Google Acquires Incentive Targeting For Coupon Programs

Mike Dudas of Google just tweeted that Google has acquired Incentive Targeting to power highly targeted manufacturer and private label coupon programs. He noted that “Incentive Targeting..[does] for retail couponing what Google [does] for online advertising: make simple, relevant, measurable, & effective”

It would appear that the acquisition is for both talent and IP. And as Greg Sterling points out strategic. The company website notes that their “patent-pending technology allows non-technical marketing executives to design sophisticated, relevant promotions—and measure ROI in real time—directly over the Internet”. The product is interesting because it will deliver the coupon either via cell phone & social networks or via traditional methods of print and register receipt AND closes the loop for easy redemption and tracking.

It is an intriguing acquisition in a number of ways. It obviously puts Google directly into the coupon business. In the past they have never committed to couponing in any significant way and it had been said that Larry Page in fact had a disdain for coupons. Their past behaviors have certainly reflected a certain schizoid, on again off again approach to coupons.

This product, while currently serving large chains and manufacturers, could readily scale down to a single merchant and fit into the SMB dashboard/integrated marketing portal that is rumored to be in the works. Imagine a single location grocery store or our local 30 location chain being able to have an advertising person easily issue coupons across media & track the results in real time. It sounds like a winner to me. It could obviously move beyond groceries as well.

Now lets hope that it sees the light of day sooner than Google’s last local purchases of PunchD and TalkBin.

Ah… the Irony Of Google Local – International number handling issue is solved, no it isn’t

There has been a persistent bug in G+ Local’s (mis)handling of international phone numbers that Barry pointed out in his blog today. This problem has been on-going for a number of months and Google is aware of the issue.

However I found the irony of these two posts showing together in my G+ stream too rich to not note. As I pointed out in another post that in Google Local:

Google’s policy of release early and iterate often and innovate often, leads to more than its fair share of bugs particularly when they forget the iterate often part.

Google+ Page 500 Error Bug & Work Around

There has a been a persistent, infrequent bug in the management of merged Google+ Pages for local where the owner of the page is unable to access the management of the page and receives a 500 Error from Google. Google knows about the bug but has been unable to quash it as of yet.

Kaleh, a Top Contributor in the Google for Business forum with lots of experience on the Plus side of the house had this to suggest.

Another option to try (based upon a report in a Google+ Discuss Forum topic) is accessing the following modified version of the URL:


The other user’s situation is very different from yours, but I find it interesting that he can perform most management tasks when he has the /b/ in the URL, but can’t even see the page through the page management interface.

If you have experienced this bug let me know whether this work around solves the problem.

9 Questions To Assess Your Review Management Stress Levels

Actively engaging your customers in the review process and management of that process has its own sets of concerns. This is particularly true if you are too focused on certain areas of the process rather than others.

Take this simple quiz to see what your Review Management Stress levels are and to measure where you are on the Review Management Stress Scale (RMSS):

Did your reviews get reduced by more than 20% of the total by the new Google review filters?

Are you asking questions like: Why is this happening to me? Doesn’t Google care?

Did (or does) your listing have 100% or more reviews than your nearest competitor on Google?

Does your “More Reviews” section on Google show less than four review sites?

Do your clients often complain that their reviews are not showing at Google?

Have you thought: I should focus my review efforts on Yelp instead?

Are you handing users an iPad or directing them to an onsite workstation?

Are you sending out more than 20 emails a week requesting reviews at Google?

Are your following up only with happy customers and not every customer to ask them to leave reviews?

Scoring. Add 1 point for each yes answer.

What your score means… Continue reading

Nokia HERE Maps Sucks (Significantly) More Than Apple Maps

Nokia, with the help of Navteq, is a seasoned mapping company. Arguably they are in the top tier of digital mapping. Their new product, Nokia HERE Maps for the iPhone, should show Apple what good mapping is all about. It doesn’t. In fact basic interface issues prevent the product from being a serious contender in the iPhone navigation market. Apple can now proudly say that there is a mapping product for the iPhone that sucks more than theirs.

Visuals: When I read reviews online about it being blurry, slow, ugly and lacking turn by turn, I couldn’t believe that Nokia would put out an inferior product. Now is the time to strike while Apple is still recovering from their Maps fiasco and come out with a great product. I thought Apple fan boys were just ranting. I particularly could not understand a map that was blurry. But sure enough the maps are totally fuzzy, hard to read and annoying. The ONLY thing clear on the map was the “here” brand name. And as Andrew Shotland pointed out even that can be confusing in the context of a map.

Basic Interface Screw Ups: My first search was for 1 Riverside NY, NY. A search that both Apple Maps and Google Maps understands. Apparently Nokia HERE does not understand common abbreviations like NY for New York. When searching for NY it turned up a foreign airport who knows where. When I searched on SF, CA it turned up Santa Fe, New Mexico. Forcing users to type out every word on an iPhone is a big hurdle from the get go and not understanding common naming short cuts is a deal breaker.

Kludgey Interface: Generally the interface for anything other than basic directions is confusing. Certain tasks like looking up nearby business are totally opaque and often non functional. I searched for nearby Grocery stores and was shown a department store.

Business Listing Quality: As far as I can tell other than certain categories like food, entertainment and shopping these are missing altogether.

Routing: I do not live in a big city so my tests typically reflect testing a product’s familiarity with back roads and short cuts. I figure if the product can get these back country roads correct far away from urban centers then the chance of getting the more important stuff right is far higher. Apple and Google both gave me a choice of routes although Apple gave the better choices and in its current iteration, a better way to select the route. HERE offered no such options and offered no alternative routing. It was their route or the highway so to speak.

Things Nokia HERE Has: It does offer public transportation routes which Apple does not. For me that is not enough to get by the egregious interface issues. They also offer the option to save a map for offline use, although the many warnings and caveats were discouraging. A map can take up to 13 mbytes of storage.

Bottom Line: Don’t waste your time or bandwidth to download the product unless it is for a case study in the decline of Nokia as a force in the mobile world.

Some additional screen shots comparing Apple Maps & HERE Maps output (click to see images at full resolution): Continue reading

Google+ Local Finally Supports Businesses Open 24 Hours

Updated 5:00 pm

Eagle eyed Matt Gregory alerted me to the fact that the Google for Business Dashboard (and apparently the G+ Page for local as well) that a business can now indicate that they are open for 24 hours and it will display correctly on the G+ Local page. This is a feature that has long been requested in the forums.

To have your hours show as open 24 hours in either the Dashboard or the Plus Page management area indicate an opening and closing time of 12 a.m.

Google has yet to fully clarify who is eligible for using this feature and whether a physical presence is required. It would seem that brick and mortar shops that have a physical presence would clearly be eligible as would service area businesses that hide their address and make house calls 24 hours a day. Beyond that it gets murkier. Would a lawyer that has a call center answer for them qualify? Would a bricks and mortar shop that is willing to come in on an appointment basis if called?

I asked Google to clarify their policy as to who was eligible to use this 24 hour designation. Their response:

The hours on the listing need to be the hours that location is directly contactable–meaning if calls are routed to a call center after-hours, only the call center listing should be shown as open during those hours. If a service-area business located at the business owner’s residence is willing to receive calls and go to customers’ locations 24hours/day, it is welcome to list its hours as such.

Ed Parsons: 1 in 3 Searches at Google are Local

Updated: 9:26 am 11/14/2012

Ed Parsons, the Geospatial Technologist of Google,  has indicated in a recent talk at Google PinPoint London 2012 that “about 1 in 3 of queries that people just type into a standard Google search bar are about places, they are about finding out information about locations. …this isn’t Google Maps just people normally looking at Google”.

The number of searches with local intent at Google has long been a topic of interest to marketers, directories and SEOs. In December of 2010, Google indicated that searches with local intent were 1 in 5 of all searches. Recent research by Chitka indicated that the number was closer to 1 in 4. Ed Parson, who should know, says that the number is 1 in 3. Based on Comscore’s September Core Searches that puts the total number of Google searches with some local intent is in the ballpark of 3.6 billion searches a month. Clearly not all of those show pinned results. It is not clear from Parson’t talk but it would appear that the 1 in 3 number applies to the desktop. If one were to then include mobile the % would obviously be higher.

 

Yesterday afteroon, I put this question to Ed Parsons on Google Plus to get a better understanding:

I was wondering if you add some detail to your quote at about 2:16 where you said: “about 1 in 3 of queries that people just type into a standard Google search bar are about places, they are about finding out information about locations. …this isn’t Google Maps just people normally looking at Google”

Is that both desktop and mobile? What percentage are Map/Driving direction related? What are the other categories of query types?

Ed’s answer:

It’s a composite figure both Mobile and Web, we don’t have an exact number but it’s between 30-40% – These also [are] not always [as] explicit [as] ‘Find me a pizza restaurant in Chelsea’, a more generic search request say for Football Teams would be framed geographically to highlight teams local to the individual searching..

This answer validates David Mihm’s logic in his post 20% Local Intent Number Is 50% Too Low where he put 30% as the lower boundary for searches with local intent at Google.

Here is the complete video. The comment about local search volume occurred at 2:15 of the video: Continue reading

Google Adds Mirror Dice to G+ Local Pages

Google has added a new feature (props to Matt Gregory for pointing this out) to the Google+ Local pages that allows a user to add custom fields to any given business listing. You can add things like the name of the person you deal with at the business, their birthday and unique contact information. The final output, a private, personalize contact card, is similar to the details from Google contacts that shows on a G+ personal profile of someone in your circles.

Perhaps I have a lack of imagination but this is one of those features for which it is hard to see its regular use. It could conceivably be part of a CRM system, it probably integrates with GMail and perhaps is a way for Google to draw relationships between the social graph and the business graph. But one has to ask why?

Did you ever ride in a car that had chrome pipes & fancy spinner hub caps but you always felt lucky when you arrived at your destination? And then the owner, for the next upgrade, added mirror dice rather than fixing something substantial? Well that’s what seems to have happened to your Google+ Local page.

Google+ Local pages have plenty wrong with them, significant and substantial problems. This is true whether with you are working the +Local page  via the old and decrepit dashboard or attempting to manage it via Plus… but now Google has added an ability that you are unlikely to use. Go figure.

Continue reading

Google Local Search Results Where None Have Gone Before

At a recent Local University, Googler Joel Headley indicated that Google desired to increasingly show local results whenever pinned results were appropriate and Google was able to show them. One area where this has become apparent is in Real Estate which are once again showing a broad range of pinned blended and pack results.

In 2009 Google rolled out an expanded real estate listing product. However that product was dropped in January of 2011. Before that period and until very recently, Google did not return any blended results for most real estate searches and the only local search in real estate that returned pack results was the very specific “realtors + city” search. Searches like homes for sale + city and houses for rent + city did not return 7 packs. Even the search real estate + city did not return pinned results.

However, at least since August, these searches are once again returning local real estate firms in the results. When Google does not have strong web + local inventory but thinks that there should be a local result, they will return a three pack. When there is solid inventory of local business listings that are doing well on both organic and local, Google is now consistently returning blended results.

Continue reading

The Customer (Or Was it Groupon?) Made Me Do It – Owner Review Responses at Google+ Local

Accepting Responsibility in your owner responses

Some things should just be left unsaid. This Gainsville auto detailing business obviously had troubles keeping their Groupon customers happy. It is unclear exactly who was to blame the business or the customers.

It doesn’t really matter as the customers left a number of bad reviews. This business couldn’t leave well enough alone and decided to respond to the bad reviews anyway.

Of course it was the customers fault. What would you have done in this situation?

Here is an example of many:

The moral(s) here are clear. Continue reading

Developing Knowledge about Local Search