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Coming soon to Google Maps: Advertising

SAN FRANCISCO — Get ready to see ads on Google Maps.

Google is experimenting with ways for local businesses to reach consumers including new "promoted pins" on Maps that pop up when you are near an advertiser, say Starbucks, McDonald's or a gas station.

"We do see this trend that people are interacting with mobile devices and the physical world at an increasing rate, and we think it's appropriate to have commercial opportunities in these contexts," Jerry Dischler, Google's vice president of search ads, said during a press briefing this week. Google did not say when the ads would start showing up.

Google-owned maps app Waze has run ads for some time but Google has moved more cautiously. Google's ad chief Sridhar Ramaswamy pledged that the ads would not undercut the "user experience."

"On maps we are well aware of the pitfalls of doing silly things," Ramaswamy said.

Google says it's seeing growing demand from advertisers for the kinds of ads that reach consumers on mobile devices. That interest is driven by consumer behavior: We spend a lot of time these days looking up stuff we want to buy or places we want to visit while on our phones.

Google says it now has trillions of searches a year, with more than half coming from mobile devices. About a third of those mobile searches are tied to a specific location.

"Maps have become a really central part of the mobile user experience and Google sees this as an opportunity to have advertising on the map," said Greg Sterling, contributing editor at tech analysis site Search Engine Land. "It's a very important property and in some respects more important than search results. So they are taking advantage of that by opening it up to advertisers."

Google is looking at a number of ways to ramp up slowing revenue growth. It's also increasing the size of ads that run on top of search results on desktop computers, the Alphabet-owned company announced Tuesday at the Google Performance Summit in San Francisco. Google also says it can measure whether an online ad resulted in a purchase in a store. And expanded business pages will let marketers dangle special offers in front of consumers.

Advertising accounts for 90% of Google's $75 billion in revenue last year. But the growing shift to mobile devices challenged Google's moneymaking machine. Marketers pay less per click on an ad on mobile phones. In the first quarter, mobile ads made up a greater percentage of ads. Google said advertisers paid 9% less per click versus the same period a year ago. Google executives declined to comment on mobile ad pricing.

The new ads that will pop up on Google Maps will not be optional for consumers.

Asked if you will be able to turn them off, Dischler said: "We're not planning on that currently."

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