Google recently announced that they are entertaining the idea of charging for Google My Business listings. It was reported that Google recently created a survey for local businesses in order to gauge their interest on paying for certain features, that up to this point, have always been free. Google has never attempted to charge for this service, but has used it to promote paid adverting in the past.

Not sure what Google My Business is? Google My Business was first launched in June 2014. It’s a free Google service that allows you to list your business profile on Google Maps and search. It has helped businesses reach and interact with local customers across the Google Maps and search platforms, while also allowing Google to provide accurate information to searchers. Since its initial launch in 2014, Google has provided countless updates to the service to improve overall performance and accuracy.

The survey that was available when this announcement was first made asked businesses how much they were willing to pay every month for services that are currently free. According to the survey, Google can charge anywhere from $25-$60/month for businesses to be listed in Google local results. This survey also included different feature options to see what was most appealing to business owners.

“If Google decides to charge for listings, my fear is that some businesses would be scared away and Google would miss out on confirming local business data,” Brad Pitzl, SEO Manager at Intertwine Interactive, said.

The reason Google launched this service in the first place was to ensure they were receiving updated and accurate business information.

At one point, Google relied solely on third-party providers for local business information. However, the data was proving to be consistently out of date or simply incorrect and giving the searcher a poor user experience. By allowing businesses to update their own information, Google could ensure that they were providing the latest data.

So why start charging for this service now? What does this mean for local businesses and advertising agencies that currently assist clients with this service?

The first thing local businesses will need to consider is the additional monetary investment when assessing their marketing budget.  If Google did decide to charge for business listings, it would be a strong revenue source, especially since this type of listing has become a requirement for most businesses. However, charging for search results is a fine line to walk and one that may cause issues within Google’s internal ethics and support teams.

“Google sees a business opportunity, one that could help local businesses. However, they will need to be transparent to make sure it’s ethical,” Pitzl said.

Pitzl said that even if Google decides to start charging for this service, it should have no effect on organic traffic.

“It should have no effect on organic listings, but it may hurt agencies who manage Google My Business for their clients,” Pitzl said. “Clients should ask questions to make sure that they know what services they are receiving, both from Google and their agencies,” Pitzl said.