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MIHMORANDUM
No. 703
October 18th, 2010


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Google Places Embarks on TeleSales Campaign for Tags

The following is a direct transcript of a call I received earlier this morning:

Hi David, my name is Christopher Smith — I’m calling from Google and I’m calling regarding your existing business listings with us, and some important changes and features to the account that I need to speak to you about.  We just launched a new product to enhance your listing — make you more visible, and make you seen all throughout Google searches — that includes Local searches and (unintelligible) searches.

It’s a new product, requires no contract whatsoever, and just a flat fee of 25 bucks a month.

At your convenience, please give me a call at 1-800-838-7970, and my direct extension is 23846.

And again, this is Christopher Smith calling from Google.  I look forward to your call, David.

I actually first heard about this campaign from SEO guru Scott Hendison after my presentation at the SEMpdx monthly event last Tuesday but didn’t get a chance to blog about it last week.  Interestingly enough, Scott mentioned that he was forwarded the call by a client that had two identical listings claimed in two different accounts — one in his own account that he hadn’t touched in years, and one in their own account.  When he tried to follow the salesperson’s instructions and added the Tag, both he and she remarked that it was not showing up on the listing.  She asked him if she could look into it and call him back.

About 40 minutes later he received a call back asking him to verify the listing ID number that he saw in the URL string.  He did indeed verify it, and seconds later overheard her shout to an engineering colleague on the other side of the room something to the effect of “Yep, that’s it, go ahead and merge those listings.” Bang–the listing was immediately taken out of his account and the tag properly associated with the client listing.

For what it’s worth, Scott also mentioned to me that his sales rep told him she was in Phoenix and that she was very helpful in answering all of his questions.

Implications

#1 Google continues to adopt a confrontational stance towards IYP publishers.

At the Kelsey show in Dallas in September, Chris Silver Smith (presumably no relation to the Christopher Smith above) reported that Google’s representative, Todd Rowe, invited attendees to:

  • “Let us know what is working and what is not”
  • “Partner with us expanding what worked well, and fixing what’s broken; We are so much in “build mode”, and we need to be able to respond to needs.”
  • “Broaden our opportunities by broadening our partnerships.”

I’d be interested to know from any IYP readers of this blog whether Google has embarked on any kind of reseller strategy with them for Tags yet.  The direct-telesales-to-SMB’s strategy demonstrated by Christopher’s phone call suggests that the above statements made by Rowe in Dallas may have largely been lip-service to the IYP industry attendees.  These telesales are surely going to cut directly into their bottom lines if they’re not getting a piece of the action.  It’s not coopetition–whatever that means–it’s competition.

#2 Having trouble with your listings? Give Christopher a call at his direct line: 1-800-838-7970 x23846.

I find it fascinating that Google would embark on what seems to be a fairly significant sales process for Local before getting its customer service ducks in order.  No one knows the problems that SMB’s are experiencing with Places better than Mike, and they are myriad.  Frankly, I’d recommend to ANY business having trouble with its listings that they give Christopher a call at the number above, agree to sign up for $25 on the condition that he get them out of whatever limbo state they’re in.

Folks like Dave Oremland (earlpearl) have been suggesting that Google offer a paid customer service channel for Places from the very beginning, and based on Scott Hendison’s experience, this certainly seems like it would work as a de facto customer service channel.

I would imagine this is one of many experiments we’ll see Google making not only with Local ad products but also Local ad strategies as it tries to scale its revenues across the fragmented SMB landscape.  Telesales seem to be one of the least algorithmic ways to accomplish that (strangely, Tags still do not seem to be available for verified bulk upload accounts).

This strategy might signal a change in thinking at a somewhat deeper level among Google Places’ leadership that human interaction with SMB’s is necessary at some stage, even for a largely DIY-product like Tags.