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.
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?