Google has the money, resources and clout to compete in any market they enter fully. Problem is they also seem to suffer from a focus problem. They tend (or at least it appears to me) to release features without strategy.
Of late, however, it looks like they just might be getting their local strategy together and marshaling a suite new features combined with existing assets to put themselves in position to take a giant leap in the local reviews, local offers, and local social games to go with their strong local search position.
Two barely noticeable moves in the last couple weeks give hint to the this focus strategy. I took note of both and wrote quick updates – The first was the addition of optimized reviews in Places Pages and the second was the addition of reputation management features in Profile Pages. Both of these moved signal a renewed focus on making both Profiles and Places pages more important in their ecosystem and perhaps ultimately in a social network of some sort.
Of course the Google Offers play – their answer to Groupon’s success – has been unfolding for a few weeks, and I had my doubts they would do what it would take to slow Groupon, but hey, it’s Google and you never know.
This week they slyly unleashed what could only be called City Pages – hat tip to the always informative David Mihm for tracking this down – City Pages, like this example for Portland, are a necessary piece in the puzzle if they are to compete with Groupon, but they also further the importance of claiming and optimizing a Place Page, appear to show in the Index and really put the spot light on the reviews. (Only a handful of cities are currently live.)
Business owners are invited to claim their pages, create special offers and try out ad products such as Boost right from the city home page. There’s also an interesting integration of acquisition TalkBin, a tool that makes it very easy for people send SMS messages to any registered business.
The cities chosen for the City Page beta test closely align with the first Google Offers beta tests and can be supported by the local Google sales and support staff. With Google’s ability marry advertising with offers and a local portal this could prove very disruptive to Groupon, but also to many local portals services such as Yelp! and CityPages.