Today, Google announced that they were suspending their trial of Local Listing Ads. No new signups are being accepted, and the current ads will cease running sometime in mid-December. My understanding is that advertisers are not being charged, even if their campaign ran beyond the thirty-day trial period.
Google plans to use the lessons they learned to:
make further improvements to our online marketing offerings for small businesses, and plan to release an enhanced version more widely in the near future.
Mike Blumenthal reports hearing that click-through rates were low, but can’t imagine that Google wouldn’t have a paid offering in this area.
I can’t help but think back to Google’s ill-fated Click To Call offering.
I also suspect Google underestimated the amount of help local business owners would need, both pre-sale and post. Google simply isn’t configured to provide such customer service.
Without question, Google will return to local paid listing, but I expect it to look very different than Google Local Listing Ads.
Come see Brian Combs of ionadas local speak at Interactive Strategies 2009 in Houston on September 9, 2009. Brian will be speaking on SEO vs. PPC in the 3:10pm session.
Interactive Strategies 2009 is a full day conference sponsored by the Houston Interactive Marketing Association and includes tracks on Social Media, SEO, Creative and Strategy. The keynote is by Brian Solis, the principal of FutureWorks, a PR and New Media agency in Silicon Valley.
Attendees can register online and receive a 15% discount by using the promotional code “bcombs”.
On occasion, I’ll run the same query on multiple search engines to see how the results differ. Today I decided to look at a search phrase near and dear to my own heart: [coffee shop austin].
All queries were run through an internet connection in Cedar Park, Texas (just northwest of Austin). I was not logged into any of the search engines, so impact from personalized search should have been minimal. The captures were what was visible on my screen, which is set at 1440×900.
Disclosure: I don’t have any clients in the coffee industry at this time.
First let’s look at Google (click on the screen shot to see a larger version):
Both the Google Map listings and the first few organic listings show a nice selection of local coffee shops, although there seems to be a strong bias towards the central part of town. The Google Map listings also show a strong bias towards shops with lots of reviews.
The paid listings are a mess, however. Other than Austin Roasting Company, none of them actually sell coffee. Might want to work on the relevancy, Google.
Next up, Yahoo.
First thing I notice is how little content there is on the screen. Between organic, map and advertisements, we’re looking ten listings total. The same query on Google showed nineteen.
The “Also try” line is wasted space. I searched on [coffee shop austin]. Is [coffee shop austin texas] really going to be that much better.
I’m only able to see two organic listings. The first is a coffee shop in Winter Park, Florida. I suppose the link to YellowPages.com is useful, but it seems like an admission that Yahoo can’t deliver the information directly.
And given the number of coffee shops in this city, three map listings seems rather anemic.
As for the paid ads, at least they had one coffee shop in there. It was Starbucks, but what can you do? The rest seemed of more interest to those who own coffee shops then those who might want to visit a coffee shop.
Bing… I knew ya when you went by Live.com. And when you went by MSN Search. You’re like that weird, quiet little cousin that you only see every ten years at a family reunion, but don’t really know.
Having seven listings on the map is nice, but the map itself is almost impossible to read.
Of the four organic listings shown, three are actually coffee shops in Austin. Not bad, Microsoft. Again the Florida coffee shop is on top. It appears that Yahoo and Bing don’t use local signals within their organic listings as strongly as Google does. With “Austin” in the name, it’s not surprising that it comes up.
The paid listings are probably the worst so far, with none of them actually taking me to the website of an Austin coffee shop.
And how about Ask.com, the search engine everyone forgets about?
I like the map. It’s easy to read and has ten full listings. It’s completely biased towards downtown, however.
And I really like the “Other Location Matches” pulldown menu. That’s a very nice addition.
Ask doesn’t both to show any traditional organic listings above the fold.
The paid ads are, um, interesting. Real estate and online recipes from grocery store Randalls? That’s not targeted. At least our buddies $tarbucks are there again.
We’ll close this afternoon with the new kid on the block, WolframAlpha.
Well, that’s one big goose egg. It seems it was able to compute that it was about Austin and coffee but that’s about it. It’ll be interesting to see if they get better with geographic queries in the future.
Early in June, Borrell Associates published its “Economics of Search Marketing” report. It discusses some of the challenges of search marketing for small businesses, both for the advertiser and the service provider.
One particular quote stood out to me:
This [margin to the service provider] changes with the higher levels of spending by the advertiser. Our model, based on interviews with advertisers and resellers, indicates that at the highest levels of spending – above $50,000 per month – an advertiser will see 89% to 94% of the expenditure applied toward keyword purchases. Conversely, those spending the lowest amounts see less than half their dollars used to purchase keywords.
These numbers certainly agree with what I’ve seen in the industry, and they bolster something I’ve been saying for years: if you’re company or market do not support a budget of at least several thousand per month, you’re better off not outsourcing your paid search campaigns.
Outsourcing of marketing campaigns results in increased overhead and expense. If you’re spending $5,000 or more per month with Google, Yahoo and Bing, it might make sense to avail yourself of the expertise a paid search agency can bring.
However, for many locally focused advertisers, the keyword volume for your market might not support a budget of more than a few hundred per month. In these cases, the overhead of outsourcing the paid search management makes doing so not viable.
You need to manage the campaigns yourself, although training and outside assistance might be needed on the front end.