Google Coupons Continue Their Rise From the Dead

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

Google Maps Offering 30 days of FREE advertising with Google Tag Sign Up

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 ( – 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 Maps: Melbourne Web Designers – A Mosh pit of Decay

I lived in Kenya for several years in the mid 70s. About every 6 weeks I would take the train from Nairobi to the funky seaport of Mombassa and upon arrival at the coast, would frequent a local bar where the beer was cheap, the ambiance authentic and “working” women would congregate. I would enter, they would buzz around me for a few minutes until they realized that I was just getting a beer and would soon return to their tables. On occasion I would strike up a conversation and learn the women’s back story which usually involved a missing or worthless husband and the need to send their children to school or to support aging parents.

It was always a cordial environment until the sailors from a recently ported US Navy ship would hit the scene. It would become a mosh pit of human wants and needs with a frenzy of negotiation and resolution. Human relations had been reduced to the value of a few shillings. It was never clear who was the exploited and who was the exploiter. To think that it was victimless was and is naive but the Navy obviously was aware of the scene and for reasons of their own, never intervened to change it.

The other day, I was looking at the listings for Web Design Melbourne.  I was examining the listings there on behalf of Paul of Simple I.D., a hard working web design firm in Melbourne, that was struggling with the affects of a recent move and lamenting his invisibility within Maps.

It quickly became clear that every cheap and not so cheap trick to manipulate Google Maps to get an edge was in play. It reminded me of that  scene at that bar so many years ago, a mosh pit of base human activity  where the only important thing in the end was to gain the edge and get what was wanted.

So why is Google letting these listings stand? Continue reading Google Maps: Melbourne Web Designers – A Mosh pit of Decay

Google Testing New, More Integrated Local Search SERPs

Update 7/6 1:02 P.M.: Google’s Elaine Filadelfo (Global Communications & Public Affairs) noted: It is an experiment — we’re continually trying out new tweaks to a portion of our users.

Google is always testing new layouts and changes to the main SERPs but these screens shot captured on July 3rd & 4th by Linda Buquet of Catalyst eMarketing indicate Google’s willingness to experiment with bold departures from past displays for Local results. I was unable to replicate Linda’s results although she saw them over several days on different searches:

Here are Linda’s notes from her emails:

Search term: Dentist Chicago (FYI I am using FF) Double checked and it’s not some weird caching error because other dentist/city searches come up the old way.

In case I’m only seeing it on my datacenter and you are seeing something different, I’m attaching screenshots.

1)    The Places listings are BIGGER and look like the organic results except they have a map pin.
2)    As you scroll down the MAP scrolls with you. So even when you are at bottom of page in the organic listings the map moves down and shows on right.
3)    ONLY 7 (purely) organic listings show and in this instance most are directories or assn. Only 2 are Dentists.
4)    To get on the top TWO screens you need to be in local. Most of the organic are 2 screens BELOW the fold.
5)    Reviews are more prominent
6)    Link to Place Page is marked as such, instead of just “More Info” which means better branding and name recognition for Google Places
7) It’s pulling meta description from the site – just like organic.
PLUS it adds some snippets from reviews on the Place page. So best of both worlds and BIGGER!

I would add that the results also now include links to the review sites from which Google received the reviews and includes more information about some but not all of the businesses. Note that when Local shows at the top of the page, only 3 local results are shown above the fold making positions 4 through 7 much less valuable real estate than currently.

In the results above the fold, information from the website’s meta description tag are included with the listing. These seem to be absent from those below the fold perhaps due to lack of relevance to the search. The replacing of business name with the website title tag is an interesting choice. Is it possible that Google trusts a website title tag more than a business name used in Places? If so, it could be interpreted as a tacit acknowledgement of the massive amount of business title spam that Google Maps has generated.

Google appears to be attempting to provide a direct answer to the searcher without their needing to leave Google’s home page. It also seems to be an experiment in more fully integrating organic and local results into a single unified display although those listings with local content have a strong visual edge and enhanced content.

If a searcher needs more information, Google has made their own content and that of the reviewers more easily accessible to the searcher, potentially reducing website visits for the site owner but increasing them for review sites.

Google is always testing so whether this new display will see broader exposure is unknown. It is of interest that the direction that they seem to be pointing is towards tighter integration of organic and local search.

Here are several more of Linda’s screen shots. One of the information below the fold where the balance of the 7 pack and the non local organic listings are shown as well and a second of a search in which the new local/organic listings appeared mid page: Continue reading Google Testing New, More Integrated Local Search SERPs

GetListed Local U Cleveland Wrap Up

Local University Cleveland went off incredibly well despite some unexpected speaker changes. Mary Bowling was laid up with a health problem and Google was not able to attend at the last minute due to some confusion or another. But David Mihm, Matt McGee and I held down the presentation fort with the more than able bodied & insightful support of Anita Campbell of Small Biz Trends/BizSugar, the effervescence of Maryam Gholami of Bing and Geoff Karcher of the Karcher Group.

GetListed Local University is always a fun event for me (despite having to redo my presentation at midnight the night before due to the Google no show) because I get to spend time with great people. The most fun is that I meet other business owners and practitioners that have been reading my blog and I get to meet the folks in Cleveland that were so very helpful putting on the event.

Anita Campbell of SmallBizTrends/BizSugar, Collyn Floyd of the Karcher Group, Brad Nellis of NEOSA/COSE, John Denny & Julie Provins of & Joel Libava, The Franchise King all did an incredible job of executing the event and attracting attendees. Google, Bing & Universal Business Listings provided much appreciated sponsorship support. We could not have done it without all of their help.

Always astounding is that other professionals are willing to travel to join the session. Folks came in from Pittsburgh, Detroit, Hamilton, Minneapolis, NJ, and Kansas.

To all, I say a hearty and heartfelt THANKS!

For those of you that couldn’t come, here are some photos that I took of the event.

Here are some other round ups of the Local U:
Jim Rudnick: #LocalU Conference a Cleveland Success, eh!
More Photos From Local U Cleveland

GetListed Local U, Cleveland

Today, I am presenting at the second third Local University in the Cleveland. If you are coming PLEASE take a moment to introduce yourself as I would love to meet you.

For those of you that attended the presentation these links will provide background information and details for a pathway to dig deeper into the world of managing your listing on Google Maps. For those of you that are not in attendance, the slides provide a good overview of critical base line ideas and tactics that every local campaign should embrace.

Slide 2 – March 2010 Search Engine Market Share
Slide 8/9 – The Importance of Page One Visibility
Slides 11/12 – How the Google Cluster Works
Slide 15- Choosing the Right Category – A Tool
Slide 15 – Writing a Great Business Description
Slide 16 – Creating a GeoSitemap – A tool
Slide 22/23 Local Search Ranking Factors – the many variables
Slide 22/23 A brief list of 10 Ranking Factors – somewhat old but still valid and a quick read
Slide 22/23 Thinking about your Business Name in the Internet Era
Slide 23 – Custom Maps – A Goldmine
Slide 23- The Importance of Citations
Slide 23 – 20 Citation Sources in the US
Slide 23 – User Generated Content – Geo Tagged Photos
Slide 23 – How To Gather Reviews
Slide 23- Where to Gather Reviews
Slide 24- A Listing management tool

Google Tags now Available in 29 States and the District of Columbia

Two weeks ago, Google announced that they would be rolling their new simple, fixed price advertising product out gradually to the whole of the U.S. Last night Google made good on the first phase of that rollout. Tags is now available in 29 states and the District of Columbia. From their Places Help Article:

Advertising options: Where are tags available?

Google Tags is currently available in the following U.S. locations:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisianna
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Washington DC
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Interestingly, none of the bigger northeast States, including NY, Ohio and Pennsylvannia, made the first cut.

Yelp Reviews Back in Google Maps as their .COM Growth Stops

Yelp’s relationship with Google Maps has been off and on again. Their reviews have disappeared and reappeared on Google Maps over the past 3 years as Google’s and Yelp’s relationship has waxed and waned. But the relationship now seems to be on once again. About 10 days ago Yelp’s reviews again started showing up on Places Pages. I would posit that this reinclusion reflects Yelp’s need to buttress and improve their traffic short haul while they implement the changes necessary to fend off the location based startups.

Yelp has been the hot local site from 2007 through last year and their numbers reflected their meteoric growth on the desktop. But their .com growth in unique visitors and page views started to decline last August and has continued downward throughout this year. At the end of April, Compete shows their unique visitors to be in the 25 million range, down from the 30 million last August.

Some of the slowdown on the desktop has been taken up with growth in mobile and particularly the iPhone. Yelp notes that they had 1.4 million visitors over the past 30 days via their iPhone app. That amounts to ~3% of their total visitors and does not make up for the almost 20% decline in their .com usage.

(click to view larger)

The numbers and their decision to allow Google to include their reviews suggest that Yelp’s transition to a general purpose review site has not taken off as they had planned. Long haul, Yelp does need to keep their eye on the many location based competitors. That being said, it seems even more important that they keep their eye, short term, on their main competitor in the review space, Google Maps. It appears to me that their need for growth and traffic has won out over their obvious points of contention with Google.

From a practical viewpoint, it demonstrates why any SMB needs to continue to gather reviews from a wide range of sources as the vagaries of these corporate relationships change, you don’t want to be caught in the crossfire.

Google Begins Nationwide Rollout of Tags and Adds New Features

Google Tags on MobileGoogle 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.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search