Google, MapQuest in Keyword-Ad Deal

Google on Monday announced a deal to provide paid listings on America Online-owned MapQuest.

Visitors to MapQuest requesting maps or driving directions now see offers for further information in six categories, such as hotels, resorts and real estate. Each category links to a page of eight paid listings from Google’s AdWords program.

The companies did not reveal the length of the deal or disclose any financial details.

The MapQuest offering is a baby step toward local search. Google generates the paid listings for MapQuest by taking a category and combining it with the city the user enters. For example, a map of Broad Street in Philadelphia will return links to paid listings from Google advertisers who bid on “Philadelphia and hotel” or “Philadelphia and restaurant.”

Three months ago, Citysearch unveiled a local search offering that it said would be able to target nearly every zip code in the country. Google rival Overture Services plans to unveil a local search product of its own in the next year.

MapQuest could greatly expand the reach of Google’s AdWords program. MapQuest boasts more than 28 million monthly users, generating over 300 million maps and directions each month. Unlike most of Google’s paid search distribution deals, however, the MapQuest arrangement does not prominently display the paid listings on the results page, relegating them instead to separate pages off the main results page.

The deal with MapQuest comes as no surprise, as its parent company, AOL, is Google’s largest distribution partner. It also reinforces Google’s aggressive moves to take paid listings beyond regular search engines. Last week, the company announced its AdSense program, which allows small Web publishers to sign up for their own contextual advertising from Google. The program is meant to greatly expand Google’s fledgling Content-Targeted AdWords offering.

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