Tag Archives: Google Local

How Can Google Improve? Local Execs Comment

We all live in Google’s world now. Nobody would dispute that there are many positives associated with that. But how do industry practitioners really feel about it. Can it be improved? We asked three executives who cover different parts of the local ecosystem, promising them anonymity.

An aggregator said he thinks he should be treated as more of a partner. “Aggregators/intermediaries are treated with a broad brush, assumed to be link farms/inefficient nuisances, and essentially outcast,” he complained.

“In the business of local, the aggregation of advertisers and/or of content with valuable ad products and/or user utility can be very appealing to consumers and to local merchants. This dimension of innovation is being penalized by Google’s approach to search, and there are no partnership formulas that align with this.”

On the other hand, an SEM exec said that Google is “heading in the right direction” with its local products, especially Google Maps. But “the results are often not as relevant as their organic results. I believe they are getting traction simply because they are forcing users to go there by adding the 10-pack pack at the top of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).”

More importantly, Google Local’s volume isn’t high enough. “From a monetization standpoint, we would like to spend more money on Local Business Ads (ads on maps) – but the volume does not seem to be there – at least like it is compared to regular ads displayed on the organic results pages.

“What Google could do to help us and other local marketers is to allow us to differentiate on clicks between regular organic results (below the map) and clicks to links displayed in the 10 pack,” he added. “Currently, they look the same from a tracking standpoint.”

Meanwhile, a Yellow Pages executive said he isn’t very interested in selling for Google. “Why on earth would anyone be a reseller for Google Local – it isn’t economically feasible,” he said. “They don’t provide discounts to resellers, volume benefits, or royalties to sellers, who may buy directly from Google after the initial sale.”

Allmenus.com Moves Up the Value Chain

Online menus are a good thing, and a number of companies, mostly regionally oriented, have tried to aggregate them and sell advertising and delivery services around them. I am a big user of MenuShark in my area. At least two companies have especially ambitious plans. One is MenuPages.com, which was sold last month to New York Magazine for additional development. Another is DotMenu, Inc., a 30 person NYC outfit that has been quickly adding markets and services.

The company was launched ten years ago as a university food ordering service (CampusFood.com). CMP Media vet Ken Cron (Remember Communications Week?) serves as its chairman. DotMenu expanded a year and a half ago to allmenus.com, and is now working with 2,500 restaurants, typically processing 10,000 online food orders per day. More than three million online orders are projected to be processed during 2008.

Most of allmenus.com’s restaurants are situated in a handful of key cities, including Atlanta, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But more than 200 cities are served by the increasingly national dining portal. Currently, the bulk of dotmenus business continues to come from campusfood.com. Allmenus.com makes up 15 percent of the company’s revenue.

Allmenus.com’s modus is simple enough. It tries to get as many menus as possible; one method involves paying freelancers $2 a menu to collect them, or “moms.” More and more restaurants are sending them in, especially since Google Local started syndicating the menus. Once restaurants are posted, they can be upsold to the company’s online lead, ordering and transaction processing platform, typically taking 8-10 percent of every bill (in addition to $235 annual fees).

In an effort to become more of a “dining portal,” attracting more “waiter” restaurants, the service has been adding community services, such as neighborhood proximity, ratings and reviews, photo uploading and links to Open Table’s restaurant reservations. Now it wants to also add a wider swath of online restaurant marketing services, including website development, video, email marketing, SEO and SEM, and cell phone text services.

Heading up the company’s team is CEO Frank Blot, a former Vivendi Games exec; President and founder Michael Saunders; and CRO Tony Wills, a former exec with RHD, Newsday Interactive and most recently, with Quigo until its sale to AOL.

Wills, who came on board just last week, feels the opportunity to add technology based solutions to restaurants is huge. “Over half of the 500,000 restaurants in the country are independently owned and technology strapped,” he notes. “Now, even the small mom and pop operation can have access to (top level) services and systems.”

Video is expected to be especially hot for the company. Wills has plenty of experience with video from his days at Tribune’s Newsday Interactive, where he pioneered vertical directories. Even though it was several years ago, more than 200 Long Island restaurants were participating advertisers, and 82 percent were buying video, which required a 12 month contract. “It was the number one traffic driver.

“We were told we couldn’t do more than $40-50 per month,” he says. “But our average price point was $150 per month.”