Google Map’s Coupons: My Coupon is bigger than Your Coupon

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”

Hello,

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.

Thanks,
Jen

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:

• The coupon provider logo should be 100 x21 pixels, Valpak’s logo is 120 pixels by 34
• 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
• There appears to no allowance in the upload feed for multiple coupons like ValPak is able to do
• 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.

Local Links of Interest

Google may be a distance second in mapping to Mapquest, be struggling to gain a solid number one position in Local search, have but one cell tower and 0% market share of the cellphone OS system market but you wouldn’t know it from their coverage in the search and mainstream press. They seem to be getting 90% of the market share of news on their efforts in local and local mobile of late:

• google has even bigger plans for mobile phones (WSJ)

•Google Maps Goes Wikimapia, Lets The People Move The Map Points (Greg Sterling – SearchEngineLand)

•Google: ‘Seven Figures’ Have Used the LBC (Greg Sterling – Screenwerk)

• Monetizing Google Platforms? (Bill Slawski – SeoBytheSea.com)

Here a few interesting forum discussions about Google Maps and its effects on local websites (thanks to Dave):

•How To Get My Business To Show Up As A Map In Google SERPs (WebmasterWorld)

•Is Google Maps important for your Web site? Better Get into the top 3!!! (SEORefugee)

Google Maps: Edit at your own risk – Google acknowledges bug

Google has recently acknowledged a serious bug when modifying a local business record in Google’s Local Business Center:

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Fri, Nov 16 2007 2:20 pm
From: “Maps Guide Jen”

Hi All,

I just wanted to soothe any alarm caused by this known issue:
You go in to edit your listing and add a number of details including hours,
photos, etc. Your listing disappears from Google Maps.

Don’t be alarmed! We know this is happening and we’re working madly to
resolve it. I’ll keep you posted!

Thanks for your attention.
Maps Guide Jen

Google Coupons to expand via Pump??

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?

Udpate:

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.

How many Google Coupons are there?

The new ability to search Google Coupons offers an intriguing glimpse through the window into the world of Google’s coupon efforts. Coupons have the potential to both drive local usage and further monetize local business data for Google. With internet search, Coupons could provide a new interface/access point for visitation and searching of local business data. It is easy to imagine a link at the top of the main Google search page or a link for coupons in the Local OneBox results that bargain hunters used regularly. With any number of web 2.0 technologies, Google could spread coupons across the internet as well. In fact the ready availability of coupons on Google might broaden the use of coupons in general.

Coupons could also provide a means of monetizing Goog-411(and SMS & Google Maps) service by providing pay per call coupons directly to your cell phone. Ad supported free 411 services (like Jingle 411) are intrusive. A service though that offered an optional, relevant coupon to a 411 inquiry would probably be welcomed by its users.

However, since Google Coupons has been introduced, why has Google been so reticent to promote coupons? And how successful has Google been at gathering coupons since the programs inception? Just how many coupons are there and how many were created by the small businesses using Google’s Local Business Center?
Continue reading

Ghoulgle-411

Google may be getting big, and they may do some evil but unlike Microsoft they can still manage to make me smile and even laugh with some of their marketing.

Goog-411 started adding a range of introduction voices in August (see The many voices of Goog411, dude!) including children’s voices and voices with distinctive accents. For today they recorded their newest Ghoulgler for the intro. If you don’t use Goog-411 regularly you may listen to this mp3 recording of a recent call:

Ghoulgle.mp3

Google Click to Call making guest appearances in effort to revive career

It appears that Google is once again experimenting with click to call in both Maps yesterday in India’s Google Local) and Adwords (reported earlier this month in the US).

The phone call is a critical step in the purchase process for consumers that start their search on the internet and according to Nielson research reported by Greg Sterling, “68% said they would most likely use the phone number on the website to contact a vendor”.

“This suggests that phone tracking should be used, if not already, to prove value to local search advertisers. It captures the dominant user method of making contact, which might otherwise be invisible to local businesses. It also argues indirectly in favor of pay per phone call.”

Google’s experimented with “click to call” in Adwords several years ago and in Local Search earlier this year. The Maps based click to call was discontinued in July of this year.

Their continuing experimentation implies that there are still “issues”, that Google is still working on the service and that at it will ultimately create that last link between searchers and the local business.

Google Coupons Now has searchable interface

Google Coupons are one of the great underpromoted features of Google Maps. It came, we saw and it didn’t conquer. Not because it couldn’t but it just seems to be one of those Google technologies that is languishing in the backwaters of some engineer’s 20% project.A recent query at the Google Maps for Business Group about why ValPak’s coupons were larger than his coupons got me to poking around coupons once again.What I found was a (buried) upgraded local like interface that allows a users to search for all coupons in a given area or all coupons in a certain industry in an area. For example you may search on “all coupons in Olean NY” or “restaurant coupons in Buffalo NY.Why coupons continue to be the poor step child in Google’s local arsenal is beyond me. Google could easily provide an interface to allow websites to embed these coupons either via an api, rss feed or an iframe (like Maps). This would at least offer the coupons some visibility and a way out of the dark basement of Google Maps.In September the InsideGoogle Blog noted a slew of new Google Coupon domains including Google-Coupons.com and CouponGoogle.com are now registered and controlled by Google. Perhaps this new (maybe its not new but it is obviously hard to find) interface upgrade and the new domains portend the first step in rolling out a more prominent coupon program.Google Coupon Search Interface

Developing Knowledge about Local Search