Google Maps has a new feature for business owners in the US: "for just $25 per month, businesses in select cities can make their listings stand out on Google.com and Google Maps with Tags". Google allows businesses to add yellow markers on the map and to promote their websites.
The new Google Maps ads don't influence ranking, but they make some of the results more visible. "Tags do not affect the rank of search results; they simply add more information when a particular user is searching," explains Google.
Until now, Google Maps ads were clearly separated from the organic search results, just like the ads from Google's web search results pages. For only $25 a month, local businesses can now customize their snippets and add a distinctive marker on the map. This features makes the distinction from search results and ads blurrier.
Google doesn't allow publishers to pay for advanced features like customizing snippets, adding rich snippets, showing thumbnails or favicons next to search results. "Google doesn't accept payment to crawl a site more frequently, and we keep the search side of our business separate from our revenue-generating AdWords service," mentions an article from Google's help center for webmasters.
In other related news, Google Local Business Center is now known as Google Places and businesses from US, Japan and Australia can apply for a Google photo shoot. "Google's photographers are specially trained to take great photos of building interiors, dealing with some of the challenges such as low lighting and tight spaces. The photographers are also trained to take panoramic pictures using fisheye and wide angle lenses that should translate into great looking pictures of your business."