Google announced that it’s rolling out its fixed-fee local ad product “Tags” (formerly “enhanced listings“) nationally. It also announced that Tags will be showing up in mobile search results. Tags offers local businesses (or locations) a way to make their listings in the map-related 7-Pack “pop.”
Here’s an example for “massage, Houston“:
Businesses can highlight a range of things through Tags: “a coupon, video, website, menu, reservations, photos, or a custom message.” Clicking on one of links in the result above takes users to a coupon-related landing page:
The obvious reason to participate in this program, which costs $25 per month regardless of category or location, is to stand out in search results.
Some search marketers are now testing how tags impact CTRs. There’s also the question of what sort of Tag is most effective. I would guess a coupon or money saving promotion, but that’s an empirical question that hopefully someone will test and answer.
Google emphasizes that using tags doesn’t affect ranking in the 7-pack: “Tags do not affect the ranking of the listings, and we clearly indicate which parts of the search result are sponsored.”
The mobile distribution of Tags may ultimately turn out to be more significant than on the PC. Here’s Google’s screenshot of how tags look in mobile results:
On my HTC EVO the tags stood out more than it appears in the screen shot above. So a coupon Tag, for example, in a mobile search could well turn out to be quite effective promotion. Again, the program is too new for third parties to have much data.
With Tags Google is trying to create a dead simple way for local businesses that have claimed listings in Google Places to further stand out and for Google to get incremental revenue from these businesses. Local listing ads, a more complicated, but higher profile local ad category appears to have been retired.
Finally Google announced “Posts,” another type of Tag that allows business owners to present a “custom message . . . that can be changed as often as the business owner would like.” This is Twitter-like functionality that seeks to make Places a more useful and potentially regular “platform” for local businesses. It would be useful if Google tied Posts into Twitter and Facebook so that they could be pushed out to those locations as well.