As I was driving all over “God’s creation” today, from meeting to meeting, there were a number of interesting developments and announcements. The first concerned the enhancements to the Google Local Business Center. Barry Schwartz has a terrific, thorough overview of each of the new features:
- Add photos to your Google Maps listing
- Add custom (data) attributes to your business listings
- Correct and adjust your Google map marker location, so if it is slightly off, you can move it to the right spot
- You can now see statistics on how many people viewed and clicked on your local business listings
Like all things Google, this seeks to accomplish multiple goals. Among them:
- Enhance the listings data with additional information (i.e., hours, etc.) and imagery
- Create a more accurate database generally
- Prove value to SMBs and bring them into the fold of AdWords advertisers (if they’re not already)
Google gets data from multiple providers today (commercial database vendors, verticals, SMB “aggregators” and consumer sites) and arguably has as good or better a local database than any that exists. This is an effort to push it further. Indeed, the only way to get truly accurate and fresh data is not to rely on exclusively third parties but to get it directly from the businesses themselves, which of course is difficult.
While many businesses will welcome these enhancements it raises the familiar challenge with SMBs: push vs. pull. Google can afford to take the long view given its market and cash positions. Yet I believe that if Google made the effort with the Local Business Center it’s now making with Checkout it would see a faster growth curve.
While the Google home page is sacrosanct, “advertising programs” and “business solutions” could be consolidated into a single link and Google could replace one of them with “Local Business Center,” if only temporarily, which could also function as a doorway into Google’s simplified “Starter Edition” of AdWords.
Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.