ILM West: Google Exec Jeff Aguero Discusses Local Efforts

Google’s local efforts have grown tremendously under the direction of Marissa Mayer, and now encompass a wide range of products, including Google Maps, Google Places, Zagat, Google Offers, and Get Online a new SMB initiative.

At ILM West this week in San Francisco, Head of Local Consumer Marketing Jeff Aguero provided a rich portrait of Google’s thinking on local. “We are ten percent of where we are and where we need to be,” says Aguero. “There is so much that needs to be done.” He adds that Google is eager to work “closely with partners to create a rich opportunity” for all.

“The local experience is mostly disconnected,” says Aguero. “It is not consistent across user experience,” whether people are engaged in researching, finding, experiencing, reviewing, or sharing. Google’s goals are ultimately to “get more local searches, more customers, more reviews, better content, higher engagement, and more businesses online.”

Local is obviously an important part of Google’s core search business – 20 percent of desktop search is now local- oriented. But local is “fundamentally about places. Any type of action; how does it get there; how do you share what I am doing about my experience (i.e. photos, check-in); how do I save money on a deal?”

Within Places, Place Pages is a major effort. Currently, there are 50 million, dynamically generated Place Pages worldwide. Of these, eight million have been claimed by the business themselves. “It is the greatest catalog of place data on the Web,” notes Aguero.

The big trend is the convergence of Place Pages and Host Pages. “They have the same type of audiences in different ways, “ he says. “The functionality of both entities are likely to converge.”

Expanding ratings and reviews is also clearly a major initiative. Google Places is now getting more than a million ratings per month.

Mobile, meanwhile, is in the middle of it all. “Fifty percent of maps usage is mobile,” Aguero points out. “Mobile search usage has surpasses desktop usage on holidays. “People are using mobile phones as guides to the real world on an ongoing basis. Recently, the company introduced TalkBin, which leverages mobile to provide real time customer feedback.

Google Latitudes, a check-in product, is also is getting a lot of attention, and already has 10 million users. “It is not just how many people are enjoying and sharing products,” says Aguero, noting that Latitudes has been greatly enhanced by the introduction of Google Plus social circles.

And then there is Google’s Get Online initiative, a partnership with Intuit that lets SMBs claim a place, update information and provides a free web site. Get Online started in Michigan and is now in 14 states. New tools will continue to be added, says Aguero. “We need better toolkits for businesses.” Recently, the company introduced Adwords Express, which lets businesses set up an AdWords program in ten minutes.