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?
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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

Problems in the Google Local Business Center: Awaiting Next Update

Here are today’s topics in the Google Maps for Business Blog:

•waiting for business listing update
•Awaiting Next Update since Oct 5 2007
•Why isn’t my business showing?
•Awaiting next update
•How to correct listing errors (bulk upload succeeded, but some errors remain)
•Awaiting next update, Which decade?
•Making my business visable
•Awaiting Next Update
•Not listing

If you notice literally 9 out of the 10 postings refer to “Awaiting Next Listing” or “Not showing”. These posts are from small business owners that thought they had gone through the steps that Google indicated and still perceive that they have a problem with their local listing not showing up within the time indicated..(the 10th listing reflects the problems that people have with the bulk updating procedure which is a story for another day). Upon investigation it is almost impossible to tell exactly what these problems really are because the posters rarely if ever provide enough detail and obviously, rarely if ever read the previous posts.

On one level these problems reflect the larger problem of self provisioning and the difficulty in providing a system that is understandable by most small business people. However the problem also reflects problems with Google Local Business Center interface and procedures.

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Goog-411 Gathering data for gPhone’s Targeted Ads?

Could Bill Slawski’s reporting on a new Google patent provide answers to many of the questions about Goog-411?

I have been curious about the recent Goog-411’s recent billboard campaign and the unusual distribution of the billboards. The boards have been reported in very limited geographic areas around San Francisco and Western New York with showings in settings both very rural and very urban. The ValleyWag had speculated that the billboard experiment was a test for a billboard ad distribution system. That seemed unlikely.

Bill Slawski’s recent article: Second Thoughts on a GPhone: Privacy and Targeted Ads offers specifics on a Google patent that allows for much more interesting speculation about the role of the Goog-411 billboards and Goog-411 itself.

Bill details a patent the describes the collection of caller data that would allow for delivery of targeted mobile ads:

Numbers dialed might be used to look up related information, such as:

  • Geographic locations of the called numbers
  • Names of persons called
  • Names of businesses called
  • Names of organizations called
  • Types of business called
  • Types of organizations called

The above are all things that Goog-411 can and probably does track. He goes on to describe how the patent envisions that this information could be expanded to develop a profile for business types, product types that a caller was looking for as well as a caller profile that inferred ethnicity, economic class, interests and likes. The system could even track post call connection data:

As an example of using such key presses, instead of simply noting that the user called a local theater, by analyzing the voice prompts (which might have been previously crawled (e.g., a list of numbers of voice message systems could be called and crawled by entering numbers) and analyzed (e.g., using speech recognition for example)) and responsive key press responses, it might be learned that the user was interested in a specific movie (”Finding Nemo” versus “The Matrix”), not just that they called a movie theater.

This could result in ads being served related to that specific movie, or based on the genre of the movie (e.g., children’s movies versus action and science fiction movies).

Such a system may require a device that would call dialed numbers (that were followed with further dialed digits), and utilizing speech recognition technology, learn which terms were associated with each of the possible choices.(bold is mine as this is just what Goog-411 does)

Which brings us back to some questions about Goog-411 and its ad campaign:

•Why roll out Goog-411 for free?

•Why have such a limited roll out of billboards?

•Why are these billboards in Limestone, Olean, Buffalo, NY & Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, Ca.?

•When will it be monetized and how?

Bill’s patent offers several interesting clues to these questions. For ad delivery on both the ever mythic gPhone and Goog-411 to really work, it needs both volume and relevancy. Relevancy can best be achieved by sampling a broad spectrum of users, users that come from a broad range of geographic, ethnic and economic status.

The billboards certainly are distributed in a way that data collected from responses to the ad would reflect many purchaser architypes and interests that Google seems to be looking for in their patent.

What better way to develop this data for the gPhone (or any mobile ad delivery system) than using Goog-411?

Google Local Business Center listings propagate like rabbits

googlelocal1.jpgBirds do it, bees do it and apparently Google’s Local Data does it too….recreates your business record like crazy. Some sort of asexual digital reproduction I suppose as some business records start appearing in Google Maps multiple times…not just once or twice but possibly as many as 4 or more (users report as many as 12 records).

Its disconcerting for a business owner to search Google Maps for their single store listing record only to find a plethora of them, some accurate and some not. The problem is widely reported in The Google Groups for Business forum.

The problem partially stems from from lesss than clear instructions in the Local Business Center. If you “delete” a record from your Business Center it actually returns to the index. You are in fact just deleting it from your Business Center control panel. It is necessary to “suspend” your record instead. While this contributes to the multiple listing problem and makes managing them more difficult it is not the core of the problem.

Google’s algorythm (originally described here and here by Bill Slawski) aggregates information on businesses from multiple data sources and websites. These sources are as varied as Yelp, its own indexes, internet yellow page sites, InfoUSA and other buinessnes listing aggregators.

In the ideal world their local algo sifts through all of that data,matches data source X with list Y and successfully creates or augments your business record in Google’s Local data set. It then presents the for the business owners control in the Local Business Center.

But the world of local data and Google’s manipulation of it is far from ideal. Apparently when records are scoured from across Google’s multiple data sources they frequently show up as a new records rather than merged with the existing (hopefully accurate) record.

Google’s expectation is that the business owner will take control of these additional listings and suspend them as appropriate and then wait the 6 to 8 weeks for Google to update their local index. This decidedly low tech response to a hi-tech problem has proven frustrating for the many business owners that comment on the Google’s Maps for Business Group.

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