Does Mayer’s Exit Signify Real Trouble With Google’s Local Efforts?

This is total conjecture here so you can choose to read on or not. Yesterday’s rather abrupt move by former head of Google’s local efforts and long time Googler, Marissa Mayer, to become CEO of the troubled former Internet icon Yahoo, was a surprise to say the least.

It was a surprise in the abrupt nature of the news as well as the where Mayer landed. Let’s just say that Yahoo hasn’t exactly been the home of the best and the brightest in the tech industry with regard to leadership in recent years. Carol Bartz’s reign was not a success. Scott Thompson’s time at the helm was short and ended in a bizarre fashion. Now, we have one of the Internet industry’s darlings taking over a reported mess in what seems a rather quick (possibly hasty?) move.

As Andy Beal pointed out in his post from yesterday

Why in the world would Mayer leave her high profile position at Google? The quick answer? It wasn’t high profile enough. And, there were two good reasons why she would likely never become CEO of Google…Page & Brin. So, facing a ceiling that was more like concrete than glass, Mayer jumped ship.

Now for the wondering part. Mayer was placed in charge of local at Google close to two years ago and the talk at the time was that the move could have been perceived as a demotion. Business Insider said at the time.

Was Marissa Mayer’s move to a new position at Google – from search products to local – actually a step down for one of the company’s most visible employees?

“Unless she came in one day and asked for a change after 10 years of working on the same thing, the answer is probably yes,” says a source familiar with Google’s internal politics.

Another source, also familiar with Google’s inner-workings told us it would “not really” be fair to call the move a demotion, “but I can see how some may see it that way.”

Along with that move though was her appointment to the company’s operating committee which was certainly a very big deal. Oh and by the way, all of the happened before Larry Page took over as CEO as well.

Fast forward to today and Google’s local efforts are abit of a mess. The recent move by Google to eliminate their Place Page offering and instead set up the forced use of Google+ Local has created a lot of confusion for local businesses. I spoke with one this morning that had their listing fall into the ‘We currently do not support this location’ black hole that has created trouble for so many small businesses who did nothing to earn this exile from local results. Meanwhile businesses using UPS stores as addresses for locations go merrily along their way, against the terms of service and stay listed. As far as I can tell, Google local is a bit of a cluster right now. That’s not good.

According to Liz Gannes of All Things D Google has no immediate plans to replace Mayer with a single person so who knows who will have the responsibility of making it better.

New Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer won’t be directly replaced at Google, where until Monday she was VP of local, maps and location services.

Mayer’s duties will be filled by her lieutenants, according to two sources with knowledge of the organization.

Mayer’s product list included Google Maps, Google Earth, Zagat, Street View and local search for both desktop and mobile. She is handing off those responsibilities on short notice, after abruptly resigning today.

To be fair this move did seem rather abrupt and may have surprised the folks in Mountain View. I doubt that succession planning for Mayer was top of mind for an employee that had helped build the company from the early days (Mayer was Google employee #20).

But Google’s recent plays to get Google+ more traction took on a decidedly local flavor and the execution has seemed forced and, at times, very sloppy. Local search experts are trying to figure out exactly what is going on and what to expect from Google in the near term. This move by Mayer and non-move by Google is not likely to make any short term pain that the local efforts are feeling go away any time soon.

So what about the SMB’s of the world who are still scratching their heads over what to do with their local presence in Google in light of lost reviews and more? They are left holding the bag. Google’s local product must be something that Mayer figured may be beyond repair. Why would I say that? Mainly because she was heralded as a great product person by those still at Google. Here are words from Google’s Chariman Eric Schmidt

“I worked with Marissa for many years — she’s a great product person, very innovative and a real perfectionist who always wants the best for users. Yahoo has made a good choice and I am personally very excited to see another woman become CEO of a technology company. Best wishes to Marissa and Yahoo!”

OK. So if she is perfectionist she may have ended up going bald from pulling her out as she watched the local efforts of Google. While there have been steps taken to improve the local efforts Google’s local efforts are notorious for poor or no support. It also seems that every question about why something happens in Google local needs a flow chart to follow the many possible causes and responses that are offered. Maybe she saw a better shot at cleaning up Yahoo v. trying to clean up Google local and the spectre of Google+? Now that is saying something.

Like I said, this is simply me thinking out loud. A move like this, however, has two sides usually. Sure she needed to see great opportunity at where she was headed but she also had to feel pretty confident that where she was headed had more hope than where she was coming from, right? It’s not like she needs the money. She wants to make an impact. Are Google’s local efforts that far off track?

What do you think?