Google is experimenting with its deepest foray into local advertising and along the way is branching out from one of its most cherished philosophies of search advertising: the keyword auction.

In a bid to get more local advertisers to buy search ads, starting this week Google is trying out a new type of search ad and pricing system in the San Francisco and San Diego markets.

Rather than ask businesses to set up a campaign and bid for keywords, they're offering local advertisers (or non-advertisers) a search ad for a flat fee. The fee is set by Google and based on the average that similar businesses are paying for a given keyword in that market.

The goal is to simplify search advertising for local businesses that may not want to bid on keywords or to set up and optimize a search campaign.

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