Google unveils new ads in bid to tap into local merchant market

April 20, 2010

Google is revamping its efforts to court local merchants, as the Internet search giant faces a growing band of rivals aiming for a piece of the lucrative small business market.

On Monday, Google introduced a new way for local merchants to advertise on its Web site, as well as a variety of additional features to entice small and medium-sized businesses to use Google more often.

Store1Google’s local business center, which allows merchants to provide more information about their business listing on Google, is being re-branded Google Places. According to Google, some 4 million businesses worldwide have already “claimed” their listings among the 50 million generic business listings in Google’s directory of Places Pages

The move comes as a new crop of Web start-ups like Foursquare and Gowalla are gaining prominence among local merchants through popular services that encourage consumers to “check in” to bars, restaurants and other local places of business.

Last week, microblogging sensation Twitter announced a new Places feature that will allow Tweets to be organized and displayed in the context of specific businesses or places, and Facebook may unveil location-specific features at its developer conference this week.

Google, which last year held unsuccessful talks to acquire Yelp, the user review site for local businesses, said it is providing additional free features for businesses that claim their listing on Google, including photo shoots of a business’s interior.

The new type of Google ads, dubbed Tags, allow a local business to pay a flat, $25 a month fee to append additional information alongside the standard listing that appears on Google’s local search results. A pizzeria, for instance, could offer a coupon alongside its listing to make it stand out from all the other pizzerias included in the search results for a particular region.

Google said the new ads which have been tested in San Jose, California and Houston, will be available in ten cities within the coming weeks.

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