How many Google Coupons are there?

The new ability to search Google Coupons offers an intriguing glimpse through the window into the world of Google’s coupon efforts. Coupons have the potential to both drive local usage and further monetize local business data for Google. With internet search, Coupons could provide a new interface/access point for visitation and searching of local business data. It is easy to imagine a link at the top of the main Google search page or a link for coupons in the Local OneBox results that bargain hunters used regularly. With any number of web 2.0 technologies, Google could spread coupons across the internet as well. In fact the ready availability of coupons on Google might broaden the use of coupons in general.

Coupons could also provide a means of monetizing Goog-411(and SMS & Google Maps) service by providing pay per call coupons directly to your cell phone. Ad supported free 411 services (like Jingle 411) are intrusive. A service though that offered an optional, relevant coupon to a 411 inquiry would probably be welcomed by its users.

However, since Google Coupons has been introduced, why has Google been so reticent to promote coupons? And how successful has Google been at gathering coupons since the programs inception? Just how many coupons are there and how many were created by the small businesses using Google’s Local Business Center?

Many observers point out the obvious lack of visibility for coupons within Google as they are at least two clicks away from the main results page. Timeliness of posting coupons is a problem as well. For example it may take several weeks for an update to occur in the Local Business Center for coupons to be visible. This obviously leaves a merchant with a time sensitive coupon unable to use the system effectively.

A larger problem is the lack of a significant number of coupons. The new Google Coupon Search feature offers some interesting insight into Google’s “coupon inventory” and demonstrates the problem with gathering enough coupons to make the service truly useful. The following searches were performed in the new Google Coupon search by city alone and by “city + Valpak” to determine how many of the coupons within a given search were created by the coupon company as opposed to by a business itself.

Search Total Coupons for search “City” Total for “City + Valpak” Notes
New York City 536 410 Note: these searches roughly take you to the last record of each search
San Francisco 580 200 The way that Google forms the url allows you to easily find the last record in any given search.
Chicago. 519 165 It would be interesting to know the industry breakdown of the coupons.
Olean, NY 12 1 5 of these were created by me, 2 were created by a corporate hq and 2 were created by computer technology businesses. No more than 3 and perhaps none were created by the small businesses themselves.

The low numbers of coupons for large metropolitan areas clearly indicates that the many local retail businesses have yet to take advantage of the Google Local Business Center. Franchise outlets or central headquarters have only a modest presence. Within the results above Google listed a number of coupons from surrounding communities so the actual totals are lower than shown. If large urban areas and adjacent communities like NYC, San Francisco or Chicago can each only generate 500 coupons since the inception of Google Coupons 14 months ago, there is a long way to go before adequate inventory will be available.

Roughly 50% (and over 75% in NYC) of the coupons that are available have been created by ValPak, some additional (not insignificant %) are done by corporate hq’s and local web professionals. Obviously self provisioning has not been an effective strategy for Google to develop a coupon inventory. I know that in my market I have created client coupons and I assume that other web professionals in other large urban area have as well. Thus even fewer businesses than my numbers indicate are actually self provisioning.

The recent movement by Google moving GoogleCoupons.com domain names to their servers and their recently upgraded coupon search indicate that Google is continuing to develop their coupons product and may imply that that are contemplating an increase in its reach.

It is obvious that they could easily solve the visibility issue by putting a link into the Local OneBox results and they can probably solve the timeliness issue (it is likely that bulk upload already solves it). But it appears that they can’t, by themselves, solve the coupon inventory issue.

How many coupons is enough for Google is anyones guess. But it seems to me that until Google can can create more coupon partnerships like ValPak’s or induces more business participation in the Local Business Center, it will be some time before there is a significant coupon inventory.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
How many Google Coupons are there? by

11 thoughts on “How many Google Coupons are there?”

  1. Very nice article and excellent insights. We have discussed this in some detail. My experience on trying to create a timely coupon with significant savings was unsuccessful as the coupon wasn’t entered via an update in over a month. How pitiful. Traditional media, especially newspapers generate this tried and true advertising/marketing tool in a flash.

    As you mentioned above the visibility of coupons off sights listed in Google Maps is dramatically low. Possibly imperceptable.

    Most visitors access google maps via the onebox insert into organic listings. If they access one of the businesses within Google Maps the visitor has two choices including the business website directly or the data directly inserted into Google Maps by the business owner. The link to the website is more prominant. I suspect it gets far more traffic.

    I can’t imagine that coupons sitting in Google Maps get significant traffic. The last market data suggested that users still initially turn to Google Maps at about 1% of all Google uses. The significant visibility turns up only through the onebox….and then the user has the first choice of clicking on the link directly to the website.

    Somehow, though, I’m sure G is very aware of all of this. The data and algo’s in G Maps need lots and lots of improvement and cleaning. Editing and correcting data in Google Maps is a less than smooth process, as you have reported.

    They seem to be putting a lot more effort into testing new things within Google maps rather than cleaning or improving the existing systems.

    On the other hand the separate listings of coupons is indeed significant. Who wouldn’t want all the coupons in your region available at your fingertips.

    Its a very interesting development.

    Dave

  2. On the question of whether Google coupons get significant use…I would agree with you that they probably get very little. Anecdotally, I know that in the 14 months my coupons have been up, I have received exactly 1 request for their use.

    Greg Sterling’s article, last November, seemed to indicate the same thing. And yes I am also sure that Google is aware of it…and could easily change the situation.

    Imagine if they do, all of the sudden you would need to become an expert in Coupon optimization. It may even spawn a whole new industry of coupon engine optimizers (CEO) and Google Coupon blogs! :)

  3. One other comment, Mike:

    It is astonishing that the volume of coupons for large Metropolitan regions is very low. I suppose it is an indication that this is currently in a testing mode by Google.

    It is very powerful. Imagine planning meals, stays, and purchases around a powerful source that can give consumers discounts around a community. It would generate a lot of activity once it was broadly marketed.

    The other thing, while reviewing the lists of available coupons within a region two things surprised me.

    1. In some cases a reader doesn’t know what items are being discounted or what the business sells. A business should clearly highlight who they are, what they do, and what they are discounting.

    2. There should be vibrant categories. If one is shoppoing for the kids for school, preparing to eat out, ordering a pizza, looking for clothes, needs a tune up on a car, etc. there should be categories so that appropriate coupons could be found quickly.

    I look forward to the day when this becomes vibrant and well used.

    Dave

  4. To expand on your dynamic categories idea, coupons could become a means for non brick and mortar vendors to have a presence in a given market place without the need for spam.

    Mike

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  6. The problem with not having enough local coupons is the cost of building that content and the lack of response to the content. That has always been the problem with local content. Users are spread so thin on the web that it is hard to get any kind of critical mass on the local level. It costs too much to put together a sales force to go after these small sales and introducing a new product to an existing sales force, especially a low value one, usually isn’t very successful.

    There is also a catch 22 where users don’t want to use the google coupons because there isn’t enough content and advertisers don’t want to post coupons because there aren’t enough users/redemptions.

    Until Google can demonstrate that they can drive results, they will have a hard time building the local coupon content.

  7. Yes it is a catch 22 and Googlle has compounded the problem by burying the coupons deeply which minimizes if not eliminates viewing let alone redemtion.

    But coupons unlike many forms of local content seems to generate buzz and interest…my article on the coupon search feature was my single most read blog entry ever because it was picked up by a coupon site. I think if google solved the visibility problem the redemption issue would go away.

    Given that Google can solve the visibility issue it thus (in my opinion) comes back to inventory being the hold up…

    I just spot checked NYC and they now have 650 coupons …a 21% increase in 2 and half months which works out to 102% a year growth. It isn’t clear to me whether that growth can be sustained or if it is just a function of the such low starting point. If it is real than it would take too many years to 100% growth to have a substantial inventory.

    Mike

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