While most of us were at Pubcon last week, Google put on a by invitation only Local Symposium. This meeting was to go over Google's rules and best practices, and to discuss some of its ongoing efforts with call reporting, mobile ads, printable coupons and website analytics.
Peter Krasilovsky reported that while it was not very revealing, it was "pretty helpful". He went on to provide the best synopsis of the event I could find:
General Improvements: Simple signup and pricing, snapshot proofs of ads, and minimal campaign management. We want to drive customers through the door.
Call Reporting: Google is providing extensive call reporting to small-business advertisers for both online and offline ad formats (including radio and print). The reporting includes frequency, duration and originating location, and advertisers can use either local or toll-free numbers.
Mobile Ads: Google is rolling out AdSense for Mobile, including syndicated search ads on search partner results. The service carries the same charges as online clicks.
Google Maps for Mobile: In addition to putting maps on the phone, Google is enhancing them with traffic reports and satellite views.
Printable Coupons: Google is pushing a coupon capability via its local business center. A coupons link appears on local listings and on Google maps search results. They can also be searched at the local level.
Web Site Analytics: Google intends to expand the use of its free analytics tool for small businesses. The analytics, formerly Urchin Software, is embedded directly in AdWords. Advertisers that take advantage of the tools tend to spend more as a result. It has proved especially powerful for geo targeting.
Although not surprising, the announcement that Google can now provide any business with a unique phone number for use on their AdWords Business Page, was most interesting to me. This free number will let an advertiser track the total number of calls that come to their business through the web page.
Besides giving Google vast data on the effectiveness of various media, they're arming local business with the power to effectively track response rates for all marketing activities, both traditional and interactive, by helping:
Identify each lead generated
Reduce or eliminate non performing advertising spending
Record information on every call such as, date, time, and area code.
With the ability to provide the advertiser with Research, Planning and and now Tracking results, it appears that Google are well on their way to becoming the defacto Chief Marketing Officer for the SMB segment.