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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

GoogleVoice now allows use of an SMB’s primary phone number, is call tracking far behind?

Late yesterday, Google announced that GoogleVoice can now be used with an SMB’s existing phone number. This announcement, while noting the loss of several features as a result of this capability, removes the final barrier for many to SMB’s to move GoogleVoice.

This announcement also seems to insert Google forcefully and directly into the discussion over call tracking of business listings in Local. The time for reckoning is upon us in the debate on whether a call tracking number can and should be used for tracking the response to local listing placements.

As David Mihm has pointed out, there have been instances where Google effectively penalizes, or worse mischaracterizes, records that use multiple phone numbers for this purpose. Gib Olander of Localeze, one of Google’s primary data suppliers, has been a strong proponent of why you need to maintain integrity of your NAP (name, address & phone #) across the local ecosystem.

At Greg Sterling’s blog last week there was an interesting post by Bill Dinan of Telmetrics, clearly laying out the case for call tracking in Local. As I pointed out, while the goal is worthwhile, until such time as Google, working together with other industry leaders, develops a system to not penalize businesses using call tracking then it should not be used. Most folks involved with Local have first hand experience with this problem of listings loosing visibility, completely disappearing or worse.

Google, though, seems to be lobbing salvos at the call tracking industry. First by using Google Voice as a tracking mechanism in the Local Listing Ads and, once again today, by allowing GoogleVoice to used with an SMB’s existing phone numbers.

The new capability, announced late yesterday at the GoogleVoiceBlog, will provide every small business the final motivation to use Google Voice as an effective, free and powerful virtual PBX. This feature, in and of itself, will not cause problems with your Google local listing as it still uses your primary number.

However, it is not a huge step to envision Google provisioning additional numbers for your Local Listing Ads, your PPC ads, your website, your local listing, your YP placements and your local newspaper ads so that for the first time SMBs will be able to cheaply & effectively track every medium in play. Clearly, one of Google’s principal aims, has been to differentiate their advertising products with accountability.

Before that happens, Google, Localeze, InfoUSA, Bing, Yahoo, the major IYPS and directories need to establish a standard that allows call tracking numbers to be used while maintaining integrity of a business’s basic listing information.

I seem to be saying or thinking this just about every day but, the world of local just got a lot more interesting.