I’m at the Google Local Markets Symposium today, an invite-only local search event happening at the Googleplex. I spoke this morning on a local search industry blogger panel with my friends Greg Sterling, Perry Evans and Peter Krasilovsky.
In addition to our panel, we heard from Richard Holden, Google’s Director of Product Management, talking about the various Google products targeted to SMEs. One of the major insights (for me) that came out of his presentation was the fact Google now offers free call reporting with any US local business ad. According to Holden, advertisers can choose to replace their regular phone number with a new free “trackable” toll-free or local number. This new feature might be the results of the GrandCentral acquisition.
This is not to be confused with the click-to-call function Google recently removed from Google Maps.
What it means: Google could start assigning new permanent trackable numbers for any media the advertiser chooses to advertise in. This would give Google tons of information regarding the ROI of various local media, allowing them to become a centralized advertiser dashboard. Given that the directory business is all about calls, this is potentially very disruptive to that industry in particular. As this involves serious customer disintermediation, I would recommend local media start looking at offering this option at large as well.