For most people searching online, using Google weekly, if not daily, has become a common ritual. It is also very apparent that within Google’s results are sponsored sections for paid advertising and organic results that show up based on relevancy to the searches. But with the launch of Google’s enhanced local listings, the difference between paid and organic listings is not so clear.
Through its enhanced local-listing product, Google is giving businesses the option to promote themselves within the free local business results. For example, a business can pay to include a coupon, video or even a menu with a free listing. When reading about this topic on Search Engine Land, I found an example search for “skateboards in Houston” that included an enhanced listing (outlined in red below) mixed within the regular business listings.
Although Google has made it clear that these enhancements have no impact on ranking within results, it is still a form of advertising that allows businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition, ultimately affecting a consumer’s purchasing decision.
There is no doubt that Google will continue to look for ways to offer advertising, but the effect it has on the consumer experience can’t be ignored. Although there are critics of Google’s enhanced local listings, in the end, it provides searchers with more information and allows them to make informed purchase decisions (without compromising the relevance model that Google is known for).