Where Does Local Fit into the Newly Organized Google Under Page?

Updated 3:38: Thanks to reader, Matt, for pointing out this BusinessInsider article titled: Marissa Mayer Bypassed As Google Appoints New Head Of Local And Commerce. Apparently Jeff Huber was handed the job and his title has been upgraded to SVP, Local and Commerce and is on par with the four mentioned below. It clarifies that local is a key initiative with visibility at the highest levels of Google. Not sure what is says about Marissa.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/one-more-google-winner-jeff-huber-controls-commerce-and-local-2011-4#ixzz1Ixj2T8qZ

Larry Page took over as CEO of Google at the beginning of the week. Immediately thereafter, Google’s product head Jonathan Rosenberg resigned.

Late Yesterday it was reported in an LA Time’s exclusive that Page has completed a major reorganization at Google that put key executives in charge of their individual business units and reporting directly to him.

From the article (bolds mine):

Those promotions include Andy Rubin who is now senior vice president of mobile; Vic Gundotra who is now senior vice president of social; Sundar Pichai who is now senior vice president of Chrome; Salar Kamangar who is now senior vice president of YouTube and video; Alan Eustace, who is now senior vice president of search; and Susan Wojcicki, who is now senior vice president of ads.

The executives will be able to act more autonomously and won’t have to turn to Google’s powerful operating committee on every decision.

The structure certainly begs the question: Where’s Local in all of this?

In mid October it was reported that Marissa Meyer had taken on a new role in charge of geo and local. More importantly it seemed, in being promoted to the operating committee it was noted that her voice and focus on local would be more widely heard. Now we learn that the operating committee will take on less of a product role and  that Local, Geo and Maps are not in their own product category.

One presumes that Geo- Local  will once again fall under the broad aegis of search and that Mayer will report to Alan Eustace. Although much of local is also social (Hotpot, Latitude). At least on the surface, it appears that Local (and perhaps Meyer) has been demoted. At best, it implies confused lines of authority.

Whether it will affect the investments necessary to take local to the next level is unclear. Whether decisions critical to local will be made quickly is also unclear.

Let’s hope not.

I would love to hear your thoughts…

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Where Does Local Fit into the Newly Organized Google Under Page? by

36 thoughts on “Where Does Local Fit into the Newly Organized Google Under Page?”

  1. With anywhere from 20% to 40% of searches having local intent (depending on cited source), and somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% of mobile searches being local in nature, your question as to where Local fits is indeed a good one.

    IMO, Hotpot, Places, Tags, Boost and Maps are too important of pieces in the collective to be left out of the Google VP organizational structure. It’s not as if these segments are not generating them revenue. So why not promote them and give them a legitimate place at the table?

    Unfortunately it seems that G still doesn’t really get Local in the same way that they still don’t get Social.

  2. Hi Mike,

    IMHO it’s just pure chaos…

    One could admit, that “local” fits under “social”, “search”, “ads” and “mobile” so that Ms. Meyer might report to 4 VPs which is nonsense…

    Without proper management and integration Google will continue to diversify their local “tools” (which are not “products” as Meyer said, but should be integrated as tools into one product) to the extreme…

    It would’ve been great if they would have founded “local” as a unique business unit receiving input from the “big four” and delivering well developed, integrated products back into “social”, “search”, “ads” and “mobile”.


  3. Mike,

    What do you think is the next level for local search? One aspect that I see for where local search is going is to help people find product availability near them. Google base is now being integrated with local search. This is a good thing for local brick-and-mortar stores and a negative for e-commerce stores. The challenge for a small local brick-and-mortar store is to have enough resources of time and capital to keep up with all of the changes. Overall, I feel this change is an advantage to larger chain stores.

    Dave Jabas

  4. @James
    and lattitude, adword local extensions, directions, Earth…..

    Yes, I realized that it could fit under all after I wrote the piece… given that it doesn’t have a seat at the table, it is a crap shoot how local will contribute to each and all of them and how they will ever manage to find the products that shows Local in its best light

    Clearly local is moving (and has been) in the direction of more granular data… both spatially and temporally… inventory, daily specials, short term/checkin coupons.

    Google has slowly been integrating many of those pieces into local… inventory with Merchant, ads with extensions, coupons with Lattidude checkin, announcements in Places via Tags…

    Some is available to larger, more organized chains like inventory… and certainly the need for data feeds on a daily basis favors them.

    But I think Google has their eyes set on every business and we will see a range of efforts.

    The problem as Sebastien points is how to cohesively surface the data.

  5. Mike: I read that news piece also, saw that local was omitted within the article and had the same reaction….

    Where does Local Fit???

    Meanwhile I noticed this article in YouMOZ by an in house SEO at Marriott: http://bit.ly/e6ERXP simply laying out how a large brick and mortar, which he describes as also being a top 10 international E biz site…suffers from the same miserable problems in Google Places as do smaller businesses.

    I just don’t know. You have this element of search that Google itself described as representing about 20% of all searches, and a larger percentage of searches on mobile. Those searches generate Huge and significant revenue streams. On top of the existing revenue streams Google is aggressively chasing more of these growing advertising dollars which are created by the downstream result of that 20% (or more as James suggested) of traffic. Much of that traffic is trying to find specific and accurate information about a Place.

    Really…that shouldn’t be too hard. Give me a Name, a phone #, and an address.

    Yet Google keeps having problems in that area. Its costly. Its problematic for search visitors, its problematic for the smbs and major businesses, and as the comments in the above referenced article by the Marriott staffer show….sometimes that misinformation leads to danger and theft!!!

    Again the issue is simple. Get the Name, Address, Phone # information correct.

    Did Page decide that these ongoing problems just aren’t important? Did the article miss reporting something? Does Google not give a cr@p about getting simple information correct?

    It still remains a big mystery. I hope that Marriott, which is a substantial buisness with serious connection currently weighs in on ongoing negotiations between the Justice Department and Google concerning its proposed purchase of ITA, the travel software company.

    I’ve read that an agreement is brewing….allowing Google to complete the purchase but giving Justice the right to look hard at Google’s activities.

    I’d like to see someone from Justice roaming the halls of the GooglePlex with a red hot cattle prod, whose job was to spur Google to deal with the ongoing NAP problems and give businesses customer service and responses.

    Just my $0.02 😀

  6. Personally I am delighted with a management shakeup. Without knowing too many details its been too easy to see that there are some very major management and quality issues with their “tools” or whatever they want to call them. Reminds me of those ‘high-quality’ online news sites whose journalists don’t spell-check or fact-check – you know the ones.

    My guess is that TAGs have been a Bust and BOOST has Busted. Mike, do you have any idea on how those profit-making initiatives have performed? With local under-acheiving, just like anything else – it will sit on the backburner and flex and merge with social-mobile-uncertain until it finds a profitable path. I hope they get it right. As we all know the potential is enormous!

    Okay I’ll stop now.

  7. @earlpearl

    As if someone from justice can get them creating products that are bug free 🙂


    A rumor crossed my desk last week that Tags was soon to be history… remember you read it here first if it is true. If not, I will deny having said it… oops this is the internet… it will be cached forever…

  8. Mike, thanks for the post. I totally agree. IMHO, I see it also being treated as a step-child and as you stated “doesn’t deserve a seat at the table”. Meanwhile, I see YP-type competitors really gearing up both online and offline. They definitely need to give it more attention and focus.

  9. @John

    Google has a huge competitive advantage in local which by its very nature is social. We can only hope that Google knows what its doing…

  10. Given the degree of integration between organic and local search today as well as the trend, I can see why LP would come to the conclusion of keeping them reporting to the same head.

    I know the product has shortcomings that we’d all like to see resolved, but I think these solutions are most likely to come from an integrated focus as opposed to an outside focus – at least until local can prove its impact and importance to the bottom line or Google’s larger objectives.

    I’ve worked in large organizations and its often better to be part of the 800 lb gorilla product than not.

  11. Mike:

    buggy products is not the issue at all!!!

    Google will develop products. like other software companies they will test them before release. Regardless of prior testing the ultimate test is by the vast user base.

    Its not an issue of google releasing bug free products. Its an issue of fixing the mistakes.

    Google should put bodies into hand fixing problems when the information is rediculously wrong. They should respond to smbs, large corporations such as Marriott and the people who might end up injured robbed or threatened because of their mistakes in Maps.

    That would simply make them like every other industry or business within a sane society.

    IMHO the Feds should sit overlooking their actions and start screaming in Google personnel’s ears: correct that guy’s address/fix the phone #, get the business name right

    they have to sit there and yell and scream because to date that simply hasn’t been the case.

  12. I agree earlpearl. But what I would like to see is the Marriott story and other stories like it, being reported in the WSJ so media pressure can hopefully force more tech resources, support AND accountability for Google Places.

    I just shared a story yesterday about an amazing call I had with a Google Places rep. It sounds like G is starting to put more resources into fixing numerous Google Places problems. I was pretty floored by all I learned and have a renewed sense of hope in Google Places. I think/hope things will improve. Fingers crossed! However for all the small AND large businesses like Marriott, improvements can’t come soon enough.

    As for the Page quote, local is way too important to Google, so I think it was a major oversight, misquote or something. Local is a critical piece for Google competitively. Plus although Google is making decent revenue now, they are leaving millions or probably BILLIONS on the local table!!!

    Here’s an HUGE revenue generating idea I threw out there yesterday. Repeating a little here, because I know G reads Mike’s blog and they probably don’t read mine yet. The rep on my call said there is a new commitment to working with and supporting those of us that are trying to help SMBs and doing it right.

    Google needs to take some of the wise advice Mike and others have been trying to give you for years. FIX some of the core issues that create so many support problems (like not overwriting verified Place data with scraped data, etc.) Work with us and give us some support!

    YOU WILL HAVE A SKILLED SALES FORCE BIGGER THAN GROUPON’S singing your praises and selling Tags and Boost for you FOR FREE all day long. Think about it. A FREE sales force, bringing in TONS of additional revenue!

    Tiny example: Prior to my call with the Google rep I’d been telling ALL my clients not to add Tags or Boost for 2 reasons. 1) I had too many problems with bugs, bad scrapes and dupes so didn’t want to add one more potential problem into the mix. 2) I didn’t fully understand the advantages of Boost. Now after that one call – knowing I have someone to turn to for support plus getting a quick education – I’m telling ALL my clients to get Tags and Boost.

    OK so I’m just one small consultant. But take the above and multiply it by all the GOOD consultants out there who have a ton more clients than I do. Think of how we could help more SMBs if problems were fewer. I know all of us would be MOTIVATED to sell Tags and Boost for you all day long for FREE, if Places worked more smoothly and we could get some support when it didn’t!

    Then on top of that, think about all the bloggers and tweeters like Mike who would be reporting on all the Google Places PROGRESS instead of problems! How many more SMBs could we all reach?

    I challenge Google to “think SOCIAL” for Google Places. Start making needed improvements. Offer white hat pros support. Turn us into your RAVING FANS! Let us be your “feet on the street!”

    Sorry, didn’t mean to write a book, guess I really got carried away. But I’m passionate about what Google Places COULD be and hope the omission in Page’s quote was just an oversight. Because Google Places has so much untapped potential, but still needs a lot of help to reach it.

  13. @Linda

    It is unlikely that Google will ever fully embrace marketers. Like in traditional SEO they tolerate them and through them some bones and some tools…. their distrust is not fully unwarranted. 🙂 I guess I would just ask for the tools and a functioning product. I don’t need them to be my friend.

    I too have been recommending Boost in certain cases. In certain very limited situations it is providing a very good return on cost… particularly when it targets well (which is most definitely not all the time).

    Like you I really marvel at how business Google Places does actually generate for my clients. And I too, just wish it weren’t so friggin painful all the time.

    I do hope, that whatever the outcome of the reorg, that Local is prioritized

  14. @Nina

    I think it offers a useful point of view. Some businesses do not need a drive to location and process most of their leads off the web..not via the phone or a walk in. What the article says is that good web ranking leads to good web site traffic with or without the pin. That’s what they were looking for and that’s what they got.

    But the analysis needs to be taken with a grain of salt….it suffers from a certain confirmatory bias.

    if your Key performance indicators are contacts via the web and you are not tracking phone calls or other (unreliable) dashboard data then you will not be able to measure whether being in the 7 Pack was helpful or not.

  15. I read your blog piece Linda. Amazingly I too have been on the phone w/ Google once in a blue moon. Like you, the mere fact that a human emerged from the black box astounded me beyond comprehension.

    On the other hand, I’m dealing with a business problem now and have had numerous phone calls with a pretty big business: I’ve spoken with reps from phone companies, utilties, banks: you name it.

    In general I expect the opportunity to speak. The fact that someone from Google once in a blue moon makes a call and when they do the response is so unbelievable is testimony in its own right how meager the general customer service is.

    Congrats on communicating. Good luck on the issue. Congrats on getting the issue raised to a higher level of awareness.

    Major media like the WSJ have had opportunities to write about the typically poor conditions within G Places. I’m hoping the story I referenced concerning Marriott’s issues might raise the ante. We will see.

    It won’t impact the DOJ decision as it was just announced. Regardless if someone from media wanders over to the article referencing Marriott’s problems with G Places: http://bit.ly/e6ERXP not only will they find how rough its been ….but they’ll read about someone getting mugged and robbed…..somewhat attributable to Bad Google Maps info.

    Sort of amazing. On the one hand you would like to see a media giant such as WSJ tackle and expose the problems:

    On the other hand you received one positive phone call from Google….felt great….and started suggesting people use Tags and Boost.

    I think you are correct. If the engineers at Google added a lot of customer service reps….it’s got to help their own company as well as solving the problems smbs face!!!

  16. Linda’s article is worth linking to, so I will do it right here:


    Mike, while I agree with your assessment of Google’s love-hate relationship with marketers in general, Linda is so right in that the task force is sitting right here (on your blog, commenting!). We don’t want money from Google. We just want support and because we know how much business a correct, high ranking Place Page can generate, we would willingly recommend Google’s products, without that sinking feeling of doubt, if Google gave us more support.

    Good discussion here.

  17. @Miriam

    I would love to and have advocated in the past for a Google relationship with marketers and SMBs like you mention. I would love for it to be a reality as well.

    That being said, I wish the tooth fairy and Santa Claus were real.

    Google made their sentiments perfectly clear when they removed marketers, designers and advertising agents from the 7 Pack.

  18. @Miriam

    Google could implement a whole raft of olive branch activity:
    1-Create a predictable client environment in Places
    2-Provide a mult- level management option
    3- Provide real stats
    4- Provide troubleshooting within Places
    5- Put marketers back into Local…

    But this list has not changed significantly in 18 months…. I for one am not holding my breath. 🙂

  19. Mike, you’ve managed to fill up my inbox on a Friday afternoon. That’s quite a feat!
    Anytime a company rolls out a new product – bugs or not – usually there is a QA team assigned, right? Usually there is at least one Lead Project Manager who would at the very least review all the steps for Validation and updates etc… So when I see one screen say “validate by phone or postcard” and the next screen says “you’ll receive your letter in the mail”…. there is a problem. Is it a post card or letter? Is no one paying attention? Its indicative of a deeper more systemic issue.

    After months of frustrating issues with online reviews, rather than fix the issues they roll out “hot pot” yet another new branding initiative that further confuses SMBs & their customers. “Coupons” are now “Offers”?

    Here on the streets of Google the natives are confused and the reviewers and business owners are not excited about Google’s existing local “Products” and will be skeptical of the new ones they roll out next week. And the week after.

    However, when I did a Google search for “Earthquake” I fell in love with Google all over again. That search result was fantastic!

  20. Hopefully, Jeff Huber will prioritize local search and fix some of the systemic issues that have plagued Google Places and frustrated small business owners. We can only hope.

  21. Thanks for that link Matt. So Marissa is out? Or where is Marissa in all this I wonder? Local & Commerce lumped together? Interesting. Huber was senior VP of engineering which could be good as far as getting tech probs addressed??? Maybe, hopefully? (Wearing my rose colored glasses again.) 😉

    Miriam thank you!

    Earl, you wrote: “Sort of amazing. On the one hand you would like to see a media giant such as WSJ tackle and expose the problems:

    On the other hand you received one positive phone call from Google….felt great….and started suggesting people use Tags and Boost.”

    I realize what I said sounded like a dichotomy – but both are true. I DO wish more stories like the Marriott’s would come to light to bring big media pressure for Google Places to fix the problems.

    AND I do believe that IF we could see some positive changes, bug fixes and IF the type of support I got over the phone was an option for all, then many of us WOULD be singing G’s praise, spreading the word and even suggesting their products.

    But my point was if Agent A was as genuine as he sounded there COULD be a light at the end of the tunnel. And I’m not saying I just got good support. That SHOULD be a given, not a miracle! I’m saying I was blown away by the things I learned on the call. Things I have not shared publicly.

    Mike et all. Re Tags. I’ve not been a proponent because there were so many problems when they 1st came out. There is still a problem, which I believe COULD be grounds for a major class action lawsuit. I’ve discussed with a big Internet attorney, but have not publicly talked about it or decided what I’m going to do about it yet. In SPITE of all that, I will still recommend Tags to my clients SIMPLY so I can get support with Agent A when I need it. $25 a month is so little to pay in exchange.

    Re Boost. I have not tested it yet and def have some concerns. Have a bunch of what I learned going out in a post when I get time. But in a nutshell, 2 benes I can see for my particular type of clients are:

    1) They have a lot of procedure related KWs that don’t meet the “IS vs DOES” rule for cats. Again I’ve never paid attention to Boost, so maybe all of you know this but I didn’t. Somewhere I got the idea that Boost took it’s keyword ques from the cats. But what I learned that I didn’t know before is that Boost targets the general MAIN category the business is in ie: Dentist and uses 10 years of Adwords data to know what ALL the related Dental KWs are so would cover a lot of those procedure keywords I can’t put in cats any more.

    Now I do also realize that could possibly result in click costs for KWs that won’t convert because they aren’t targeted enough. So it seems that a negative KW list would be needed. But we’re going to test it with a company that has a big Adwords spend and see.

    (Also know how to get around the IS vs DOEs cat rule with on-site SEO but that only works for the new merged algo, not the old Places algo and many of the procedure KWs pull the old Places layout & algo.)

    2) The other bene I see is geo reach. I didn’t know before how Boost works in that respect. But we all know how hard it can be with Places to rank a small biz in the other small surrounding cities they serve. I was told Boost works in about a 20 mile radius NOT just the city the biz is in. So for a biz with a Houston address that sits on the far outskirts and primarily serves the 3 small nearby towns, it seems like Boost would be worth a try.

    Those smaller towns would also be less competitive. IF other businesses in those smaller towns are also using Boost, then it boils down to bid and quality score. And I got a TON of good tips for boosting Boost quality scores too.

    So anyway, maybe I’m being overly positive about GP right now. But to tell you the truth I’m sick and tired of laying awake at night trying to figure out dupe problems in my head and wondering if someone has to literally DIE before Google wakes up and addresses some of the issues. (I say die, not being melodramatic, but due to things like emergency services phone numbers being scraped, merged, overwritten or changed, etc.)

    I WANT to be positive and have hope things are going to change.
    ‘Agent A’ gave me a reason to be cautiously optimistic. And I hope Huber takes the reigns and starts moving things in the right direction.

  22. The answer is simple. The changes Larry Page is making are the beginning of a long decline for this company. They are heading down the same path that Microsoft forged ahead of them. The company is too big to manage effectively and Mr. Page’s emphasis on letting engineers engineer will cause the company to continue to throw crap against the wall to see what sticks.

    Expect more of the status quo out of Google Places.

  23. @Linda: I essentially agree with you and I acknowledge…it sounds like a dichotemy because it is a dichotemy.

    Its weird and totally unusual for any business but Google that a real live phone call from a real live person would have such an impact.

    Its because Google hasn’t had to act in that fashion to date. One would only hope it becomes the norm and not such a rare experience.

    BTW: I’m not 100% sure about this but I dealt with a situation on a record with bad information coming in and pursued something wherein a really easy fix occurred. I’m going to discuss it with our buddy Mike and see if we agree it has merit. If so I’ll let you know more.

  24. @Mike wrote: “their distrust is not fully unwarranted.” If Google enforced their own GP guidelines maybe they could get rid of the riff-raff. After all, a lot of good, legit Places appear because of the efforts of quality marketeers that wouldn’t have appeared otherwise.

    @Mike wrote:
    1-Create a predictable client environment in Places
    2-Provide a mult-level management option
    3-Provide real stats

    Those 3 are a top of my list too.

    I would be curious to know if Boost is really working cost-effectively for anyone. I am thinking of using it with a large metro-retailer but I haven’t heard anything really good about it.

  25. Hi. I’m Jeff Huber. Getting Local search & business experience right is a priority.

    I appreciate your feedback on 1) issues/problems we have currently in Local search/Geo/Maps/Local Commerce that need fixing, and 2) any suggestions you have on new or different (preferably innovative) things we should be doing.

    I likely won’t be able to respond to all messages, but I am rss-subscribed and listening.

    1. Jeff
      Thanks for stopping by. I (and I am sure the other folks here) appreciate you taking the time to reach out. Lots of bugs make grumping easy… some go back years. As to innovative I would tend to look at if from the pov of the SMB as well as the user…. they need simplicity, not simple, tools, not toys… a single place to interact with you not 20.

  26. Jeff, thanks so much for weighing in to let us know you are listening.

    We are looking forward to lots of changes and improvements under your leadership. Integrating HotPot into it’s rightful spot as part of Places was a great 1st step. Letting us know that you are tuned in and open to suggestions is equally important in my book.

  27. Following up on @earlpearl, I think the integration of local and search presents some significant antitrust issues. Companies are begging Google to make Local non-algorithmic, but, if they do that but keep it integrated, they can’t fall back on the “it’s all an algorithm” defense to the DOJ.

    I think the short answer is: they don’t know what to do with Local.

  28. I want to add my thanks for you stopping by and reaching out to us.

    Since this is fresh on my mnd from today…One of the issues I hope will get resolved is validating bulk uploads for businesses with multiple locations. For example, I have a metro client where we have been patiently waiting and waiting for verification from Google Places. When I login I continually see all the stores listed but with the words next to them: “Needs Action – Unverified bulk upload. May not appear on Google.”. Upon submitting a request for verification we get a standard email reply: “Thank you for requesting verification for your bulk listing upload. We received your request and will review your account…”. Any advice on how to get this resolved would be greatly appreciated.

  29. Jeff,

    Understanding you want innovative ideas I want to give my opinion of “innovation” for small, medium, and large businesses in Google Places.

    The people on this blog not only utilize Places on a very intimate basis, but we spend the same amount of time on all local products that help a small business. Mike B is right about making a single place where a small business can manage everything needed for local across all services. Rolling in the check – in features to Places is the next move you need to make. Following that up with Google Analytics true integration to Google Places will be next so people can see the “real” value of map listings along other stats. This is an area that is currently very broken.

    But if you truly want to innovate then the first area that you have to fix is support issues. Because Google’s Local services have not made an invention that has worked in this area nor have they applied anything. In the past few months there have been two local search pieces that have had a lot of traction in the SEO world…

    1. The Marriot piece that was promoted to the top of SEOmoz about places issues.

    2. 5 things google is doing wrong with local search.

    These two prices combined went viral and hit the top of SERPd, Sphinn, SEOmoz.

    It was mainly because of the frustration that EVERYONE has with errors, issues, support.

    I think that the innovation needs to be in re-examining products already released and perfecting them so that business owners spend time in their places account getting good data, support, and real answers to questions.

    Currently, I think it is a crime that people sign up for boost and tags and don’t have human support. The minute that a person pays you for service in the SMB world is when you owe them respect, thanks, and good service. It is a slap in the face to the people who have built their businesses around this philosophy to then share that hard earned money to be told that they are not worth the time and effort to make things right.

    If I were you Jeff, I would take a week where you spend an hour a day and get a recap of the support errors, and questions that people post in the Places forum. It is an eye opening experience into the area that needs some hardcore innovation.

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