Google to Expand Local Search Ads

The search leader plans to move headlong into the still-nascent market for local search ads by targeting specific cities and regions as well as addresses and latitude-longitude coordinates.

Google Inc. on Thursday is expanding the ability for advertisers to target their search-based ads to specific locations, both in the United States and internationally.

Google will announce that advertisers in its AdWords program can target any area in the world by providing a specific address or latitude and longitude points. In eight specific countries, advertisers also can select a specific city or region to target. Those countries are the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and The Netherlands.

AdWords is Googles program that lets advertisers bid on search keywords to trigger sponsored search listings from a searchers query. Those sponsored listings appear separately from Googles main Web search results.

"Theres a lot of demand for this product, and customers want to target at a more specific level," said Salar Kamangar, director of product management at Google, in Mountain View, Calif.

The new program follows a beta trial begun in the fall for regional AdWords targeting, Kamangar said. That beta was only for the United States and was based on more than 200 geographic regions called Designated Market Areas, which also remain available for U.S. ad targeting in the new program.

Kamangar said the expanded local options will open search-based advertising to a new set of local businesses and allow national advertisers to better target specific locales.

Search engines and online business directory sites are increasingly focusing on local search, and the geographic-specific ads to go with it. Local search-based advertising, especially from local, small businesses, remains largely untapped but is expected to reach $2.5 billion in the United States by 2008, according to The Kelsey Group, of Princeton, N.J.

The growth depends in large part on whether local businesses, often familiar with print yellow-pages listings or newspaper ads, can adjust to the auction method of bidding on top keywords for search-based ads.

/zimages/5/28571.gifRead more here about the challenges faced in local search.

Googles more expansive local ad offering comes about a month after the company officially launched its local Web search service that lets users retrieve geographically-specific search results both from its home page and from a beta Google Local search site. On Thursday, Google also is announcing that it will soon add its AdWords sponsored listings to the Google Local site, which currently is ad-free, but officials did not specify a date.

To serve ads that match a specific geography, Google will analyze both the IP address from the incoming search query, which provides some geographic information, as well as geographic-specific information in search queries. By using both methods, Google hopes to remove the need for users to enter location information in a query or for advertisers to bid on geographic keywords in order for locally-specific ads to appear, Kamangar said

"The keyword buying process is simplified because were taking away the geographic requirement in the keyword list," he said. "Were also getting more aggressive in helping to identify related keywords for advertisers automatically."

In the initial launch, Google can support targeting of ads from a little as a 20-mile radius from a specific address. The company is working on reducing that threshold, Kamangar said. As a likely sign of its goal, he said that advertisers will be able to choose a radius as small as one mile but that Google will serve ads from either a 20-mile radius or a city boundary, whichever is less.

By specifying latitude and longitude coordinates, advertisers can create their own area to target, which could be especially useful for defining a non-circular area or if the address is not well-defined or known, Kamangar said.

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