Danny Sullivan and I were taking a briefing from Google about a forthcoming Maps announcement and Google’s John Hanke made a relatively casual statement (I’m paraphrasing) in the course of our discussion that the number of local businesses that had interacted with Google’s Local Business Center was in the “low seven figures.”
We didn’t get into lots of specifics about what was being done (e.g., correcting information, uploading or enhancing information). But I have no reason to doubt Hanke or think he was making an exaggerated statement.
This means, assuming I heard him correctly, that at least 1 million businesses had touched/visited/added information through the LBC. That’s more than the estimated total number of Google advertisers today and that’s more than four times MerchantCircle’s much touted 250K SMBs. It’s also more than the total advertisers of any single US yellow pages provider with the exception of AT&T.
Now there’s some distance between interacting with an online form and becoming a full-fledged advertiser (or an effective advertiser as the comment below suggests). And arguably Google doesn’t have the right mix of ad products yet for SMBs. What it needs is a product that features a credit card field and a monthly budget field (with some predictive information about traffic): no keywords, no bidding, etc.
To me this information casts some doubt on the conventional wisdom that advertisers won’t self provision. Indeed, it’s a massive sales channel opportunity for Google that the company basically doesn’t fully exploit.