Small businesses on Foursquare have today gained a powerful new tool: self-serve ads. The new initiative lets business owners pay to be given priority in search results for nearby users, or as Foursquare puts it, the ads "connect people looking for somewhere to go with businesses that want to drive traffic to their stores." Businesses that opt to sign up for the ad program are required to pay only when people physically visit their location — presumably this is monitored with check-ins — or open their advertised listing in the app.

Foursquare says numerous ad pilots over the past year have helped the company improve upon its targeting algorithms. Even more tantalizing for business owners, the company points out that "78 percent of people who search locally on their phone make a purchase," a promising data point for the 1.4 million small business listed on the service. For now, Foursquare is limited rollout to "a few thousand" small businesses and says it will expand availability of self-serve tools in the coming months. Interested owners are encouraged to contact Foursquare to reserve a spot in line.