Paying for Directions – Is it a Money Grab by Google?

Paying for Directions

Google has officially announced that it will now be charging for directions in Adwords where advertisers have location extensions activated for their ads. Myself and all my clients got the email notice today. Needless to say my clients are asking how it will effect them.

Honestly, I’m left scratching my head over the value of this to advertisers.

How Do You Track It?

Google will be reporting those clicks via the click type segment. Fine, we can track the clicks. But from that point what are you tracking? How do you gauge how many of those clicks where a user wanted to see directions to your location actually end up at your door. Off hand I can’t think of any way to track that. It’ll be the mystery ROI. Which is great for, as Google puts it in the email, helping you meet your marketing goals.

Every marketer knows that invisible goals are the best goals. amiright?

How Do You Turn it Off While Keeping Other Parts of Location Extensions?

Location extensions are great. From my testing they significantly improve click through rates as the ads appear even more local, thus relevant, to the user. This for normal web clicks to a landing page. Plus it shows phone numbers which can entice a few phone calls. Particularly in mobile ads the click to call functionality of those ads for smartphone users is a very significant part of mobile PPC. The juicy part even.

But what if you wanted to opt out of directions? It looks like you can’t. Either use location extensions or don’t.

What About Services that Come to You?

Plumbers, painters, air conditioning contractors, carpet cleaners, pool cleaners, taxi cabs, etc… There are all kinds of service based businesses where users have zero need for directions to the business location. Granted it should mean very few ever ask for directions to those kinds of businesses. But clicks will happen and they will be a complete and utter waste of money for those advertisers.

I wonder how this applies to businesses that have defined a service area in their places account AND have chosen to hide their address. Is that what it will take to disable the directions clicks?

Is it Simply a Money Grab for Google Adsense?

How will I be charged for “directions” clicks?

Over the next few weeks, “directions” clicks will be charged the same as a click on your ad’s headline. In general, “direction” clicks are a small proportion of the ad clicks, and we do not anticipate this change will have a significant impact on your account’s total cost.

I think, in my cynical mind, what they really mean to say is : Don’t worry about it. In general, it’ll only cost you a few bucks here and there. But there are millions of you, and that adds up to millions of dollars, here and there, for us.

We’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out. I’ll be paying close attention to my clients PPC accounts to see how many direction clicks they get.

Anyone else have thoughts and opinions on the new direction clicks? Comment form below is for commenting. AND your comments can be longer than 140 characters!!! (that’s a hint you should be contributing to the conversation here and not on twitter.)

Photo via Flickr by Ian Ransley Design & Illustration in San Francisco

5 Comments on “Paying for Directions – Is it a Money Grab by Google?”

Nyagoslav on May 31st, 2011 wrote:

Well, that’s already ridiculous. How could Google state such a thing as “we do not anticipate this change will have a significant impact on your account’s total cost.” Your transcription is good, but I’d rather say they mean:
“There would be basically no added value for you, and no new function would be available. However, this change is minor. As we get greedier we are testing new opportunities for money robbing (the testing part comes from the statement that in the next few weeks the clicks on “Directions” will be charged same as click on the ad headline)…(and here comes your part)… In general, it’ll only cost you a few bucks here and there, which will be all that will change (for you, for us – well, let’s say we will just charge a few additional bucks a few million advertisers, nothing special…)”

And if they don’t add an option to turn off the directions, it would be more than ridiculous and a pure robbery.

Dave Oremland on June 2nd, 2011 wrote:

One thing I learned through call tracking. Google has already been making a lot of money through directions, dramatically so through mobile.

In using call tracking I found that a heavy number of people driving to my sites clicked on a high ranked ppc ad showing in mobile. In mobile, clearly the first listed ad is the most prominent listing and evidently more prominent than a powerful 1 map and a #1 ranking. We got a damn lot of calls asking for directions…and they came off of the mobile ppc ad.

Frankly, since a lot of our directions are set we are starting to contact people before they come in and are giving them or emailing them point to point directions. An expensive lesson but an effective one.


Stever on June 3rd, 2011 wrote:

Pro Tip: to avoid some of these directions clicks set your business brand name as a negative keyword in your PPC campaings. You should be ranking well organically for your own name anyways. And if you’ve done any testing on bidding on your competitors names you’ll know you don’t have to worry much if your competitors are bidding on your name. Users will skip over the paid ads to click you, since they are looking for you.

Except, as I know is the case for Dave above, when your brand name/business name is also your primary location + service keyword phrase. Then you’re kinda stuck bidding on your own name.

Maybe set “directions” as a negative as well.

Google Places Blended Results – Photos MIA | Understanding Google Maps & Local Search on June 9th, 2011 wrote:

[...] an axiom of our industry that they increase click through rates. Is it possible in this age of ever increasing monetization at Google that they discovered that the images lowered click throughs on the ever increasing number of [...]

Jason on August 22nd, 2011 wrote:

Do you guys have any updates one this in terms of long-term effect? I’m curious how the numbers have truly turned out and if they made any further changes since. I haven’t gone into the PPC world much myself – I tend to stick to the more organic side.

Let us know of any updated numbers or overall effect.

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