More Info on Google Local Listing Ads

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:

Picture 1

( . . . 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?

Picture 2

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?


24 Responses to “More Info on Google Local Listing Ads”

  1. Rob Paterson Says:

    I agree stronngly with you Greg – provide the right tools, the right marketing and extraordinary reach and local merchants will buy advertising. Anyone who thinks otherwise has their head in the sand.

    We have some great experience of local businesses in the UK buying adverts on line through self-service, with tools that are poor.

    Google have created a great product but possibly a bunch of problems in how to balance all the results they’re showing.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Thanks Rob. Hope you’re well.

  3. Tim Cohn Says:

    I do, but I could be completely wrong…

  4. Mike Blumenthal Says:

    According to another conversation that I have had, each SMB in the test will only be permitted to advertise on one category.

  5. Mike Blumenthal Says:

    The other point is that the numbers of quite compelling. If you estimate that 10% of US businesses have claimed their listing (say 1.5 million) and 20% participate in this program without any work on Google’s part other than putting the tab in the LBC. And you calculate an average “fixed rate” of $50/mo. that works out to an initial incremental income of $1.5 million dollars per month.

    When you take that world wide, and start ramping up LBC enrollment and better understanding by SMB’s it will soon add up to real money.

    It will also lead to increased use of Adwords.

  6. Greg Sterling Says:

    Agree Mike

  7. Todd Leiser Says:

    This just in from a local SMB, “And now I’m really confused…..”

  8. Peter Adams Says:

    Greg – I agree with you.

    As small business owners get “sold to” they get educated.

    It will take some time for sure but the product adoption curves have proven to be closely aligned with perceived value and ease of use.

    In this case, the perceived value of flat free pricing on Google is high, but they have to make it drop dead easy to use and understand (i.e. not like Adwords) or else this risks just getting lost in the noise of Google’s other Ad Products, IMHO.

  9. Mike Blumenthal Says:


    If Will is jovial and Andrew is inscrutable I would nominate David as decent or if that is damning with too faint of praise (which in my book it isn’t) how about talented. You can pick your own name for me. 🙂

  10. Greg Sterling Says:


  11. Will Scott Says:

    @Mike, Jovial sounds a little too “Santa Claus” to me. I mean, it’s good and all but I just have a “jolly fat man” association with which I’m not wholly comfortable.

    @Greg, love it: Unflappable.

    On another note, I’m not seeing this available for my Plastic Surgery clients in San Francisco and San Diego. I wonder if they’re holding out in the most over-spammed maps categories. Or perhaps those which are at capacity for ads.


  12. Mike Blumenthal Says:


    his jovial manner cheerful, jolly, happy, cheery, good-humored, convivial, genial, good-natured, friendly, amiable, affable, sociable, outgoing; smiling, merry, sunny, joyful, joyous, high-spirited, exuberant; chipper, chirpy, perky, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, hail-fellow-well-met; formal jocund, jocose; dated gay; literary blithe. antonym miserable.

    I kind of like the bright eyed and bushy tail part….

    The other point of interest that doesn’t seem Santa Claushish at all….

    ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from French, from late Latin jovialis ‘of Jupiter’ (see Jove ), with reference to the supposed influence of the planet Jupiter on those born under it.

    By jove, I do think that you are rather jocund. Would you prefer that? I think you should stick with jovial.

  13. Will Scott Says:


    Well, if you put it that way, I’ll gladly accept jovial.


  14. Mike Blumenthal Says:

    Now that you have accepted jovial, we need one for Greg ….any suggestions?

    (I think I feel an other t-shirt coming on….)

  15. Greg Sterling Says:

    Charming, friendly, good-humored, wise, thoughtful, insightful, well-spoken . . .

  16. Mike Blumenthal Says:

    Hmmm…sounds like the pick of the litter.

    How about indefatigable?

  17. Greg Sterling Says:

    Definitely not. I’m fatigable right now, I can tell you.

  18. Greg Sterling Says:

    Mihm: hard to do with a single term or phrase. We’ll have to get into the wine-like descriptions: kind yet unyielding.

  19. genedaly Says:

    How about sagacious? Quite the inscrutable word.

    Main Entry: sa·ga·cious
    Pronunciation: \sə-ˈgā-shəs, si-\
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: Latin sagac-, sagax, from sagire to perceive keenly; akin to Latin sagus prophetic — more at seek
    Date: 1607

    2 a : of keen and farsighted penetration and judgment : discerning b : caused by or indicating acute discernment
    synonyms see shrewd

  20. Greg Sterling Says:

    Thanks Gene!

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  23. Out Of Business Says:

    Let me tell you a story of how Google local put me in debt. First we have to go back… 2 years ago, Google gave my Local Business listing the #1 place for my service and location. Today, I wished they never had and here’s why:

    Finlly, people that were searching for my services were finding me- and rightfully so! After all, I’m not only the best on my location, but one of the best in my industry, credited with multiple awards and years of expertise. At the time, I was so happy with Google that I would have kissed their shoes. They gave me the means to connect with clients where my limited resources could not.

    My home business grew to more than I could handle by myself. I needed to hire help, but to do so, I needed to get an office. I hired an attorney to draft up a business plan and we shopped it to the banks. Our pitch was simple “We need this much to expand- we’re making twice as much so it won’t be hard to pay back.” The loan was approved.

    I paid thousands for all the right licensing, hired 2 employees and moved into a warehouse. As sales increased and I expanded my inventory. Here’s where it turns bad:

    We moved into a warehouse lot with similar businesses. We all shared the same street address but different suites. One day, callers started complaining about products that we didn’t even carry and services that we didn’t perform. Turns out, one of our competitors had managed to rack up multiple negative reviews on his Google local listing and it had somehow MERGED with our listing.

    Now, dealing with damage control isn’t so tough. We explained to callers that they had the wrong number and gave them the correct one. The icing on the cake- when our business came to a screeching halt- was when we found that our phone number was nowhere to be seen. No one called for our business. To put it lightly, our phone lines had become the enemy.

    For nearly 2 months, we struggled with finding new customers. We passed out flyers but that proved to be ineffective. We heavily relied on Craigslist advertising. In fact, that was our ONLY source of revenue.

    Google was no help. They would not even entertain the idea of listening to us. What baffled me the most was how a company that employs 20,000 people (that’s right, twenty-thousand) didn’t have a single person to answer the phone. Here’s Google’s phone number, call them and ask them about anything and see what happens: (650) 253-0000. They will shut you down like a light.

    Like a broken record, Google’s android receptionists repeatedly chanted the anthem of: “We do not offer tech support for ‘free services’. We do not offer tech support for ‘free services’. We do…” Ok, as a professional I can understand that a business would not give free support for a free service, but I was willing to PAY. Alas, there was no one at Google that would take my money. Then I remembered that I had paid Google thousands of dollars in Adwords, a $21 Billion dollar company and they couldn’t help me.

    Finally, I ended up deleting my Google Local listing. I created a new one and waited a week for my conformation code. After verifying the code I searched daily for my listing to appear. About a week later I found it… It was on page 4. I’m sure you can figure out what happened in the proceeding weeks. We liquidated.

    There’s an old proverb: “Don’t put your eggs into one basket”… Whether that’s true or not, I know that basket is not Google.

    Thanks for debt,
    Out Of Business

  24. 英会話上達 Says:

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