Why Groupon Makes Sense (to Google)

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…
Continue reading Why Groupon Makes Sense (to Google)

Google Places Verifying Business Listing Discrepancies with Owner

A number of users have sent me copies of a recent email communication that Google Places is sending to claimed business where there is possible problem with the listing. The emails detail potentially conflicting information with the listing when compared to information that Google has about the business in the “cluster”.

In one email example sent to the owner of a merged record, Google suggested a category that Google thought was more appropriate. The category was obviously for the other business in the merge and was inappropriate for this business. It was fascinating that Google was not accepting on face value the categories entered by the business owner.

In another example noted in the forums, Google couldn’t verify the street address that the business was using, perhaps because of the improper abbreviation of the word terrace. Google noted:

You provided:   20814 Houseman terr, Ashburn VA 20148, United States
Google was unable to identify the correct physical address for this business. This address is required for verification. Please edit your listing, and add the real, physical address. You can later choose to hide it from your Place Page, if your business doesn’t have a storefront or office.

Here is the copy of the email I received this evening for a listing that I manage:

Please review your listing

Hello from Google Places,

To help people searching for businesses like yours, Google is always working to improve the accuracy of local business listings. While reviewing your Places listing for Sundahl & Co Insurance, we found that this business may be permanently closed.

Is this place closed?

Sundahl & Co Insurance
58 Derrick Rd.
Bradford PA 16701
United States

Please log in to your Places account and let us know if this business is still open. If we don’t hear from you before January 31, 2011, we may remove this listing.

Thank you,

The Google Places Team

© 2010 Google Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043

Email Preferences: You have received this mandatory email service announcement to update you about important changes to your Google Places product or account.

The email is a refreshing effort to verify discrepancies with the cluster BEFORE a drastic, business affecting change takes place. It is also an effort to align the content of the Places page with Google’s best known information about the Place.

In my case, there has been a persistent record popping up for the business at their old address which was marked as closed. It is possible that the information from the old address, although closed, merged into the cluster for the current listing. Google’s misunderstanding in the situation is understandable.

This new outreach allows Google to double check information in the cluster against the person or people best able to suggest its accuracy… the business owners. It is a welcome step and one that should minimize improper closings, mergings and other errors and use owner provided data at lest when Google trusts the owner’s input.

Props to Google Places!

Here are the screen shots from the process of providing Google from the owner’s point of view… Continue reading Google Places Verifying Business Listing Discrepancies with Owner

How Long Has Marissa M Been Testing Hotspot?

Gary Danko, is not the sort of restaurant that I would typically eat at, not that I wouldn’t like to try it one day. Dinners run towards $200/ head. While, it is unlikely I ever will eat there, the many, many reviews provide for some interesting reading.

Amrita – Aug 12, 2010
The seared foie gras is to die for. also, don’t go with more than three courses unless you are *really* starving

I presume that the word starving is not meant literally in this context.

But it also appears to be a favorite haunt for Googlers, particularly those on the Maps team. This includes both long time veterans and some recent arrivals. In the body of reviews there are some interesting narratives and insights (both real and imagined).

Carter doesn’t appear all that cracked up about the place giving it but a one star Hotpot rating. Lior Ron, a senior product manager on the Maps team on the other hand ate there on September 18th and gave it 5 stars.  Marissa M also seemed to really enjoy it here, giving it a 5 star rating. Continue reading How Long Has Marissa M Been Testing Hotspot?

Google Places Search -Layout Experiments Continue

Whether Google is testing more on Thanksgiving or whether folks are searching more to avoid watching that football game with their relatives, I am not sure. But yesterday two readers of this blog sent me screenshots of different layouts involving Places search.

Dennis Brennan sent me these screen shots showing the related searches appearing where the ads normally appear and the ads appearing at the bottom…

Here is the bottom screen shot from the search showing the ads:
Continue reading Google Places Search -Layout Experiments Continue

Google Hotspot Influence Rolling Across All of Google Local

We continue to learn about changes across all of Google local products as Hotspot is further integrated into the rating and review process. Lat Long Blog points out that Places will now include a new section highlighting recommendations from friends:

I noted in Rating are the new Reviews that Google was now allowing rating in Places. Actually it is much more pervasive than that as they can now be made in all of the following Google products:

To rate a business on desktop, simply hover over rating stars anywhere you see them. Here are places you’ll see the rating stars, on your computer.

With your mobile device, you can rate places while on the go. You’ll see the rating stars several places on your phone.

  • Google Maps mobile app for Android
  • Places Android app
  • Android home screen rating widget
  • Mobile Place pages

Google Places Odds and Ends

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:

Multi-Language Listings

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…

Google 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

Google Places Quality Guidelines Comparison

The newest Places Quality guidelines include a number of significant changes.

In this update Google has not just added new rules but has removed a few specific guidelines from the previous set. A significant one that was noted by Linda Buquet was the removal of the following phrase in regards to content used in the description and the custom attribute fields: This type of content should never appear in your business’s title, address or category fields. It won’t be missed as it was a nearly impossible guideline to comply with.

Google is formally embracing an idea that was previously accepted by them of allowing creation of one listing per practitioner, and one listing for the office. They are also making their clearest statement yet about virtual businesses and their relationship to Places: Only businesses that make in-person contact with customers qualify for a Google Places listing.

Besides the obvious ban on the common use of Tag lines in a business name and the ban on the use of keyword information in the address field, the biggest changes and ones that will be hard to comply with, (and interesting to see how it is enforced) are the changes on categorization.

Here is a comparison of the previously published guidelines to the new ones on a line by line basis to help better understand these changes. I have italicized the differences in both directions if a significant rule was removed from the older guidelines. Continue reading Google Places Quality Guidelines Comparison

Google Places: Are Ratings the New Reviews?

If likes are the new links then ratings are the new reviews. At least as far as Google is concerned as they continue to integrate elements from Hotpot into Places.

I noted the other day that Google was integrating HotSpot friend recommendations in personalized Map results. They are also now including a new rating level with an eye-catching Best Ever ribbon/icon from Hotpot on the Places Pages.

This sort of additional ego boost might just incent business owners to train their customers how to use Google Hotspot. If Google adds some ranking strength to the signal, business owners will be crashing down the gates to get the rating.

The new Google HotPot offers a more relaxed user feedback environment than Google Places, allowing for just a star rating and a quick sentiment (for hotels & restaurants) but also encouraging, although not requiring, a brief review.

Google Places has recently added the ability to add this simpler, quick Hotpot like star rating to businesses that show in the Related Places area of the Place page (When did they change the name from Nearby Places You Might Like?). The option is only available on Places that have previously received Google reviews.

Continue reading Google Places: Are Ratings the New Reviews?

Google Places Now Requiring New “Places Profile” For Reviews

Several weeks ago, before, during and after the Hotspot rollout, newly created reviews from reviewers with non-public Google profiles were having their Places reviews filtered. I tested this by writing a number of reviews, over time and many places in a secondary account. All of the reviews were accepted, none were published.

Google has now implemented a new, limited review profile called a “Places Profile” that allows reviews  to be shown but requires a new, quasi private profile with at least a public nickname to proceed.

If a current Google account user without a public profile attempts to write a review on a business Place Page without this new Places profile they will see this message on the Places Page and will be unable to proceed until they visit Hotspot and enter their “nickname” (click to view larger) :


They are taken over to Hotspot and presented with this screen:

Continue reading Google Places Now Requiring New “Places Profile” For Reviews

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