Google Tags, Paid Search Meets SEO

Most PPC search advertisers and millions of local businesses are missing out on search traffic by not using Google’s Places and Tags product, but this won’t last long because many are beginning to recognize that Google Tags can be an important part of an overall paid search campaign. I believe that Google will likely have 1 million U.S. advertisers signed up for the Places/Tags combo product within a year (a mere 300 million additional revenue dollars). Will you be one of them or will your competition beat you to the punch?

Google serves up Places/Tags as part of the 7-Pack within the primary SERP when it (the Google algorithm) believes that the search (and searcher) has local intent, plus the tags show up on map/local searches. You may be thinking that you are a national pure-play Internet brand and don’t need any local presence or may not even have local stores. However, remember that even if Google thinks a significant percentage of those searchers engaged in the SERP have a desire to see local results, Google might show the 7-Pack. So of course your objective as a search engine marketer is to maximize your screen real estate, mindful of the ROI consequences/costs. Paid placement PPC search is a great way to have granular control of the advertising block on the SERP which means you may end up above the organic results or in the right rail. Often the Google 7-Pack (or whatever number of local results they show next to a map) catches the attention of searchers, so if a Google Tag will increase your visibility for even a small fraction of searchers, it’s probably worth the $25 per month, perhaps even $25 per month for every one of your locations (even if that location is a warehouse).

Claiming and enhancing your Google Place Page is fairly straightforward, as long as you have a business address and/or an existing listed phone number. The phone or postal validation is an attempt by Google to address the growing problem of local search spam. (The simple fact that Google has to fight this local search spam should indicate to you that there is some significant value to be had in a local listing.) Once you’ve claimed your listing, enhancing and completing the “your business info” section of the profile requires the skills of both PPC search and SEO. When writing your business description, you need to weigh relevance as well as the popularity of the searches, particularly for those with local intent. For example, clearly not many people do a local map search for “New York City Search Engine Marketing Agencies,” however, while prepping for this column I went in and claimed my NYC office location and then took advantage of Google’s one-month free trial of a tag on that listing. The result is that for a variety of SEM and SEO-related searches within maps I rank well and, perhaps more importantly, I am the only one with a yellow tag, which adds visibility.

Every one of you (advertiser or agency) has at least one location. Many of you (merchants in particular) have hundreds of locations (Google accepts feeds for organizations with a lot of locations). The more retail your product or service is, the more of a no-brainer it is to at least test a combination of your claimed Google Place Page and a Tag. Google knows that many searches have strong local intent even when that intent is not specified within the search query. In these cases, as part of universal search the 7-Pack appears, perhaps right at the top of organic results or a bit farther down.

Doing the math as to whether or not to continue to use the Tag product at $25 per location is easy when you have the first month free. See how many impressions and clicks you get. My estimate is that you will get twice as many clicks if you are the only “Tagged” local business vs. a non-tagged listing (all other things equal).

If you want to do the match more scientifically, break the Local/Places test into two parts. Step one: claim your listing and fill out everything on the profile, including industry categories and a website if you have one (yes, you can take advantage of Place Pages even if you have no Web presence). Then watch your impression and click data from within your Places account area. If these numbers seem fairly stable, then activate your free trial of a Google Tag (you’ll have to provide a credit card which is automatically billed if you don’t cancel). See if the clicks and/or impressions go up. If so, you have your lift/delta.

Step two is to divide your $25 per month by the number of incremental clicks you got to arrive at the CPC you are essentially paying. Do you have keyword-level control like a PPC search ad? No, but you are able to craft a Google Places page that may change the mix of searches for which Google deems you relevant.

Go forth and claim your listings!

Related reading

Screenshot shows a Google search for outdoor grills, the shopping ads shows images with “in store” showing the product is available nearby.