Saturday, April 23, 2011

Google Tags Eliminated for Google Places Profiles

Two weeks ago, I discussed Google Tags advertising, an option that the search engine had rolled out recently that allowed businesses to increase their Google Places profile visibility in the map results. Well, merely ten days after writing that post, Google had officially eliminated Tags after a fairly short campaign. There hasn't been a whole lot of feedback from Google as to what caused them to remove the option for Places profile owners (no surprise here), however, I believe that there is enough information regarding local search to make an inference.

For starters, it is important to revisit what businesses benefit most from having a Places profile that ranks high in the map results. As I previously stated, I am a firm believer that smaller companies are able to profit the most. For example, an online user is far more likely to search for, "pizza delivery in the upper east side" as opposed to, "(insert corporation) in the upper east side." The chances are, the corporation's location is already well known, so the search volume for these companies would be far less. Furthermore, it is unlikely that large businesses who have already established brand recognition are spending time optimizing a Places profile. Rather, they are advertising through television, billboards, etc. (think Nike or McDonald's).

So, why did Google eliminate Tags from the local search realm? In the end, as with most things in the world of business, I believe it is simple - the cost benefit analysis did not yield strong results. The better question is why? I think there are a couple of factors that had the greatest impact on the service being discontinued.

For one, small companies are operating on small marketing budgets. As a result, the $25/month per Tag cost may not have been worth it. It is unlikely that the service was driving significant revenue for Google, since the companies that spend the most time focusing their marketing efforts on local search are in fact smaller. Additionally, if you have a Places profile that is well optimized and ranking high in the map results, did utilizing tags provide additional value? More importantly, do users care? If you are in the top spot in the map results, the click-through rate is going to be significantly higher than someone ranking in positions #2-7 regardless.

And finally, it is possible that Places profile owners that were utilizing Tags the most were not using them effectively or simply were not ranking high, which would have led to many users simply ignoring them. If history has taught us anything, people searching online make snap decisions; many don't look past a particular ranking, which would have rendered Tags appearing in profiles below certain positions irrelevant. Business owners would have identified that their conversion rates were not improving despite utilizing Tags, and thus ended their campaign seeing no tangible gain.

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