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Local businesses are currently in the midst of a minor (r)evolution in search with local search receiving a lot of special attention from the search engines. Google have upped the ante somewhat with their rebadged Google Places offering small businesses more features on what seems a weekly basis. One feature that is being trialled certainly has a catchy name – Google Boost.

Although currently only being trialled in San Francisco, Houston and Chicago, it has appeal and should prove to be popular with small businesses, especially if they are already involved with pay per click marketing. So what is Boost?

As you may have guessed already, Google Boost is a pay per click option for local businesses. Rather than going through Adwords to establish an ad unit, business owners can log into their Google Places account and set up an ad through their dashboard. The ads are easy to set up requiring just a short business description and a monthly spend budget. Google Places does the rest. I have not found any reference for the need of an Adwords account either, so businesses may be able to trial pay per click marketing without going through the steps needed for an Adwords account.

Like all things Google, there is a downside to this feature. Rather than selecting your own keywords, Google will do this for you based on the content of your web site.  The second downside is that the link in the ad unit goes only to your web site’s home page (or Google Places listing) and not to any deeper landing pages. What will be interesting to see is whether or not these two areas affect costs per click and conversions.

The benefit to local businesses is that their ad unit will appear in the sponsored links area just above search results.  How often your ad appears will depend on relevancy and ad quality. If you’re a small business that has struggled to find a foot in open pay per click markets, Google Boost may be a viable alternative. It will be interesting to see what feedback the trial cities offer.

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