Location, location, location.
Some of you may have seen my earlier coverage of Google considering integrations between Google Buzz and Google Latitude.
Still others may have seen my supporting story detailing Google's appreciation of location-based mashups.
Steve Lee, the product manager for Google Latitude and Google Maps for Mobile who so graciously granted me chat time recently, also told me Google is experimenting with new location-based ad formats.
That's right. Formats, as in more than one new format. When pressed for more info, Lee relayed one new ad banner format that Google is bucket testing on Google Maps for Mobile, specifically on Android-based devices.
"If you search for tacos, you might see a banner at the top of the map saying would you like to see the Taco Bell ad layer. If you tap on it, it shows Taco Bell icons on the map. So far it has tested well with users. Advertisers would like that."
That's an understatement! Imagine you're a franchise or chain that wants to advertise on Google. A user could search for a particular product or service and see results for not one but 20 or 30 locations in a chain.
That's powerful exposure to the millions of smartphone users accessing mobile applications through mobile Web browsers.
That type of banner ad isn't replacing the location-based ads Google serves to users today through the Local Business Center and as an extension of the Google AdWords program.
So if you have location sharing enabled on Google Maps for Mobile on your smartphone and you search for hotels, you will likely see ads for hotels near you, based on the cell phone tower triangulation and WiFi database used to determine user location.
Lee told me Google's location-based advertising, for which Google recently scored a patent, will only get better through increased use of Google Latitude, Google Buzz for Mobile and even the Google Maps Navigation turn-by-turn directions app.
Of course, the increased use of location technologies will ratchet up the scrutiny Google already faces about privacy and other competitive issues from federal regulators.
Google must continue to self-regulate even as it innovates.