Google Local Search Strategy Needs Marketing Muscle
So as I was writing this piece about the new developments in Google's local search strategy last week, it occurred to me that while Google has a veritable gold mine of mobile, local and social technology, what it lacks is the marketing oomph to make others aware of it.
For example, while it's my job to learn about, grok and report the fact that Google's Hotpot recommendation engine is now available in almost 40 languages (ie, gone global), and that Google added check-ins to its Latitude application, Joe Consumer isn't necessarily going to know about it.
Not everyone reads about this stuff, and Google with its quintessential army of engineers doesn't exactly put up billboards about its local search stuff.
Wait a minute, you say. Facebook had no marketing and no advertising in its salad days, so Google could do it, right? No. Google is known as a general Web search engine, not a local search venue like Yelp.
Facebook had the unparalleled value of being a network phenomenon that went viral first in colleges and universities -- where it counts (the young drive consumerization of tech).
Google needs to leverage other avenues, like the kind that has made Groupon so successful: feet on the street.
Google is already testing this in Portland, where Hotpot, which suggests restaurants and other businesses to users of Android smartphones and iPhones, is being leveraged to full effect across multiple small businesses.
Google Places business partners such as the Portland Trailblazers, Deschutes Brewery and other businesses are leveraging Hotpot to promote their goods and services. Google has enlisted writers to discuss how Hotpot helped them navigate Portland local shops.
Clearly, Google sent out Googlers to talk to businesses to get them involved.
This is great, but Google needs to do this in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a dozen other cities to help Hotpot, Google Places, Latitude, Google Offers and the rest of its local search and ad products gain a full head of steam.
Or else these products will wallow in niche userdom, i.e., virtual obscurity.
Google is hiring 6,200 or so people this year. Why not make half of them or more feet-on-the-street sales people to get Hotpot, et al in more shops?
That's how Google can fight Groupon, Facebook, etc., in local search. Just saying. Agree? Disagree?
Updated: Changed to Hotpot throughout. Thanks, readers!