You might’ve heard the buzz around Google’s announcement of improved advertising for local businesses looking to get more leverage out of Google Maps beyond the organic, local 3-pack. This next generation of Google Maps advertising is going to suher in a significant shift in approach, reach and engagement for local advertisers. Fear not, we’ll be reviewing all the most important features and options to catch you up to speed so you can be prepared to take full advantage as it goes live over the next few months.

The most unique and important aspect about Google Maps is its mobile audience and trajectory. The Google Maps mobile app was released originally in 2013 and has had over 1 billion installs since then (that’s right, Billion, with a “B”). For a while it was the most used smartphone app in the world, and continues to be amongst the top five, commanding over 54% of mobile audiences’ in-app usage. Here are a few other important facts that should be on your radar.

Google’s Challenge:

So, how can Google make advertisers more prominent without negatively impacting the experience of the end user (and potential customers for their advertisers)? Beyond the typical annoyance that users greet any form of ads with, there’s a staggering number of  people defaulting to the Google Map mobile app for directions when driving, making any distractions potentially catastrophic.

The result is a new way for advertisers to brand their business and vie for your attention, hoping to entice you into making a pitstop. So without further ado, here are the most important areas to familiarize yourself with:

Promoted Pins

A big ticket item on every local advertiser’s wish list, Promoted Pins will help businesses bridge the online-to-offline gap. These will be similar in look to the current pins Google uses to indicate a location (and usually a start or end point while navigating). However,

online-to-offline gap

The new Promoted Pins will be purple and include the business’s logo

instead of the usual red color, these will be purple, with a matching purple “Ad” banner in the business listing, in the coveted first spot, above the organic 3-pack. They’ll also feature the logos of businesses on the purple pins, and remain marked on the map, even when you’re driving or directing. With an ever-increasing number of searches with local intent, these will be a powerful customer acquisition tool.

As for which ads will be displayed to users at what time, you can expect a similar criteria as used to fuel the Google Display Network. What you really need to know is that it’s super smart and can learn from patterns, preferences and behaviors, to ensure it’s always displaying the most relevant ads to consumers.

New Local Search Ads On Desktop

Similar to mobile, ads will appear at the top of the list with a purple banner and purple pins. Now is a good time to add “Click to call” buttons for your business, to encourage even more customers to interact with it and hopefully stop by for an in-person visit.

Customizable Business Pages

Business pages will get an overhaul as well. The hope is that streamlining potential customers’ access to information about the business and an improved overall experience will encourage them to explore, engage and interact with it, pushing customers further down the funnel. The aim to do this in a couple of ways:

1. Searchable Local Inventory

Informed by research that Google conducted, which found that 25% of consumers won’t bother making an in-store visit if they’re uncertain whether or not the item or service they’re looking for will be in stock. It’s these types of data-driven optimizations, that have been historically absent from the local business ecosystem, and which will continue to provide a competitive advantage for the businesses that are at the forefront of implementing them.

Businesses will provide Google with their inventory feed, so customers will be able to perform searches and see what is in stock and available without having to call to check, or risk a visit.

2. In-Store Promotions

You will also have the option to include an exclusive offer to promote with the ad, that will be served to customers in realtime. They’ll be displayed below the logo on the map. Whether a special that you’re already running that might grab them, or an ongoing promotion to pair with the ad specifically, these will give you an opportunity to get in front of them, at the right time!

What can you do to prepare?

  • Make sure that all your business and contact info is updated on Google My Business, as you don’t want to lose any discoverability due to outdated info, and shouldn’t waste time fixing it after the launch when your competitors can get the advantage. It goes without saying that if you haven’t already, claim your business profile.
  • Set up location extensions for your Google AdWords search campaigns so your ads will be eligible to appear on all Maps results.
  • Keep an eye out as they continue to roll out features to bridge the online-to-offline gap with store visit conversions and attribution with the help of beacon technology. Here’s the info and requirements, but right now only limited to a small group of local businesses that are eligible Adwords advertisers.

How will your business be adapting to these changes? What are you most looking forward to? Let us know!