Google Places and the readiness of the local advertising market

By September 13, 2010 15 Comments

This is old news now, but back in April Google announced the launch of Google Places, or more accurately they announced the renaming of ‘Local Business Center’ to ‘Google Places’.

Google Places is a freemium offering.  The free part includes some pretty powerful self serve products for small local businesses:

  • Claim your own Google Places Page which will then show up in queries on Google and Google Maps, including on mobile devices
  • Upload photos of your business
  • Customised QR codes that are scannable from mobiles

The paid part is a $25 per month service which “makes listings stand out on and Google Maps with Tags”.  (Tags are little yellow markers designed to look like baggage tags which appear next to the red circle markers which denote the location of businesses on Google Maps.  If you haven’t seen one it is because the service is only available in selected US cities.)

A lot of people think Google Places is pretty cool – e.g. the authors of these two blog posts, both written in the last 24 hours.  This review on Techcrunch written back in April is more neutral, although it does bemoan the lack of integration with social media.  Update The absence of a review aggregation service is also a weakness in my view, although I would guess Google will fix that before too long.

I have been thinking a lot about local recently and it seems to me that powerful as these services are they are not what most local businesses need today.  I think Google is significantly ahead of the market here and the requirement is for services that are simpler to use and understand.

Traditionally the local advertising market has been dominated by Yellow Pages style print directories and local businesses have grown up with their very simple proposition – pay once a year, sit back and wait for the phone to ring.  I suspect the leap from there to claim your Google Places page, decide what to write on it and how to use it is too big a jump for most local service providers.

They would rather have their hands held with an intermediate step onto the internet which involves less of a jump into the unknown.  This is the approach Yell and many others are taking with services to help SMEs build websites and drive traffic, call tracking services, and lead gen services.  All of these are, I think, offer better value for money than traditional print media (particularly those which charge on a Cost-Per-Action (CPA) basis) are simpler to get to grips with and offer a greater certainty of outcome than Google Places.

That is my emerging conclusion anyway.  I’m interested to know whether you agree.

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