Google is committed to its local Internet marketing efforts to lengths like we have not seen the search giant go to in a while. Searching for new revenue streams will do that.
What have they done recently?
-Pissed off just about every site that has been feeding at the Google local search trough for a long time
It’s the last point that makes what Yext has done with its Tags offerings. First of all, it appears to mimicking Google by making their tags look just like the ones that have been rolled out to promote Google Place Pages in the Google SERP’s. They are obviously trying to confuse SMB’s and get the benefit of the Google push. By looking almost exactly the same SMB’s can think they are buying one thing when they are really buying another! Nice. As if the SMB Internet marketing world isn’t confusing enough.
What does the Yext system do and what is it providing? According to TechCrunch
They (local search engines) enter into an anti-Google alliance, of course. The company organizing this alliance is Yext, a New York City startup which specializes in pay-per-call advertising for local businesses and dashboards to help them manage their reputations and listings online. On Monday, it will launch a new feature called “Tags” which will let small businesses highlight their names with a little tag and customizable message across about a dozen local listings sites. Launch partners for this “Tag Alliance” will include MapQuest, Citysearch, Yellowbook, Local.com, SuperPages, White Pages, MerchantCircle, and Topix, with more to come.
Yext gives the ability for SMB’s to add tags to their listings across several local sites. My question is, as these sites see less and less traffic from Google due to the changes in the SERP’s how many people will see these tags?
Yext has a built in ‘audience’ in the 30,000 small businesses that have signed up for its free reputation monitoring tool. I have not tried this offering so I have no idea how effective it is. Being as close to the industry as I am I know how important it is to try these offerings out before you place any merit on them at all (in other words there is a lot of junk out there). Of course, for now it is free so it is attractive.
The Yext dashboard for this tags service will look like this
So it looks like the battle lines have been drawn. Google is making a push to promote their Place Page offering. This makes sense since it is more information about real search results rather than being pushed to a directory of sorts. The cries of monopoly and manipulation will continue to grow but it is far better for those who have had their food source turned way down (i.e. Citysearch, Local.com, SuperPages etc) to go out and try to make a competing effort. Google still has no obligation to support these other businesses. None, so why everyone is griping is beyond me.
Here’s what I want to know. How many searchers are going to these other resources through channels other than Google? How many people go directly to Citysearch to get answers about local businesses? This will be the real information that needs to surface for SMB’s to say that this Tags offering is a good option. The pitch used to be that these entities owned the SERP’s and drove traffic to local businesses due to their Google success. Now as standalones can they offer enough traffic and value?
I don’t know how many times I have heard SMB’s cry foul over “Internet marketing” packages offered by Yellow Page providers (regardless of what color or stripe they are). There is already a serious lack of trust between SMB’s and these players so why would the SMB want to invest directly in ads on their sites if they have not seen results from promises of the past?
The local space is certainly heating up. Google has made its statement loud and clear that it wants to dominate the vertical. They have the best chance to do so. What will get in their way is their current lack of human interaction and their intense desire to automate everything. Local doesn’t work like that. I suspect they think they know better but I am not sure they do.