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No. 368
June 19th, 2009

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Google Making More Pronounced Effort to Reach SMBs

The Local Search world was abuzz when Google announced its rollout of a basic analytics package within the Local Business Center a couple of weeks ago.

Clearly, certain powers in Mountain View are starting to sense the underlying current of frustration in the typical SMB owner’s world, highlighted by the recent Borrell study and Mike Blumenthal’s weekly (self-described) “snipes.”

Mike’s already found some of the Local Analytics data to be pretty valuable, but that’s just one of many initiatives Google has undertaken recently to promote the LBC.

They’ve also:

These are all admirable forays into a higher level of engagement with SMB’s and the web community.  And not a moment too soon.  Allow me to share a couple of real-world anecdotes from this spring.

Anecdote #1: An Actual Small Business Owner

Just after SMX West in February, I decided to hang out in my old neck of the woods for an extra night with my aunt, who lives in the East Bay, before flying back to Portland.  She told me about this brand-new Emeryville, California pizza place that had just opened & we were anxious to try their fare.  We stopped in Thursday night to take some back to her house.

The owner of the place happened to be the guy cooking the pies & running the cash register.  As we were waiting for the pizza to heat up, I struck up a conversation with him about what he was doing in the online world, as a new business owner.  He mentioned that he had been pretty busy starting up his business, but that he had definitely made sure he signed up for a listing on Yelp.  He was rightfully proud of the fact that he already had over 20 Yelpers review his pizza, all positive, within two weeks of being open.  He whipped out his iPhone to show me.

My next question, of course, having just spoken on a panel with MapsGuideJen at SMX, was had he submitted his business to Google?

His answer: Huh?

This is a young (30-year-old?) highly-engaged, tech-savvy guy, living in the technology capital of the world, less than an hour from the Google campus, who was more familiar with his iPhone than I am with some body parts.  He’d never heard of the LBC, or even thought about the opportunity to submit his business to Google.

It’s truly a shame that an average business owner starting up in the Bay Area claims his business on Yelp immediately, but doesn’t even know about the existence of the LBC.

Anecdote #2: A Room Full of Online Marketers

Late last year I recounted my experience at the Tri-Cities Learn About Web conference, where barely half of business owners raised their hands to indicate they knew what “SEO” meant.  I asked a similar set of questions to gauge the level of experience of the audience before a recent presentation at the Innotech E-Marketing Summit here in Portland.  This was a room of about 120 – 150 people who e-marketed for a living.  My questions:

  • Who knows what “SEO” means? (100% of hands went up)
  • Who knows about Title Tags & what they mean for SEO? (~60-70% of hands went up)
  • Who has heard of the Local Business Center? (2 hands went up)

It is perhaps even more frightening to consider the widespread ignorance of the LBC among web professionals . These are people who are online 10-12 hours a day, many of them probably already spending tens of thousands of dollars on Adwords, dragging their clients into the 21st century…and yet they are just as in the dark about where to start with Local Search as a typical business owner.


So to my mind, despite these recent, admirable efforts coming out of Mountain View, awareness of the Local Business Center is still pretty low among business owners and even among web professionals.  It may be time for Google to spend a little money on offline as well as online marketing of the LBC.  At the very least it might serve as a nice brand counterpunch to all the recent Bing ads.

The baby steps Google has taken in the last month are nice…but whatever their form, further efforts are clearly needed to increase awareness in the general public about the importance, and relative ease, of using the LBC.

  • I think Google’s LBC awareness will come in time, and correlate to how they present local results in regular web searches.

    If 40% of all searches are local that means at some point these small business owners will make their way online to find local information. Some of the them will put 2 and 2 together and think wait a second, why have I not done this?

  • David,
    I somehow utterly missed the rollout of the Maps blog! I must have been absent from class that day.

    Are comments simply not enabled on that blog? I even signed into my G. account to see if that would make a commenting option appear but no dice. I’m confused, as I’m looking at Jenn’s post from the 16th about the Sierras which ends:

    What have you found in Street View or on Google Maps that inspires you?

    That seems to indicate that she’s hoping people respond, but I see no way to do this. Do you?

    Great post, David!

  • Miriam,

    I do NOT see a way to post comments. I assume they want to keep those in the Maps forum 🙂 Presumably if you have a blog, you could click the “create a link” and write a response that would appear as a pingback underneath. Perhaps one of the powers @ Google Maps will read your comment & decide to implement a moderated comments system or something… 😀


  • Wow – less than 2% of e-marketers had heard of the Local Business Center? That’s scary.

    The unfortunate thing for small business owners is that most of them only find out about the LBC when the data for their business is wrong (or hijacked). Often they find out from upset customers who got faulty info on G-Maps. Oddly enough, if the business info is wrong on G-Maps, customers will often fault the business owner instead of Google.

    Just had a great idea!

    Google should provide incorrect data for ALL business listings. Then, all those angry customers will tell all the business owners about it, leading to a much higher participation from SMBs in LBC. Brilliant.

  • re: “…It is perhaps even more frightening to consider the widespread ignorance of the LBC among web professionals…” — boy I do have to agree with you there, David. Almost all of our clients are locally based, we specialize in just this kind of local searches for them and while we’ve ‘grown’ into this business model in the past few years, I’m also so surprised that so many other SEO practitioners know so very LITTLE about LBC….and what using same can do for their own clients! As a part of each day, I spend time on some of the SEO forums and always preach about the LBC and it’s value…so thanks once again for this great pointer and blog!

  • Google’s push to display the 10 pack for more and more search queries that do not contain a geographic term has really perked up the attention of a lot of local business owners. They see there competitors in that sweet spot near the top of the page and then realize they need to be there, too. I think this has definitely been an effective tactic on Google’s part to get more attention for the Local Business Center.

  • Great post. It’s amazing how unnoticed the LBC has become even among web professionals. I have experienced the same results with people that are in-the-know of the LBC, finding it very surprising.

    Also, thank you for sharing the twitter / blog of the Google LBC team.