Looks like Google is fooling around with mapvertising again, and has book seller Barnes & Noble in on the caper.
Internet marketer Shimon Sandler says he's noticed a new icon, in the shape of a coffee cup, showing up on results from Google Local, which is the Mountain View, Calif.-based company's local search and mapping feature.
Clicking on the coffee cup, Sandler said, triggers an ad for Barnes & Noble, complete with a logo, link, an address of a nearby outlet and a phone number.
Just what Google's actually upto, it wasn't saying. But it's becoming increasingly clear, with this and other hints Google's dropped recently that it's getting set to add paid listings to Google Local.
Under this kind of an arrangement, an advertiser pays to have the company's Web site or ad more prominently displayed. Paid listings are very lucrative, and accompany many of Google's features, but not Google Maps. Not yet, anyway.
The last time Google was heard from on this issue, it was using blue balloons, not coffee mugs. Perhaps the icon switch out was because people confused the blue balloons, denoting paid listings, from the red ones, suggesting the usual sampling Google gathers.