad features intended to facilitate more direct ties between online ads and in-store purchases, something marketers like very much — and something Google is pitching more aggressively of late.
Those features include a new "promoted pins" option within Maps — say, a paid Starbucks icon popping up on the street — and space for product inventory and discounts on business pages in search.
Google has historically shied away from putting ads to its popular Maps product. It has been waiting for the right "user and advertiser trade-offs," as Jerry Dischler, Google's search ads VP, explained.
“We think it’s appropriate to have commercial opportunities in this context," he said at a press briefing announcing the features.
Another theory for the timing: Google is seeing a growing demand from advertisers for more effective mobile ad channels. And Google has a growing need for more effective mobile ads.
Local ads tend to be a top revenue generator for Google, ad industry folks say. It makes sense: Looking up things around you is one of the things people still use Google for on their phones. The company said a third of searches are related to location, and that those are growing around 50 percent faster than overall mobile searches.
Yelp, a Google foe in regulator offices, sells local search ads. Facebook, a Google foe for ad dollars, has tinkered with location-based retail ads.
One thing Google is not tinkering with, for now, is using your phone's location history in ads -- for example, serving targeted ads based on where you've been.
"We think about it; we talk about it," said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Dischler's boss and Google's ad chief. “It hasn’t crossed the threshold of being truly, truly useful while being privacy sensitive."
Promoted pins in Maps have, though. When asked if there is a way to turn these new ads off within Maps, Dischler said nope: “We’re not planning on that currently."
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.