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Earlier this month, Google launched a test of a new advertising program called 'enhanced listings' in two U.S. cities. This past weekend, the New York Times wrote about it and profiled a local business owner who has purchased an enhanced listing.

Jason Cowie owns a store in Houston, Texas that sells skateboards and snowboards. According to the NYT, Cowie was previously spending upwards of $1,500 each month on AdWords in an effort to compete with "deep-pocketed national chains".

With enhanced listings, Cowie spends just $25 each month and when his store appears in the local business results Google serves up, it sports a 'Sponsored' highlight with a 'View Website' link that other, non-enhanced listings don't have, as seen below.

While there is a debate to be had about Google is blurring the line between paid and unpaid results, Google's experimentation with enhanced listings is a clear sign that Google is looking for new ways to expand the ranks of its advertisers by recruiting local businesses. Plenty of local businesses are already advertising with Google, of course, but the majority aren't. And that means that Google is potentially leaving billions of dollars in advertising revenue on the table.

One of the big reasons AdWords isn't yet the Yellow Pages is that AdWords is relatively complicated for those who aren't as technically savvy. From finding the right keywords to tracking ROI, many local businesses aren't in a position to get started with AdWords on their own. Those who manage to may spend thousands of dollars in vain, and hiring someone competent to manage campaigns effectively is often an untenable expense. Google knows this; John Hanke, who is VP of product management at Google, admitted to the NYT that AdWords can be "really complex" for some business owners.

By allowing business owners to attract more attention through a service that costs only $25/month, Google will make it easier for local businesses say 'yes' to online marketing. In the process, Google will also help SEOs and other marketers who work with local businesses. After all, local businesses will still likely need assistance adding listings through the Local Business Center, taking advantage of extras like photos and videos, and monitoring performance.

Obviously, Google isn't going to become the Yellow Pages of the web overnight, but simple services like enhanced listings could eventually get it there.

Photo credit: Jamiesrabbits via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 16 February, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (7)

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Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan, Managing Director at Liberty Marketing Ltd

What happens when more than 7 businesses want to appear for one local keyword? I can see an auction system, like AdWords, being brought in so that the highest paying advertiser comes at the top.

I doubt this will be $25 a month for long.

over 6 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Gareth,

My understanding is that the $25/month fee does not relate to placement. Your listing is ranked organically. Only the highlight is paid for.

over 6 years ago

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Jason

Hello Guys,

I have been reading around alot about the feedback after this times article ran. I have come across some hostile, and interesting points of view. A big portion of this tool has been left out about how we use this tool in a micro local marketing campaign. We already organically dominate all of our searches for any business we are engaged in. In our case this new feature is not aimed at your PC, but at your phone. This is one point that all the bloggers have failed to point out. If you search for us on your smartphone in google maps, our listing now stands out because we have a banner under our location. Has nothing to do with seo, we would show up on here anyways if we were simply listed in the local business center. In our case this is great because our customer is looking for us on there phone while they are out and about….Great read, I love all the insight…

Jason
Kingpinz.com

over 6 years ago

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sara khan

we understand the every company has a unique requirment when it comes to web site designing.

over 6 years ago

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jimmy

Hello,

It's really good post about google.

You are right google flood of local advertisers but how can you prove it.

Thanks

over 6 years ago

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jimmy

Hello,

It's really good post about google.

You are right google flood of local advertisers but how can you prove it.

Thanks

over 6 years ago

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Mckechnies

Not sure about the payment thingy, if you ask me...

In a way it just sounds like a paid advertisement, which is another way of Google getting money and trying to cut off the need for SEO agencies and stuff.

But hey, this is just my opinion and I haven't really seen it in action so maybe it could actually be another tool to enhance the user's experience...

over 6 years ago

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