Google announced a new feature for businesses in Google Maps in the U.S. today. The feature lets businesses include sponsored map icons that appear on the maps themselves. The feature actually began in a pilot program earlier this year in Australia.
"Now, when you zoom in to areas of interest on Google Maps, you'll more easily be able to spot the locations of companies and brands that are already familiar to you," says product manager Matthew Leske. "That's because we're working with business owners to enable them to replace the standard icons that appear on the map at their business locations with their well-known company logos. These logos appear directly on the map when you zoom in to see a close-up view of an area. Just like the existing default business icons that appear in grey, these colored logos are clickable and open the Place page for that business. Both large and small businesses can claim their Place pages and enhance them with information including hours of operation, product inventory, photos and videos."
"By helping users identify popular businesses, we're making it easier to browse the map and navigate the real world," adds Leske. "That might mean fortunately stumbling upon a nearby ATM when you're looking up the address of the new restaurant where you're dining tonight, or exploring the neighborhood you just moved into by figuring out where the grocery store is relative to your new apartment."
Google says the icons will become visible on mobile phones in the coming weeks.
Advertisers pay to have their logos appear on the map. The feature is only being offered in limited beta to companies in the U.S. that have multiple locations and "a well-known brand." That's unfortunate for small businesses, but the feature could expand in the future.