By Michele Gershberg
Internet search leader Google Inc. on Thursday began offering marketers more features for local advertising, allowing them to add logos and business information to their listings on a Google map.
Local advertising on the Internet is expected to be a prime driver of growth in the sector.
The new features allow an advertiser to insert a business logo or picture in a balloon that pops up next to its location on the Google map, as well as provide additional information in several lines of text, such as a phone number of business description.
It can be used by any advertiser targeting a local market, from a neighborhood plumber to the closest restaurant of a national fast-food chain.
"Since we launched maps last year, advertisers have come to us asking for more control on (Google) local," Dominic Preuss, product manager of local advertising at Google, told Reuters. "There has been really strong demand for this."
The Google Local service already provides textual information on a business when a user conducts a search, and a reference map with the street address.
Advertisers can purchase the space through Google's AdWords program, where marketers bid via an auction-style system for popular search terms related to their business. Preuss said Google will not charge an additional fee for the map icons, but the price will be determined by the auction system.
"If people find these ads are more valuable they will bid higher," he said. "It will simply be market driven."
Google has been testing the service over the last two weeks with a handful of advertisers, including bookseller Barnes & Noble. The features become available to the wider marketing community on Thursday night.
Earlier this week, Google said it reached an agreement to allow Verizon Communications Corp.'s online directory SuperPages.com to sell Google search terms to its millions of listed businesses, aiming to boost for its local advertising base.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.