April 22, 2011
Yipit reported yesterday that Google is rolling out an expansion of their Offers program with Groupon like features in the test markets of NY, San Francisco, Oakland and Portland. Users may sign up Google.com/offers and if you want to be notified of future launches you can leave your email with Google on this form. When you do sign up in one of the targeted cities you receive a email that notes:
Once Google Offers is available in NYC Downtown we’ll send you regular emails letting you in on amazing offers in your area.
The rollout of the Groupon Like Offers Beta, first reported as in development in January, allows user to subscribe to receive email notices to “Get 50% off or more at places you’ll love”. Yipit notes that Google Offers seems to be taking a very similar approach to existing daily deal sites:
- 50% off or more. Google states that they “partner with some of the best local businesses in your area to bring you great deals at 50% off or more.” The lower bound of 50% off is one of the key underpinnings of Groupon and LivingSocial’s offerings. Google clearly wants its users to perceive these offers very differently from regular coupons.
- Email distribution. Google will be distributing these offers via email. Google states that they’ll “send you regular emails letting you in on amazing offers in your area.”
- Opt-in. Google is not auto-subscribing their users to this program. They are asking user to sign-up for Google Offers via the Google Offers landing page.
Offers, Google’s rebranded Coupon product, has been seeing a slow but steady emergence from the dark shadows of neglect. This new beta test comes on the heels of their nationwide expansion of the their Check-in Offers test in Latitude.
Exactly who and how companies participate in the latter two is a bit of a mystery. After the Check-in expansion was announced I emailed Google the following to see if they were willing to share any additional information:
Can you give me any more details about rollout of the Latitude incentivized upgrade offers? Free or paid? Plan for wider access? Success in Austin?
I just heard back from my colleague who works on Latitude, and she says that all the info we can share about check-in offers can be found on our recent blog post here: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2011/04/check-in-gain-status-and-unlock-offers.html
I’m sure you’ve seen that already, but just wanted to relay that message. We’ll let you know if and when we have more details to share.
With the cancelation of Tags, Google now has 3 flavors of Offers; free via the Places Dashboard, the Check-In Offer and the new Email version. How many and what final form Offers will take in the Google paid product mix is unclear and there are likely more changes on the horizon.
April 9, 2011
Yesterday was a busy day for Google local. Google management changes in Local & the Hotpot rebranding made front page news around the web. An announcement that snuck through the cracks was the limited nationwide rollout of check-in offers at “thousands of places across the U.S. using Latitude on the iPhone and Android”.
Offers (aka Coupons) and Latitude have both been step children in the pantheon of Google local products….huge but unrealized potential month in and month out over a fairly long time horizon. But they both seem to have found each of late and are the better for it.
Coupons, now called Offers, a nearly hidden feature in Places for what seems like eons, have often languished. They got their start in July of 2006 and received some push into 2007. For a while there was appreciable annual growth in the numbers of coupons in the system. But doubts about Google’s willingness to promote coupons surfaced early. By early 2009, amidst no promotion from Google and their failure to showcase coupons in any significant way, Google’s coupon inventory showed significant year over year declines. None but the most intrepid consumers could find them and even SMBs that availed themselves of the feature had trouble locating their own coupons.
After hitting their low point in early 2009, Google Coupons slowly started receiving limited attention from Google, at first cleaning out old and stale inventory and then very sloooowly adding features and slightly increased visibilty. In November 2009 mobile compatibility and in June 2010 SMBs were given the ability to highlight them on their listing via Tags, potentially giving them front page exposure.
Shortly before loosing out in their effort to acquire Groupon in November of last year, Google rebranded Coupons as Offers. A superficial change but one that indicated that coupons were no longer on life support.
Google’s intended direction for the coupon aspect of Offers became clearer with a very public test in Austin concurrently with the South by Southwest Conference, integrating coupons with Latitude’s Check in process at 60 locations. This newest expansion (details visible here) of offer checkins leverages some high value coupons at nationwide retailers and eateries: (more…)
February 9, 2011
This in from frequent contributor Plamen. Google has shifted their current “Offers” down on the Places Page to the bottom of the Page. Plamen speculates its perhaps to make room for paid offers higher up the page. Google has in the past noted that they are continually testing page content and moving down and out those things that do not perform well:
Frequent commenter Earlpearl noticed this use of the 7-Pack to promote Hotpot. Clearly Google is using their many properties up to and including the main search engine results page to send users over to their new recommendation engine: (more…)
January 21, 2011
Update: Matt of Yelo.us, a local search marketing firm in NY, notes in his comments below that Google is already actively marketing this product in NY. He points to the Offers landing page where the program is described very briefly and there is a contact form to participate in the beta programs for Google Offers. On the page Google notes: Google Offers makes it easy for you to attract new customers and bring back old ones by enabling you to instantly post discounts and other types of special offers across Google properties.
Google has confirmed a Mashable report that they are testing a Groupon like product. Greg is also reporting on this at SEL.
Google is communicating with small businesses to enlist their support and participation in a test of a pre-paid offers/vouchers program. This initiative is part of an ongoing effort at Google to make new products, such as the recent Offer Ads beta, that connect businesses with customers in new ways. We do not have more details to share at this time, but will keep you posted.
Mashable is reporting that “that Google will pay out 80% of a business’ revenue share three days after its deal runs. Google will hold the remaining 20% for 60 days to cover refunds before sending the rest” and that it will be powered by Google Checkout.
Google renamed their coupon product to Offers on November 15th, just a mere two weeks prior to their discussions with Groupon becoming public. The purchase of Groupon made sense to me at the time and the development of a deal product now does as well.
Here is a slightly revised chart from that time frame of Google’s free and paid products for Local that shows how a Groupon like Offers product would fit in the mix…
December 1, 2010
David Mihm has an excellent piece (that I happen to agree with) on why Groupon in a broad sense is synergistic for Google. I think coupons and the new twist that Groupon brings to them will be a successful and profitable advertising medium. John Battelle thinks it worth significantly more than $2.5 billion. Greg Sterling though argues that it isn’t worth $5 billion and that very well could be true. But Google may be the only company for which the purchase makes sense at these levels.
I would like to add the following thoughts to the discussion. Greg has estimated to me that only 25% of all SMBs will ever be willing to participate in self serve internet advertising. The leaves the vast majority of local businesses not participating in and unaffected by most of what Google offers (Tags, Boost, Adwords) today.
I have estimated that Boost with a 10% adoption rate and an average $100/mo spend would generate $500 million a year in income. If it approached the 25% cap it would reach $1.2 billion with current adoption levels of 2 million claimed businesses. I have estimated that Tags, at a fixed spend of $25/mo and the same 10% has a much more limited short term potential of $60 million. Even as claimed listings grow, there is a very real top side expectation for both products in a self serve world.
Enter Groupon. It is a product that is already generating $500,000,000 in annual income. If Google did nothing else but add the revenue stream to Tags and Boost when it rolls out nationally, they would be at a $1 billion dollar in local ad revenue.
But Groupon also has staff on the ground trained in selling new media. The portfolio for these sales people would immediately increase with a buyout. And an impressive portfolio it would be. These folks could lead with a Groupon deal and then lock in a monthly recurring revenue source with Boost or Adwords. If their selling efforts for Groupon were a bust initially, they could still start folks with Tags and demonstrate the significant benefits of local internet advertising and of claiming their listing in Places and move on to Boost and Groupon down the road.
This purchase would not just give Google a successful, easy to explain coupon product for SMBs (and national players to add to the Adwords revenue stream) but it would give them an on the ground sales force with an actual foot in the door of the other 75% of businesses that would never self serve. It is conceivable to me that just by adding these products to the portfolio and pitching them in person Tags and Boost sales would skyrocket immediately.
Google would have in place Free (Places, Offers), Good (Tags, Tagged Offers), Better (Boost, *?) and Best (Adwords, Groupon) product offerings in both a self serve and full service model that could scale from the single shop to the national retail chain, nationally and internationally. It would cover 100% of the opportunity, have huge upside potential and start out of the gate with a roughly $1 billion highly profitable, income stream and a defensible position …
Investors may not like the economics and analyzed singly Groupon might not in fact make sense. But if Google could use the purchase to jumpstart and grow Boost, Tags and Adwords for local in the rest of the world, the potential of Groupon to them at least, is big.
Here is a chart of Google’s free and paid products for Local that shows how Groupon would fit in the mix…
November 24, 2010
Google Places Help: Instructions Included for Multi-Language Listings
Google has long noted that having the same listing in multiple languages was acceptable. If you were not extremely careful merging of the multi lingual listings might occur unless they had been bulk uploaded. Google has now updated the Places Help Pages to include instructions (if not warnings) as how to proceed:
In bilingual countries, it is possible to add your listing in each language spoken in that respective country.
If content of each language is very similar in only one field, such as describing ‘Most Famous Restaurant’, it’s possible to add each translation in every field. For example, use the following most famous restaurant / restaurant le plus célèbre.
If the content needs to be translated in each field, business owners should create a listing for each language. To change the language in your Places account, use the dropdown menu in the upper righthand corner of the web page.
Google Places Showing Related Places Twice On Page
This started showing up yesterday in Places… a bug? a feature? a test? an indicator of things to come? Hard to tell with Places these days…
Coupons Offers Now Showing in Maps List View
Slowly but surely Google
coupons Offers are working their way toward the surface of Google. As Greg Sterling points out, this is one market that Google had an early start in but never capitalized on. Offers are now starting to surface in Maps List View.
TechCrunch recently reported Coupons.com has reached the $ Billion dollar level in coupons printed. …. whether Google can play in the coupon area or needs to buy someone is unclear. What is clear is that Google obviously recognizes their importance to local marketing
November 15, 2010
You won’t have Google Coupons to kick around anymore. It appears that they are joining the witness protection program under a new name: Google Offers.
Google Coupons had been the Rodney Dangerfield of Google local products, always hidden, never talked about and for years, after an optimistic start in 2006, they languished.
Until Google removed the ability to easily search for coupons, it was obvious from my annual coupon survey that their y/y usage was declining and by early 2009 Google coupons seemed to be on life support.
They were hidden not just from my research efforts but from the eyes of consumers as well. Here is what I told an SMB poster in the support forum that was searching for his own coupon:
Coupon location is one of the best kept secrets of Google Maps. Even Maps Guide Jen has been known to have trouble locating them. The only entity totally capable of finding them after they have been posted is the GoogleBot. Occassionally they are spotted by humans but only after they have drilled into Maps quite deeply.
Over the past 16 months, the traditionally moribund coupon program has started seeing a slow and erratic rebirth, apparently speeding up over the past few months.
September 17, 2010
It appears that Google is bulking up Places Pages with coupons from CitySearch. I had not seen any third party coupons in Places previously but according to Google the ability for “various partners to make coupons and other content available on the Place page has been available for some time”.
I ran across the coupon sharing when the owner of the La Quinta Inn Sedona in Arizona noted in the forums that:
I’ve got a citysearch coupon showing up in my coupons section. I did not authorize any city search coupon and it is a SCAM and its causing problems with customers because they are seeing this stay for $45 a night coupon valid through to sept 16th. IF this is what things are going to be like when you sign up for google places then no. I will end the account today I will not put up with crap like that. These are dishonest b/s scam ads that are placed in a coupon section knowing it will cause problems.
Obviously not all of the kinks are worked out just yet. CItyGrid has noted that: “The coupon in question was created and approved by La Quinta Resorts corporate offices via their digital advertising agency. All offers created by Citysearch are approved and authorized by advertisers before loaded in our system.”
One of the interesting points about the coupon from CitySearch is that it is created using the Open Graph Protocol, (although apparently that is not used by Google, see below) a microformat that was originally announced by Facebook in April. This is the first use of the protocol I have seen in Local (although I must say, I hadn’t been looking). The initial version of the protocol is based on RDFa and it allows for location & human readable addresses (although it is not clear that this coupon did so):
The Open Graph protocol supports the ability for you to specify location information for your object. This is useful if your object is for a business or anything else with a real-world location. You can specify location via latitude and longitude, a full address, or both. The property names used are defined within the Microformat hCard.
Whether Google is using the Open Graph format to insert the coupons is unclear. Citysearch sent me the following: We wanted to clarify that Google is not scraping our content; we provide them with a feed to our data.
Chris Silver Smith noted the following:
Citysearch is apparently a data partner with Google Maps, so it isn’t clear to me that these pieces of data are being harvested via the semantically-marked coupons on Citysearch — they could be getting fed via Google Maps’ partner data format protocols.
It’s possible that Google Maps could harvest Open Graph content, and I’d even expect it might well happen, considering Google’s desire to get Facebook data by hook or by crook.
However, unless we can find instances where Google Maps appears to be harvesting Open Graph data from someone who isn’t formally a partner, I’m not sure it’s happening yet. I could be wrong. I don’t know of a way to easily tell the difference between data harvested through parsing a semantically formatted page versus through a separate data format like XML. The resultant data is generally the same either way..
For a good summary of the history of RDF & microformats, how they play into the web of things and how the Facebook Open Graph format fits into all of that read Facebook Open Graph: A new take on semantic web.
July 12, 2010
Since their inception, Google Coupons have been invisible to most searchers and offered little value to the SMB. Buried deep within the local listings and no front page exposure, they seemed to be the poor step child of the Google Maps world. Google Coupons are now beginning to be exposed to the the light of day and Google seems to be taking them more seriously. Will they soon be given more prominence?
I just received the following email from Google Coupon Support (who knew that there was actually a person or group that provided Google Coupon Support?):
Hello Mike Blumenthal,
This is to notify you that the following coupons in your Google Places account will expire in 6 days on 7/15/10.
We are sorry to bother you but we thought we’d let you know early, in case you wished to extend their lifetime or replace them. Please visit Google Places to extend the expiry date of your coupons or to replace them with new ones. After expiration, the coupons will no longer be displayed until they are renewed.
Google Coupon Support
(Note to Google: It is no bother, I actually like getting the occasional email from you. Even if the email is automated, it’s nice to at least know someone is at the Coupon switch…although I do find the tone oddly deferential)
Late last year, Google actively started cleaning out old coupons from listings and requiring an ending date be applied to all coupons. In August, Google allowed businesses to link directly to their coupons. Last November, Google created an option to show (but still hidden) coupons in the mobile environment. With the introduction of the paid Tags product, a business is now able to highlight their coupon in association with their listing and it they were ranking for a 7-Pack, it will show in the main SERP results.
And now this email communication reminding me to re-up a my (still nearly invisible) coupon. Google seems to be getting downright chatty in a new, more forward facing way as they start to promote themselves to SMBs.
I have long felt that coupons had a large untapped potential for certain business segments within Maps. It was always annoying to have the feature in place, all dressed but with nowhere to go. It seems, however slowly, that coupons are starting to poke their head out from the netherworlds of the interior of Maps. Perhaps Coupons will in fact rise from the dead within Maps and achieve their promotional potential for SMBs
June 10, 2010
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.