Can Groupon Break Into the Search Market?

In an effort to move beyond your inbox, discount aggregator Groupon recently unveiled Pages, a directory of more than 7 million businesses full of information such as phone numbers, hours of operation, menus, and website URLs.

By beefing up its website, Groupon hopes to bring more incoming traffic, rather than relying solely on users redeeming deals via email. At the same time, the increased visibility that comes with detailed listings pages increases visibility and social engagement, and may make businesses more inclined to purchase offers. If enough visitors request a deal on a specific page, Groupon will work on making it happen.

“We’re giving these businesses a place to put their current specials that they have on chalkboards in front of their business in front of millions of consumers who are already looking for something to buy and have a credit card on file,” says Nick Halliwell, a Groupon representative.

Halliwell adds that if a business hasn’t worked with Groupon in the past, Pages can hopefully get the dialogue started.

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The feature, which was tested in five cities before its introduction last week, is similar to Yelp, right down to the user reviews. Users can also request deals on pages, giving Groupon enough customer feedback to know which businesses to prioritize working with.

Though the two platforms are inherently different – Groupon being more about discovery than Yelp, where users typically have a destination – Benjamin Spiegel, managing director of strategy at GroupM, thinks Yelp has an advantage over Pages.

“[But] one thing [Groupon does have] going for them is on the link equity side,” Spiegel says. “If there’s a great special on Groupon, people will link to it, they’ll tweet it.”

Another key difference is Groupon’s plan to turn management of the pages over to business owners. With Groupon’s Gnome tablet, business owners can track user content, respond to people’s ratings, and redeem promotions, among other features that will be tested in the near future.

Spiegel believes that business owners will be well-served by Pages from a search point of view as long as they use unique content on their pages.

“From an organic-side perspective, unless they’re adding valuable content, it will not perform well,” Spiegel says. “If it’s all aggregated content just copied and pasted, there will be no search benefit, and Google is not going to keep (the Groupon page) in mind.”

Groupon has been on an innovation streak lately, introducing time-based deals and an app that gives users cash back on their grocery store purchases in the last two months. Next up is a plan to tie listings to reservation sites and scheduling services, ensuring that users can find and buy from local businesses without leaving the site.

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