A number of articles appeared that speculate about or discuss ads on Google Maps (PC and mobile) now and in the future. Google Maps is one of Google’s most successful and valuable properties — arguably even more so in mobile — and the company is going to be both careful and thoughtful about how it expands ads on Maps. Ads already exist on Google Maps today online and in mobile.
There’s always this implication or lurking sentiment behind some of the pieces written that the floodgates will open one day and there will be a deluge of advertising on the map. Don’t bet on it. Google will very carefully align what it perceives to be relevant ads with consumer queries and interests.
First, LunaMetrics finds some coupon icons on a PC-based Google Map in the Pittsburg, PA area. Google has offered local coupons for years but not aggressively pushed or exposed them since the early days. (Here’s my first person story about using a Pizza coupon from Google Maps in November, 2006.) More recently Google added mobile distribution (via Place Pages) to local coupons. However, right now, Google won’t let users search for coupons in a geographic area. You can’t do a Maps search on “Portland, coupons” for example and get local coupons in the Portland area (although you do get an ad for Groupon).
Finding a coupon on Google right now is a kind of serendipitous discovery process. However I’m sure that will change in time given how hot coupons have become. Consider that mobile coupon redemption rates often exceed 20% vs. online at 10%-13% and print at 1%.
Coupons is an area where advertising and “content” are almost 1:1. Consumers love coupons and saving money; nobody’s going to object to exposure of more of this information on the map or elsewhere on Google. I wouldn’t be very surprised if one day soon we don’t see something on Google (in mobile) that looks like a deals/coupons tab, similar to what exists today on Yelp:
This would also be applied (probably) to Google’s new “Near Me Now” presentation of mobile search.
Next up is a discussion of a patent application, which Google appears to have acquired, that suggests Google will be embedding sponsored listings into map views associated with real estate, Claiming Real Estate in Panoramic or 3D Mapping Environments for Advertising.
Here’s the vague abstract:
Techniques for identifying groups of features in an online geographic view of a real property and replacing and/or augmenting the groups of features with advertisement information are described. The techniques include providing a geographic view of a property within an online property management system, identifying a region of interest in the geographic view, analyzing the geographic view to locate one or more promotional features within the geographic view positioned upon a real property region, providing a user-selectable link associated with the region of interest in the geographic view, receiving a request for the region of interest in the geographic view via the user-selectable link, receiving data to alter at least one of the behavior or the appearance of the region of interest, storing the data in association with the geographic view, and updating the region of interest within the geographic view based upon the received data.
Google has done a fair amount of enhancing and improving real estate search on Maps lately so introduction of specialized ads might well be on the roadmap — so to speak. There was also the rumor that Google wanted to buy Trulia. Real estate is vertical with billions in ad spending and also one where lead-gen/CPA, which Google is experimenting with, is well established as a model.
Finally and perhaps most provocatively CNET speculates about mobile ads in Street View:
A few months ago, Google gave a presentation to marketing and ad agency types in Europe as part of an event called “Above and Beyond 2009″ . . . In the presentation, Google tossed out the notion that ads may one day appear in Street View, the feature in Google Maps that lets searchers navigate down an ever-increasing number of city and town streets around the world.
My guess here is: yes, this is all-but-certain. Microsoft tested virtual billboards in 2006 with Bing precursor Windows Live/Virtual Earth 3D maps. And the “augmented reality” enhancements for Bing Maps pave the way for ads of various sorts. Google Earth has augmented reality as well.
We can imagine the following at some point showing up in Google Street View (on the PC and in mobile):
* Coupons/specials/sale information superimposed on building fronts
* Product inventory links, lists or images depending on the query and the store
* Enhanced content and logos on images of advertiser sites/locations (e.g., hotels)
* Virtual billboards for brands that might feature interactive video
* The ability to enter selected advertiser locations and take internal tours or go into stores (see EveryScape)
One of the issues in the coupon or sales scenario above would be about getting the data into Maps. Bing has conceptually addressed that by showing Twitter posts within the new Silverlight version of the site. Regardless, you can bet that there will be more ads on Google Maps in the future but the company will do it in a way that feels engaging or enhances the user experience in some of the ways I’ve described.