Google is testing ads for local businesses in Google Maps auto-suggest search results.
Thibault Adda, local search specialist at Darden Restaurants, noticed and tweeted about it Thursday. As he typed a search for “Seafood restaurant,” an ad for the seafood restaurant chain Red Lobster appeared in the auto-suggest results before he completed the search query, as you can see in the screenshot he shared.
Google confirmed with us that this is an experiment. “We’re always testing new ways to improve our experience for our advertisers and users, but don’t have anything specific to announce right now,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
Why we care. It’s unclear if these ads are delivered only through Local campaigns or generally via location extensions, but it’s another sign that Google is continually testing new ways and places to surface ads. Serving them up in auto-suggest results is a first as far as we know.