Google’s Local Extensions in AdWords have been a favorite paid advertising technique for small business owners since it was released in 2009. With Local Extensions, business owners are able to attach relevant business information (like their address, phone number and a link to directions) directly to their ad, making it easier for searchers to take action after seeing the business appear in the search results. During this past holiday weekend it was announced that Google would be making a small change to the system. Business owners will now be charged when a user clicks on the directions link in their ad, the same way they’re charged when a user clicks on their headline or on their phone number (Hat tip to Search Engine Land).
If the change comes as a surprise, it probably shouldn’t. Google showed its hand a little when it began reporting on how users were interacting with these extensions earlier this year. First Google gives you metrics to let you see how valuable something is; then they find a way to monetize it. Not a bad strategy. You also have to wonder if this change means anything for Google’s mobile advertising network and if these extension-type features will begin to play a bigger part there. We’ll have to wait and see.
If you don’t want to be charged, Google’s asking you to remove the location extension associated with your AdWords campaign. Google does, however, caution you against doing this, noting that these location extensions provide valuable information to local customers about your business. And Google’s right–they do. If you’re noticing a lot of clicks on these areas, it’s a good sign you should be optimizing your site around this information.
Take a look at your site. How easy it is for a searcher to find your business address, your business phone number, directions and a map to your storefront? While we’re talking about mobile, do you have a mobile version of your website that prominently features this information? If this is what searchers on the go are looking for (and your own analytics will tell you if that’s the case), then you want to make sure you’re making it easy to find, whether you’re using Google’s Local Extension in Adwords or not.
Overall, the change shouldn’t affect small business owners’ paid advertising budgets that much, but you should be aware of the change if you’re using Local Extensions as part of your AdWords campaign.