Google may generate billions of dollars every year from AdWords, but that doesn’t mean that it’s idly sitting by and ignoring the monetization potential it has elsewhere in its network. One property with a lot of potential: Google Maps.

Given that potential, it’s no surprise that Google is bringing its ‘sponsored map icon‘ experimental ad format for Google Maps to the U.S. market.

As the name suggests, sponsored map icons are icons that appear on a Google Map that are enhanced with a sponsor’s logo. Example: with sponsored map icons, a Target logo would appear as the icon for a Target store denoted on a map, as opposed to a generic icon.

Matthew Leske, a Google Product Manager, told AdAge that Google’s sponsored map icons experiment is coming to the United States and it brings with it a number of high-profile brands, including Target, HSBC and Bank of America. He also explained that as sponsored icons are designed to help customers of these brands more easily identify nearby locations, Google charges sponsored map icon advertisers on a CPM basis, not a CPC basis.

Recently, Google announced that more than 100m people access Google Maps from their phones each month, so it’s likely major brands with physical locations will be interested in Google’s experiment just by virtue of the size of the Google Maps audience. But despite the interest, in true Google fashion, nothing is being rushed, and Google isn’t bending over backwards to plaster Google Maps with sponsored map icons. To the contrary: Leske made it clear to AdAge that Google isn’t interested in turning Google Maps into a hodgepodge of logos. When it comes to how and when sponsored icons are displayed, user experience is key. “Advertisers can’t pay to increase their prominence or whether or not they appear
on the map. We look at the way people search for that business online and we look at what
area people are looking at and what zoom level,”
he stated.

Obviously, revenue of sponsored map icons will almost certainly never rival that derived from AdWords. But they do highlight the fact that Google does have a lot of advertising-based monetization opportunities sitting under its nose. Advertising is its bread and butter and even though it’s clear that Google’s ambitions will continue to extend beyond advertising, it can’t hurt to exploit some of these opportunities.

Photo credit: Hallicious via Flickr.