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This Just In, Google Recruits Local Sales Force

stewart-gregg
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Before we continue our review of local search strategies and tactics, I would like to take a moment to comment on a new program by Google that I found interesting over the past week.

Google Local Business Referrals

Google is placing a high value on sourcing accurate local business information by making its first move into organizing a local data collection and potential future sales force. Google’s Local Business Referrals (LBR) program provides registered “business referral representatives” with up to $10 for each listing approved by Google and verified by the local business via online form or postcard.

Representatives visit local businesses to collect information (such as hours of operation, types of payment accepted, etc.) for Google Maps, telling them about Google Maps and AdWords products. Additionally, they snap a few digital photos of the business to appear on the Google Maps listing along with the business information.

Local premise sales have long been the domain of the Yellow Pages publishers and other localized media such as newspapers. This grass roots effort is very interesting and can potentially benefit Google in two ways:

  1. It can increase the accuracy and completeness of Google's local business information database.
  2. It can help local businesses learn more about Google’s local advertising product set.

Everyone knows Google has been highly successful in monetizing the search engine keyword space, and now, the first to truly tap into the local advertising marketplace will profit handsomely.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on this program as it develops to see if this “bottom-up” approach to sales force development gains momentum and traction.

Underutilized Local Media Sources

Google, Yahoo!, MSN and Ask are terrific sources of both national and local leads. However, many categories/keywords have become saturated and costly for marketers. One tactic to help against keyword cost inflation is to expand into additional media sources beyond the top four search sites.

A comprehensive, localized media plan should leverage some of the underutilized local media sources to ensure the most efficient cost-per-lead. Additionally, many of these sources are less competitive, providing increased lead-to-sale conversion opportunities. In other words, take the long-tail economics approach beyond keyword selection and expand it into media selection. Below are a few options:

  1. Internet Yellow Pages. One of the best places to uncover cost-effective sales leads is found in the local Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) space. IYPs have a high sales conversion rate since they act much like the Print Yellow Pages, connecting buyers with sellers. The most popular Internet Yellow Pages sites are run by AT&T Yellowpages.com and Idearc Superpages.com. Also consider newcomers and IYPs that have growing usage: Yellowbook.com, Yelp.com, Angieslist.com and Local.com, to name a very few.
  2. Regional IYP Sites. In addition to the nationally scoped IYP sites, there are a large number of single-market local IYPs that can be a great benefit to your local business. One such site is DexKnows.com, which is a highly used IYP site in the Western region of the country. One way to find these properties is to search “town name yellow pages” on one of the search engines.
  3. Online City Guides and Local Events Sites. In many areas, online city guides provide entertainment and local event information. CitySearch, AOL, and locally managed Web sites such as Boston.com, are sites that can help increase your local reach.
  4. Traditional Local Media Sites (newspaper, radio, TV, etc.). These media sites can often provide a rich source of local sales leads. Look to see if your local newspaper has an online Web site with classified ads where you can advertise your products and services to local readers.

How do you go about finding city guides and local media sources? Look for local media sources the same way consumers find them – word of mouth from other local businesses. A lookup on the search engines for “local information town name” is often a good starting place. For example, a search for “local advertising Atlanta GA” returns a link result for Kudzu.com, a great source of informational and local search advertising leads for Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs.

So once again, think tactical; target local opportunities where competition is light, your cost of sales leads is low, and your ability to convert to sale is higher.

In proceeding with your campaign, make sure you track the effectiveness of your ads. Start with simple lead counts. Next time, we will explore comprehensive local tracking (both online and offline) and how to gauge the effectiveness of your local online efforts.


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