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As Local-Mobile Search Takes off, Google Expands “Store Visits” Metrics, Readies Beacons for SMBs

Today in San Francisco Google held its Performance Summit, which is focused on advertising and analytics. There were a number of announcements that came out of the event.

Here is a brief overview of what was announced:

  • New “promoted pins” on Google Maps. The company also announced new business landing pages that can be customized with offers and local inventory data.
  • Expansion of “Store Visits” online-to-offline attribution to a broader range of advertisers. Currently Store Visits are used by roughly 1,000 advertisers in 11 countries. As with other O2O attribution approaches, Google Store Visits uses mobile device location to capture offline consumer foot traffic.
  • AdWords bidding is now segmented so marketers can bid separately on smartphones, PCs and tablets (a reversal of its “Enhanced Campaigns” approach)
  • Expanded AdWords text formats with more characters

Google also showcased new analytics tools, as well as the combination of search and audience targeting (i.e., “similar audiences for search” and demographic search targeting). It briefly teased the integration of AI and natural language processing into Google Analytics so that users can query the system by voice.

There are many things to discuss in these announcements. What’s most relevant here is the expansion of offline attribution — especially to local businesses.

Asked about whether Store Visits would trickle down, Google’s AdWords VP Jerry Dischler expressed the company’s interest in making O2O visits data available to SMBs. However he said the current methodology (tight geofencing) doesn’t work as well for local merchants vs Macy’s or HomeDepot. Disambiguating location is a challenge where stores are small and/or part of a dense commercial development (i.e., a mall).

Dischler indicated that it would probably require a beacon solution or something similar that can definitively confirm consumer presence in a business location. He also said that Google is still very much in an experimentation and testing phase so no SMB beacon rollout is imminent.

Facebook has been deploying beacons to local businesses, but at what might be described as a leisurely pace. I’m not entirely clear where those efforts stand today.

In the Google keynote (video below), there were multiple examples of how paid-search ROI greatly improved when offline visits are factored in. For example, Google said Store Visits measurement showed that “one of every three” clicks on Target mobile paid search ads translated to an incremental, offline consumer visit.

It’s a short leap from there to the idea that if Google can help demonstrate real-world ROI to SMBs, the conversation around paid-search and retention changes immediately. Proving ROI has been one of the great challenges for many of Google’s SEM partners and a key churn variable.

Finally, the company also said that roughly 1/3 of mobile searches are related to location (the actual number is likely larger) and it explained that “location-related mobile searches growing 50% faster than all mobile searches.”

Webinar 5/26: SweetIQ will present a highly simplified methodology for local marketers and SMBs to estimate offline visits from local search that doesn’t rely on massive scale or hardware. Register and tune in this Thursday at 11 Eastern/2 Pacific to hear me and Michael Mire of SweetIQ discuss offline attribution and its importance in this new mobile-first marketing environment.

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