Let’s talk a bit about what everyone in the industry is thinking regarding the new search results view for searches that Google perceives as having local intent. Has Google really thought this one through (they must have…right?) or are there some grandiose plans in the mix to drastically minimize Google’s Sponsored Listings as a primary revenue generator? Or conversely, are there some grandiose plans to drastically monetize the local listings other than Tags and Boost? Tags and Boost seem to be geared towards small mom-and-pop ad budgets so it seems that it wouldn’t be worth diluting the revenue and success of the sponsored listings for these small fish.
Since PPC is still the most quantifiable marketing option for advertisers and it is still the proven champion for driving online sales at an acceptable cost per acquisition, why mess with it so drastically? We can start with the age old argument, “Does anyone even look at those sponsored listings, because I only look at the organic results?” This can be a somewhat valid argument, but I think most marketing decision makers have seen the light regarding this argument by now. The last number I saw regarding share of sponsored versus organic click-share was around 30 percent versus 70 percent in favor of organic. Google doesn’t typically make money from organic clicks and I’m pretty sure the little company that we know of as “we are not evil” Google is doing pretty well for itself financially so that 30 percent amounts to a whole lot of people who are indeed clicking on the sponsored listings. This is especially true when the user is looking to make a purchase instead of doing research. So does that mean that for searches with local intent Google is simply abandoning the model? Have sponsored local search terms been so poor in performance since universal listings began appearing that monetizing the local results is Google’s best hope?
The primary reason for all of my contemplative barfing is because the new Places results in particular seem to bury the sponsored listings, which causes concern. If you scroll down just past the top three paid listings the map floats along with you and already you’ve missed the fourth, fifth and sixth paid listings because they’ve been mapped over.
We’ve already seen efforts to monetize the local listings, and it’s only logical since even under the past iteration they take up so much valuable SERP space. But how much can you monetize results that are organic in nature (and are based largely in part on proximity) before they become tainted and are no longer looked to for finding the nearest whatever? So I’ll leave it up for discussion and hopefully we get some brilliant comments and insights as to what the what Google might be thinking.