Posted April 18, 2011 8:41 am by with 6 comments

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No matter what kind or how large of company you are there is the reality that you are still a local company in many circumstances. Even large business-to-business companies have local offices that have a presence in Google, whether it is asked for or not (If you need proof just do a search for IBM and a major city qualifier (like ‘IBM San Francisco’) and you’ll see what I mean).

It’s this focus on all things local that makes anything that Google does around their local efforts quite important. In just the last week or so the whole local play has been placed on the newly minted SVP, Jeff Huber, and already there is a change in one offering that Google was having some success in: the Google Tags product. Below is a picture of what you may see in the Google SERPs until the service is axed on April 29.

TechCrunch reports

Google sent an email today to merchants using the service notifying them that it will be shut down in two weeks on April 29. One tipster who sent us a copy of the email writes:

Seems google is killing this offering. Must be a part of the recent restructuring. It was doing pretty well for my company too, I’m pretty bummed about it.

The TechCrunch post goes on to take a swing as to why the Tags product will be nixed.

Tags was an experiment which led to a similar local advertising product called Boost which appears do be doing much better, judging by how much it is now appearing in search results. Boost ads are all of those blue-colored pushpins on Google Maps and in paid search results. Rather than linking to a website, an offer, or a menu, Boost highlights some listings information from Google Places such as an adress or phone number.

These are much more useful, especially in mobile search. Merchants don’t want to drive clicks to their websites, they want to drive foot traffic to their stores or calls for their services.

Where the article goes next is where I disagree.

Also Boost is a very straightforward online advertising product.

Let’s face it, for most local business owners or SMB’s nothing that Google does is straightforward. Sure, it may make sense to say this is what it is and what it does but then we run into the DIY side of the equation and many SMB’s will be stopped in their tracks.

Let’s put it this way. In order to use Boost you must have a claimed and verified Google Place Page. Well, with about 15% of these pages verified (I am guessing here because the latest numbers I have is 10% verified from last September so I am assuming some uptick) and a much smaller percentage optimized. If that small of a percentage of pages have been verified then the idea that SMB’s just ‘get it’ is not very realistic.

I have been told by experts in the local search game that Google feels that only 25% of the SMB market will go the self-service route. Now that is still a very large market so Google may be happy with that. Considering their aversion to real customer support it makes sense.

What about the other 75% of SMB’s though who would love to understand how a service like Boost works? That will be dependent on who is giving them advice. Of course, Boost doesn’t carry any type of pay out for someone “selling” it other than a Google rep. As a result, it will take a certain kind of consultant to be able to help a client to set up Boost then run with it.

So what happens with Google’s local approach is something to keep a close eye on. It may be an indicator of how they are thinking about a lot of other areas of their business. Will many other ‘experiments’ be set aside and a concentration put on fewer things so one or more of them actually has a chance to get out of the first stage of the product life cycle?

Did you or any clients use Tags? Will anyone miss it? I know there are many merchants who felt it gave them a boost. Oh wait, maybe that’s what they need to concentrate on next. After all, it’s a pay per click product so they can spend more than the simple flat fee per month that Tags offered.

Hey, wait a minute? Is this just a way to make Google advertisers spend more? Of course it is! Would you expect any less?

  • One of my few complaints with Google is how badly managed their customer service for Google Places is. Companies know it’s important to get their business listed and verified, but they don’t know how to do it and Google doesn’t make it much easier. I actually had a client submit their locations (10) to Google and all of them were rejected!

    • Not unusual Nick. There are serious issues around Google Places that we hope are being fixed. Right now, if Bing could get their act together and really make a pitch to the SEO crowd they could make some serious inroads because Google is THAT bad in their Places offering. As for support? I have been crying for that for a long time along with many others but I am not sure Google thinks that the way to go.

      If you see anything that is ‘newsworthy’ regarding Places let us know.



  • Alex P.

    I’ve had a client run Google Tag in the past, and it worked fairly well. My personal favorite was the ability to choose where clicking on the Tag sent users, but that’s not an option in Boost. It’s also a clear money issue too. Tags were a set $25 per month, but Boost has no spending limit.

  • This was horribly managed from day one. Google called clients who were clearly in my MCC when it would have been just as easy to exclude them. So then I had clients wondering why “Google” (it was an outsourced agency) was calling them directly

    Then the customer service issues started that Nick alluded to. One of my clients who was in a test market could not cancel and and kept getting charged. He finally had to go the chargeback route and my research in the Google forums showed he was not the only one.

    I’m still not pleased about the whole experience.

    • @George – I guess the big question is if Google gives a rip whether you are not pleased. My hope and prayer is that they are but I am also a realist. In other words, I sincerely doubt it. Oh they’ll say something about caring about people’s experience with the company but when the rubber meets the road it falls woefully short of even looking like a company that “gets it”.

      Oh well, it’s a Google world and we’re given permission to live in it I guess. Does anyone from Google have anything to say? @MattCutts? Anyone? It would be refreshing to fill the room with voices rather than crickets for once.

  • I didn’t know much about Google Places. I want to start to use it and I think this article help me a lot. Thanks for writing this. Good thing that this article has been brought up because it help you to know more about this tool.