Google Cozies Up To SMBs For Digital Content

Imagine searching on Google for rare coins or Topps baseball cards. Aside from listing the brick-and-mortar address, directions and phone number, the search query might return the suggested retail price and the quantity in stock at each local store.

That's the picture Chris LaSala painted this week at The Kelsey Group conference in Los Angeles. The Google director of local marketers and strategic partner development said the biggest problem the search engine faces in reaching that goal is the lack of digital content serving local markets. "There's a vast array of content specific to local markets, but the majority isn't available in digital form, so getting access to it isn't easy," he said.

Small and medium businesses (SMB) have been reluctant to give Google access to digital content that is specific to local markets. Basically, it's because they don't have the time to turn hard copies into bits and bytes. "Getting the SMB to give us access is something we need to get better at," he said. "We aren't even close to where we need to be."

LaSala estimates that Google has indexed about 10% of the available digital content geared toward local markets. "If you look at Main Street USA--the barber, the church, the synagogue and the sports shop--you might get the hours of service and address," he said. "But wouldn't it be great if you find out if you could get an Alex Rodriguez rookie card? If you knew it was in the shop and the costs, you could go down to the store and buy it. This is just an example of where we are today."

LaSala admits that Google hasn't done as good a job in serving the SMB market as it would like. Many of Google's products don't meet their needs. Citing a Webvisibility study, he said 40% of SMBs go to the Internet first when they look for local data, yet less than half spend less than 10% for online ads.

Aside from getting SMBs to provide more content in digital format, the biggest challenge has been to support them as advertisers. He suspects that while the features in AdWords drive success, they also hinder success, too.

While the AdWords' platform lets businesses choose a host of advertising options, SMBs don't have time to pick keywords, design ads, decide on budgets for cost-per-click (CPC) campaigns, and pick sites they want to advertise on. "It's all these things the SMB doesn't have time to do," LaSala said.

LaSala admits there's a gap between the design of the platform and the ability for them to carry out the campaign. Improving the gap might mean making Google Maps more intuitive or offering bundled services.

There are plans to roll out new bundled services and APIs for SMBs that should align better with the philosophies of smaller companies, LaSala said. The sales force has seen a makeover, too, because Google has learned that selling into the SMB requires specific talents to understand the market.

"We've retrenched with a smaller group of partners," LaSala said. "Google's not immune to pressures of effectively using the resources on our team, so we narrowed the scope to the partners that we think log the highest opportunities."

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