Yesterday at the “Google Factory Tour,” lots of things were discussed and a couple of things were announced, the “biggest” of which were Google Health going live and display ads for Google Image search. I live blogged it at SEL.
One of the presentations was from Director of Product Management for Local, Carter Maslan. Local and Maps came up numerous times during the discussion in fact. One of the developments that I was not aware of on Google was the recent introduction of a zip-code prompt for certain general but geographically ambiguous queries. Here’s the screen:
Why is this interesting? For one, Google will have zip-level location information for individuals and can personalize results accordingly. So queries such as “Parks” or “Zoo” or others that fail to include a geo-modifier can deliver locally relevant results.
And, as you guessed, it also allows Google to target ads to the zip level — assuming they exist. (In mobile Google can do something similar with “My Location.”) Google can also infer location for registered users from their Map and Directions queries and can tailor results accordingly. This all supplements IP Targeting.
At lunch, I made the argument to Carter Maslan that with zip-level (or neighborhood-level) targeting, layering US Census data on top of Google’s map-based AdWords interface, turns it into demographic targeting. The challenge for Google is the company would have to add another, sophisticated layer to its algorithm so that it served different ads (based on demographic information) for the same queries to different users based on their home zips or neighborhoods.
Not sure that Google is ready to do that or that the advertisers are yet that sophisticated, despite spending billions on direct mail offline, which is a version of the same thing.
I should add that if you’re logged in to Google and Google thinks it has your location, you won’t see the prompt.