March 13, 2008
In November of 2oo7, I used Google’s coupon search function to estimate the total number of coupons that Google was showing in major markets. Google introduced the coupon program in August 2006 and they announced a partnership with ValPak to help promote coupon use shortly after.
Here are the numbers of coupons in NY, Chicago, San Francsico and Olean as of March, 2008 compared to November 2007:
|Total Coupons for search “City”
|Total for “City
+ Valpak” Nov. 2007
|Total Coupons for search “City”
|Total for “City
+ Valpak” Mar. 2008
|New York City
||18% overall increase despite 34% Valpak decrease
||4% increase despite 19% Valpak decrease
||34% increase despite 18% Valpak decrease
||what can you say? Its Olean.
||18% overall increase in 4 months despite 27% decrease in Valpak presence
Google Coupons have been the poor step child of the Maps world since their introduction. They just haven’t gotten any respect. Now though, four months after my first analysis, Google is seeing annualized growth rates of 54% despite the fact that it appears that ValPak now has a significantly lower presence. In fact if you calculate the growth in coupons just from the Local Business Center and remove ValPak from the equation, there has been growth of 171% on an annualized basis.
All of the old questions are still there: Why do they promote the program so little? Will it ever achieve greater exposure? Will it play a role in the world of coupons in the future?
And there now is a new question: Is ValPak cutting back its commitment to Google Coupons?
The total numbers are still low in an absolute sense but the growth rate augurs well given the low overall rates of growth that have been reported elsewhere in the online coupon segment. This growth has occurred despite a lack of promotion, virtually no visibility and a number of bugs in the coupon implementation in the Local Business Center.
February 13, 2008
In December I reported a Google Maps Coupon Bug where if you entered an expiration date the coupon would never show up. It appears that the bug still exists although in slightly less virulent form. There have been a number of reports in the Google Maps For Business Groups where if you select an expiration date the coupon defaults back to no expiration and no date appears on the coupon:
TOPIC: coupons not allowing expiration date
== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Tues, Feb 12 2008 7:01 am
Hmm…Jen I think you’re not understanding. Nobody is doing anything
wrong. Clicking on the radio button and selecting a future date from
the calendar then clicking on continue, results in being returned to
the local tab instead of coupons, then clicking on the coupon tab
reveals that the coupon is now activated but there is NO expiration
date, it says “Never Expires”. Going back into edit, shows that the
“Never expires” radio button is once again selected. We cannot set a
date and have it “stick”. It’s that simple. It’s not rocket science,
it’s just plain broken. I’ve tried it repeatedly with both Firefox
and ie7 and neither works. It appears that the only thing we users
can do, is to not use google coupons!
For now the only solution to having an expiration date is to manage the process manually. When you create a coupon, enter the expiration date manually on the coupon body and then be sure to remove the coupon at the end of your promotion
January 29, 2008
Yesterday I noted that Google Coupon results were showing up in the main search results page for coupon related search phrases. Miriam Ellis who writes a local oriented blog SEO Igloo asked whether using coupons for non-retail oriented deals was a useful strategy.
I have several local search clients that have added service oriented coupons in an effort to 1)test the coupon idea on the premise that they couldn’t hurt* and might generate direct traffic and 2)to see if they helped their rank in the local results. While we have not seen many coupon redemptions, it does appear to have a positive impact on the local standing.
However we had a pleasant surprise as in addition these coupon results also started showing up in the main search results pages for “general service + location” searches. Google Coupons are low cost and easy to implement. Given Google’s penchant for increasing “localness” in their search results, these coupons may just show up that much more often in the future.
For example on the search insurance Olean, NY the Google Coupon results linking to the client coupon are on the first page of the results:
*The Hippocratic Oath of Search: Do no harm.
Google has recently refined their coupon promotion techniques. One such refinement is including Google coupon results in the main search results page.
In November, 2007 Google started using Adwords to promote coupons. For specific searches (pizza coupon) google would present Adwords that would take the user directly to view local coupons in Maps. Now on these specific searches Google is promoting Adwords to restauranteurs instead.
Of more interest and of more impact is the change in how Google is handling results on more general and higher volume coupon searches. On the coupon search phrase like “Coupon Buffalo, NY” Google is now integrating a link to their coupons very high in the ogranic results. In this example the coupon link appears above the Expanded Local OneBox.
The take away: Anyone creating local search marketing campaigns needs to consider the value of coupons and whether they can achieve some additional exposure by using Google Coupons. Particularly now while the coupon inventory in Google is the opportunities to be found are greater. It is also possible that coupon ranking authority may be related to the age of the coupon.
December 31, 2007
December 27, 2007
Interesting article in the NY Times today, Shifting Coupons, From Clip and Save to Point and Click about the leading print media coupon company’s move into on-line copupons. Vallassis Communications is creating a new coupon portal & brand: RedPlum.com to cater to woman “discount seekers”.
According to the aricle : RedPlum will join a small cadre of similar sites, like CoolSavings.com, Coupons.com and ValPak.com, that have struggled to build traffic and wean consumers off paper coupons. In the 12 months that ended in October, the number of visitors to coupon sites grew by only 6 percent over the previous year, to 20.3 million from 19.1 million, according to ComScore, an Internet marketing research company.
This slow growth of on-line coupons is evident in Google Coupons as well. There appears to be little or no growth in either coupon users or total coupon creation.
Even though Google has been actively promoting coupons via AdWords for over a month, they have only snagged 500 some odd subscriptions to their coupon service via Google Co-op.
Total coupons available through Google Coupons for the major markets seems to have stayed even or declined in the same timeframe with some markets showing as much as an 18% decline in total coupons. (more…)
November 26, 2007
Google Coupons now offers the ability to return Coupons in your main search results via the Google Co-op. When you select the above button from Google Coupon search you will be asked to log in and taken to this page at Google Co-op beta for a subscription confirmation:
You can add information created by Coupons to your Google search results pages by subscribing to their Subscribed Links.
Whenever you search on Google in an area of their expertise, the first result you see will be relevant content they provide.
To subscribe to Coupons, select the Subscribe button below. To learn more about Coupons, you can visit their Google Co-op profile page and then subscribe from there.
On the profile page are presented with additional information about the Coupon Subscription from the Co-op (note that currently 57 others have subscribed):
You are then shown what your subscribed link will look like on the main results page:
November 21, 2007
Google has started to advertise their Coupon search capability with Google Adwords (thanks to FathomSeo for great screen shots of this and the heads up).
When searching on “pizza coupons”, the Pizza Coupons adword results take you to your local ads apparently based on your user profile and/or location. I for example, was shown coupons for Allegany NY when I clicked through the ad on the right (see image below).
When searching on just “coupons”, the ad takes a viewer to the Local Business Center to add a coupon to their business record.
Given Google’s recent addition of coupon oriented domains and their new searchable coupon interface, this new forward facing promotion was to be expected.
Today Google has confirmed that ValPak has certain coupon size and layout benefits that are not available to all businesses when they upload their coupons to the Local Business Center.
There are currently three levels of coupons creation that we know about:
1-Local Business Center where a business can create coupons one at a time. This is offers the fewest graphic and content options.
2-The Coupon Feed which allows for more graphics and content.
3-The ValPak Feed which allows for bigger & more graphics and multiple coupons.
When I inquired about the differences Map Guides Jen responded:
== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Tues, Nov 20 2007 9:19 am
From: “Maps Guide Jen”
Sure, here’s what insight I can provide. If you upload coupons using a feed (see this page ), you can include enhanced content like images, barcodes, and logos. As you can see, the appearance of Valpak-provided coupons is slightly unique. This helps Valpak merchants recognize their coupons.
In August of 2006, when Google announced their Coupon feature in Maps they also announced their relationship with ValPak. Obviously, Google benefits from ValPak by being able to quickly populate their coupon inventory. In some markets, ValPak provides as many as 75% of all coupons.(see my previous article on Coupon penetration)
The differences are more than a slightly unique:
â€¢ The coupon provider logo should be 100 x21 pixels, Valpak’s logo is 120 pixels by 34
â€¢ The image filed is indicated may be up to 120 pixels high and 120 pixels wide and there is no provision for business logo. The Valpak coupons provide a business logo that is 155 x 103
â€¢ There appears to no allowance in the upload feed for multiple coupons like ValPak is able to do
â€¢ There appears to be no provision for the inclusion of your business logo in list view
As long as coupons have played such a minor role in the real world of Google search, this type of difference in allowing more technical clients (read larger & with more money) access to additional features and allowing one client (ValPak) the most features is a non-issue. However, as soon as Google moves coupons to the surface of the main results page, this discrepancy will become problematic.
November 7, 2007
As oil prices inch toward $100 a barrel and the price of gasoline is once again rising towards $4.00/gal, it appears that Google will step into the breach and offer stress relief via directions.
The AP reports in Latest Additive at Gas Pumps: Google that “As part of a partnership to be announced Wednesday, the online search leader will dispense driving directions at thousands of gasoline pumps across the United States beginning early next month. ” They also note: “Unlike most of Google’s services, this one won’t include ads bringing the company income. But participating retailers will be able to make extra money from other merchants that offer coupons on the service.”
It is not clear whether this move includes Google Coupons and their monetization or printed coupons from other local merchants managed by the pump provider.
One assumes that if it were Google they would use their existing Coupon infrastructure for coupon creation. Clearly, the presence of Google Maps and Coupons at the pump could dramatically increase visibility of both Maps and Coupons and push their coupon effort to the forefront. Minimally, if they are not Google Coupons but those provided by the pump vendor, it provides a huge visibility boost to Maps. Perhaps Google has found another ValPak like partner to create additional coupon inventory for driving internet and mobile traffic?
According to Information Week “While of limited use to motorists, the initial service gives (the gas) retailers the tools to enter marketing deals with local businesses. Besides offering maps to locations, gas station owners could also offer coupons to try to drive traffic to local merchants.”
While it seems that Google will not be monetizing coupons, it is still not clear whether tbey will become a source for coupons for Google Maps.