This screen shot just came across my desk of a new change to Tags where by the website option (the most effective from my perspective) is being phased out as a Tags destination. You may continue to use it but if you change to another Tag type you will be unable to use the website Tag type again. Newly created Tags will not be offered the option of linking to the website.
Google rolled out their new local ad product, Boost, this morning. I just got off of the phone with Chikai Ohazama, Director of Product Management for Maps and Deanna Yick, Global Communications Google who answered a number of questions for me.
Chikai Ohazama is currently focused on local and geo local focused on monetization opportunities. He has been with Google for came over to them with Keyhole acquisition and was its co-founder.
Boost was released with some hiccups in the rollout this morning so it was available nationwide. If folks signed up, they will be allowed to keep it. However, we have rolled it back to just San Francisco, Houston and Chicago.
It is the same strategy as with Places Tags, rolling out to a few cities and then more widely.
Mike: While you call it a Beta, it is essentially the final form?
C: It depends on performance. We are experimenting with Boost and will assess it based on business (and user) feedback that sign up for it.
The product is meant for the small local business to make their online buying experience simpler.
The core idea is a simple on line ad for small business so that they can leverage the tool and value.
M: Title of the ad is just the Business Name which seems to be a critical limitation when competing with other AdWord ads:
C: The core idea is simplicity. Set and forget. Doing a lot of testing to make sure that it does well to meet the need of that group.
Our goal is to balance the user needs and performance and we are attempting to make it work well.
Google is trying to optimize the campaign and keywords. We are playing that role for them. One of those judgments is to figure out what the right thing to put on the title line.
M: Will it put the ad at a competitve disadvanatge?
C: Google is testing to see what works,
The key point is giving small businesses better tools to help their business. First with Tags, now with Boost. Our goal is to make it a great experience.
M:Talking about a great experience, there is currently a lot of disatisfaction about the basics of the listing process being expressed in the forums and at my blog.
C: We are working on improving it all the time.
M: It seems worse now than 6 months ago with the lost reviews, the duplicate removal issues etc.
C: We are looking for feedback all the time. We will take that and look into more thouroughly.
M: Can you share any uptake numbers on Tags?
C: in the thousands
M: That is a big range from 999 to 999,9999. Can you help narrow that down somehwat?
C: in the thousands
M: Are you still testing Tags?
C: Tags has rolled out nationally but we are looking at improving all the time.
M: Do you think that Boost will surpass Tags in adoption?
C: It will be key part of the full story. They (Places, Tags & Boost) all work together. It fills organic needs with Places, highlights with Tags and increased visiblity with Boost.
It should be viewed as part of the whole
M: Does this represent the full monetization effort for Maps?
C: It depends on the success of these. We will continue to add more depending on how these do. But they are and will be designed to fit and compliment each other.
M: re: Geotargeting; Assuming an ad is placed in San Francisco how far afield will it show?
C:We will target it by keywords plus some range around. It is 15 mile area targeted around the city limits currently. It is something that we are experimenting with and think it will be different in different cities.
M: Will Boost ads show on content network?
C: Just on Google and Gmaps
M: How well will the product be integrated into Analytics? Does it creates own campaign? How much stats do you get and how do you pull it out?
Its primary analytics interface is meant to be via the Places Dashbaord
If you are sohphisticated these will show up in Analytics but that is not the intention of the product. It is designed for simplicity for the SMB.
D: You are signing up for Boost thru Places. It will show up in Adwords… you can see the more detailed metrics in the Adwords account as Google is creating the account for you.
M: Can you tweak the ad from the Adwords account?
C: No it is an non-editable view in Adwords.
M: Why did you pick the $50 minimum.
C: To make sure that we have enough profit to bring value to the advertiser. It will be adjusted over time.
We will evaluate and make recomendations to the business to improve.
Update: Apparently the nationwide rollout of Boost was an early morning quirk that has been corrected. Boost now only showing in San Francisco, Houston & Chicago according to Chikai Ohazama, Google Maps Product Manager.
Apparently Google Boost is appearing across the whole of the US and it is not limited to any specific markets. It is visible in Olean, NY, VA. as well as the whole of California.
Left Arrow 1: The verbiage for the Ad is automatically extracted from the 200 character description but the business is allowed to change it.
L. Arrow 2: The ad only shows for categories that are in Google’s category list. Custom categories will not show the ad.
L. Arrow 3: The estimated clicks per month do vary depending on market and categories selected.
L. Arrow 4: There is a minimum of $50/mo to start the program.
Right Arrow 1: The ONLY ad title allowed is the business name as defined in Places.
Right Arrow 2: If stars are available from reviews they will show in the ad.
R. Arrow 3: Apparently there are other formats that will be made available but the link is not yet working.
Payment: Continue reading
Update 10/27/10 12:00: Here is the Google Lat Long Article on Boost. They note in the article that it is in fact a Beta and only available in SF, Chicago and Houston. Hmm…. seems to be much more visible than that.
For additional information about Boost see Google Boost – More Details and Google Boost – Interview with Chikai Ohazama, Director of Product Management for Maps
Today Google is apparently rolling out a new easy to use Adwords product for Google Places called Boost. The product is visible to businesses in and around the San Francisco market. It is not yet known what other cities the product will be available in. Boost essentially automates and dramatically simplifies AdWords creation for local businesses from within their Places Dashboard.
The product automatically creates an Adwords campaign based on a businesses categories and information in the listing. The business sets the monthly budget and Google determines what search words trigger the ad.
Essentially Boost is an Adwords for the masses. No keyword research, no geo targeting, no content networks to be determined as all of that is done automatically. It effectively allows SMBs that would otherwise feel uncomfortable with the the intricacies of Adwords to easily and quickly get started.
The uptake does not need to be very large worldwide for the product to generate significant revenues for Google. With over 4 million currently claimed listings, an adoption rate of 10% with an average $50/mo spend would generate $240,000,000 annually.
Obviously the more sophisticated of Places users already have locally focused ad campaigns so this product is truly targeted at the self serve segment of the SMB market. Estimates are that 25% of the SMB market is the maximum number that are prepared to engage in self serve. If you apply that % and assume an average spend of only $100/mo Google would generate $1,2 Billion annually in world wide sales for the product. If the ads prove effective and rank well average spends could easily climb making this product likely to generate more revenue than Tags once it is rolled out more broadly.
There are still many questions about Boost. Where is it showing now? When will it roll out to the rest of the US? Will the product provide feedback as to likely exposure at a given monthly ad spend? How well will the product be integrated into Analytics? What exactly is the geographic area that the ads will display in? Will the ads show to the content network or on Google and GMaps only? That being said, it is likely to generate significant revenue for Google Places.
The Help Page for Boost is not yet active but the ability to purchase ads is. This help screen pops up when selected from the Dashboard:
Update 1:16: In the Google Lat Long Blog they note:
As we do with all beta features, we’ll carefully review the data and and effectiveness of this trial and may make changes before making decisions about any future expansion. In the meantime, business owners can sign in or claim their listing in Google Places, and select businesses in San Francisco, Houston and Chicago will see an invitation to try Boost in the account dashboard. Interested businesses outside these areas can sign up to receive notification when Boost comes to their area by filling out this form.
Late yesterday Google added a new discussion category, Discuss Google Tags with other users, in the Google Places Help Forums. It is billed as a place to “learn more about Google Tags and discuss the same with other users”.
Having followed the forums regularly Tags discussions have occurred only sporadically. In the last Places Newsletter Google did offer up an actual number although it is not clear that you can get technical assistance at the number. Regardless, a forum makes sense from Google’s point as every call that is shunted to the forums saves them costs.
|Make your listing stand out with Google Tags >>
If you would like to speak with a sales representative, please call (800) 290-6134
Since Tags is a paid product, it is unclear whether Google will staff the new forum with any higher level of personnel than has been the case in the other Places forum. One would hope so but as they say: “Don’t hold your breath”.
Google Tags rolled out nationally at the end of June. Several questions that have been often asked about Tags are: How well do they perform? & How do searchers respond to them? Do they attract additional business?
I have one client, Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law in Orlando, that added the tags immediately after their national rollout on June 28th. We now have 4 weeks of before and after data so as to be able to compare results. While it is only a sample of one and should not be construed as representing a general truth, the results seem promising.
We chose the “coupon” Tag not so much for the coupon value but so as to be able to add content to the listing. While the coupon itself didn’t generate very much direct activity, the overall “actions” were significantly higher on fewer “impressions” . The listing received more than a 100% increase in the number of actions while the listing received ~20 % fewer impressions.
|How many times users showed interest in your business listing||35||76|
|Clicks for more info on Maps||3||12|
|Clicks for driving directions||0||12|
|Clicks to your website||32||52|
(click to view larger)
I would caution that this result can not be taken as a general guideline for success. It is a single month’s comparison for only one listing and the reliability of the statistics in Places are erratic at best.
The results are likely to be different in different industries. It is also very early in the life of Tags so very few other lawyers in market had yet taken advantage of them (only one other showed in the search results). That all being said, it does appear to have had a positive influence on end user actions.
What have been your experiences with Tags?
This evening Google has announced a plan to provide 30 days of Google Tags free (hat tip to Taylor Cimala of Digital Third Coast Internet Marketing & Jeffrey Magner of Trumpet Local Media ). The following is being sent to businesses with listings in Google Places (It is of interest that even Google still feels the need to note that it was formerly referred to as the Local Business Center):
|© Google Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA, 94043.
Email preferences: We sent you this email because you have indicated that you are willing to receive promotions about related Google products. If you do not wish to receive such emails in the future, please visit the settings tab of your Google Places homepage (http://www.google.com/places – Places login required), uncheck the box next to ‘Special Offers’, and click ‘Save Changes.’
Terms and Conditions. Promotional credit is only valid when signing up for new Google Tags listings. Promotional credit allows for $25.00 of free Google Tags advertising (equal to 30 days free for one listing). This credit can be spent on one tag listing, or it can be applied across multiple tags listings and $25.00 will be deducted from your monthly billing statement. Advertisers will be charged for advertising that exceeds the promotional credit, which is $25.00, per listing, per month. If you don’t want to be charged for the additional months, you can pause your tags at any time and your charges will be pro-rated for that month. Google Tags are subject to ad approval, valid registration and acceptance of the Google Places and Google Tags Program terms and conditions. The promotional credit is non-transferable and may not be sold or bartered. Offer may be revoked at any time for any reason by Google Inc. One promotional credit per customer.
Clearly the income opportunities for Google with this product are significant both short and long term. They have recently noted that 2 million businesses have claimed their listing in Maps. If only 10% of those users sign up for Tags, Google will generate $60 million per year.
It strikes me that Tags will create a virtuous cycle of sign ups for Google. As businesses see them being used by competitors and appear on other searches that they do, they will be inclined to sign up for them or at least inquire about them and sign up for a Google Places account.
There is large upside income potential looking out 12-24 months. If Google manages to get to 5 million claimed listings and 30% of those businesses sign up for Tags they would be looking at $450 million annually.
It is no wonder that they are playing with new 7-pack layout.
Google has just announced at the LatLong Blog, the beginning of a nationwide rollout of Tags, their paid, local listing enhancement. The feature, first tested in early February and rolled out to 11 cities last month, will first be available in the states where they have already had Tags (California, Texas, Illinois, Georgia, Washington, and Colorado). Google will update this page as additional states go live.
Tags will now also appear on mobile searches and a new Tag type, called Posts, will be available. A Post allows a business owner to create a custom message that can be changed as often as owner would like. This new feature could be used to highlight special discounts or a limited-time offer and seems likely to be popular. It would be more useful if it were allowed to also link back to a web page but maybe now coupons will finally get the exposure they deserve.
At a flat rate of $25/mo per business, Google Maps will have a simple to use paid product in place. Google has noted that 2 million businesses have claimed their listings. If there is even only a 10% adoption rate, it will mean income of $60 million/year for Google. I would guess that the uptake will be higher than that and once one 7-Pack entrant adds a Tag, there will be a certain pressure, logic not withstanding, for others in the 7-pack to do so as well.
The forum move is particularly dramatic and likely to be very disruptive. Google has archived the very active threads relating to LBC issues and replaced them with a single thread.
Here are the threads in the new forum:
These threads replaced:
On the one hand, breaking out the recreational and business users of Maps makes sense. The removal of categories dealing with the many problems that users confront in the Google Places center rather than fixing the issues or answering them seems very counterproductive. The verbiage of the the last new forum group is particularly illustrative: Discuss Google Places issues with other users. It seems to make perfectly clear, that despite the many problems and issues with flaggings & the verification process that only Google can solve, a user will not be able to expect help from Google.
The changed name and the fact that no link exists to the forum from within the Google Places work area means, that at least for a while, the volume of requests for help will be quite a bit lower. It will also make the job for those contributing their time in the forums more difficult. The old forums, although archived are still accepting posts and do not yet redirect to the new areas.
Given that more businesses will be participating in paid aspects of the business listing process, it would seem that their expectation of service will only increase.
Google’s quest for a scalable support solution seems to have a taken a step backwards. If the new Google Places offers significantly better advice when problem with the ever mysterious flagging occur, fewer issues with verification then perhaps or significantly few bugs, Google could get by with a lower level of customer support. It is not at all clear to me that this has happened. New features yes, bug fixes? Probably not.
Until such time as the process of entering a business in the Google Places process is much smoother, Google will only further anger the many participants of the product that run into roadblocks. I used to think that Google “just doesn’t get customer support”. My new thinking is that they get it just fine, they just are not interested in providing any.