SAN FRANCISCO: Google Maps, the popular location service used by around a billion people, is planning to start serving ads on behalf of local businesses that will appear in the directions to users.

Called "promoted pins", the ads are intended to point drivers to shops, restaurants and other businesses along their route and could mean, for example, that users see a promoted pin for a petrol station or coffee chain when viewing Google Maps.

The initiative is currently at the experimental stage, but Google announced in a blog post that nearly one-third of all mobile searches are related to location and it intends to make location-based marketing easier for businesses.

"We're also investing in more branded, customized experiences for businesses on Google Maps – geared towards helping you increase store visits," said Sridhar Ramaswamy, SVP of Ads and Commerce at Google.

"First, we're experimenting with a variety of ad formats on Maps that make it easier for users to find businesses as they navigate the world around them.

"For example, Maps users may start to see promoted pins for nearby coffee shops, gas stations or lunch spots along their driving route."

Ramaswamy said that location-related mobile searches have been growing 50% faster than all mobile searches, so Google is planning to introduce further changes to make ads more effective on mobile.

For example, it has developed new expanded text ads in AdWords to provide more space for brands to showcase their products and services before a user clicks.

Ramaswamy said this function will be rolled out later this year and that, based on early testing, some advertisers have reported increases in click-through rates of up to 20% compared to current text ads.

In addition, Google is looking to improve brands' pages on mobile and is extending the reach of Google Display Network remarketing campaigns by allowing brands access to cross-exchange inventory, including more apps and websites around the world.

Data sourced from Google; additional content by Warc staff