Yesterday morning I had a discussion with Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm about Google’s new Local Listing Ads. Since the announcement Mike had a chance to speak to someone from Google at the SMX event. Mike and David (and the jovial Will Scott and inscrutable Andrew Shotland) were among the group of people I had dinner with and discussed the announcement the other night.
According to the discussion that Mike had there are a number of issues that haven’t been fully worked out by Google. Chief among them is the issue of pricing. From what Mike told me, it appears undetermined whether SMBs are going to pay a single rate across all business categories they belong to or whether each category will carry a different price. For example, if I’m a wedding photographer I might be under “weddings” and “photography,” among other categories. Would each of these carry a separate price that might vary by popularity? That kind of question has apparently not been answered.
Another issue Mike, David and I talked about was Google’s non-indexing of the Place Pages. The decision was likely made to avoid alienating Google’s reseller partners, many of which rely heavily on SEO for their own traffic. The 10-Pack already pushes quite a few page 1 organic links down below the fold:
( . . . Hence the European Directories-Skype strategy.)
I was surprised that Mike Blumenthal was advocating in favor of Google indexing Place Pages. He said in some areas the Google Place Page might be the best local content available. He added that if they were going to be used as landing pages for the Local Listings Ads they also should be indexed.
There’s also the question of the potentially competitive AdWords (see lower right in graphic below) that show up on Place Pages. Will Google offer to remove those ads for local businesses that are participating in the program as advertisers? This is how others in the space operate, why not Google?
With Place Pages and Local Listing Ads Google is doing something of a balancing act, trying to advance its own agenda, while not alienating partners that it believes it needs as sales channels into the local market. Yahoo!’s Local Business Ads product was sold by resellers and didn’t create any friction (to my knowledge) between the parties there. But Google, because it so dominates search and now local search, is in a different category.
Gordon Borrell and others have already said that this product is unlikely to succeed at scale because “local advertising is sold not bought.” I’m not so sure: automated ad creation, structured rich landing pages, fixed pricing, customer service support (see Mike B.’s blog post above) . . . Google has a bunch of issues to work through and they might not execute well here. But just imagine this TV or radio campaign:
“Millions of people every month look for businesses like yours on Google. Now there’s a simple way to get your business in front of all those potential customers: Local Listing Ads. To find out more visit [site] or call 800-XXX-XXXX.”
Many many SMBs would respond to that. Google’s challenge is really in providing the necessary support and education (though it wouldn’t take that much). With the right execution, I’m guessing that Google could pick up a million SMB advertisers in 12-18 months.
Who thinks I’m completely wrong?
Update: Is the “7 pack” clearing room for Local Listing Ads units?