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Groupon Pages Part Of Company Evolution Into Local Search Site
Site aims to boost SMB visibility -- and its own.
Depending on your viewpoint, Groupon’s new Pages offering is either a helpful new tool for local business owners or a bid by the company for more search exposure and a new way to gain sales leads. Indeed, it probably qualifies as both.
Groupon stresses Pages’ value for business owners (SEO, reputation, social engagement) but there are myriad potential benefits for the company that tip the scales in its favor. This is not to say that value to Groupon and value delivered to SMBs are mutually exclusive. But the challenge for business owners is that this represents yet another page-presence for them to manage in a very noisy local marketplace.
Here’s the Groupon pitch to local business owners:
Be part of the world’s largest local commerce marketplace, where more than 200 million customers can search for the best things to eat, see, do, and buy. Manage your online presence by adding photos, customer specials, and other business details. Entice customers to visit with specials. Specials may include happy hours, weeknight promotions, loyalty programs, or bundled pricing
Groupon has created 7 million Pages that correspond with an equivalent number of business listings in the U.S. This followed a beta trial in five U.S. cites the company called successful. The overwhelming majority of these Pages are not claimed.
Groupon declined to tell me how many Pages had been claimed but said, in email, that “during the pilot we saw a great response from local businesses when prompted to claim their page.” As with other directories and local search sites, once claimed, Pages can then be enhanced.
If it isn’t obvious, Groupon Pages are essentially business profile pages that permit SMBs to promote offers to consumers and allow them to “request a deal.” In addition, if Groupon has consumer recommendations, those are displayed in the upper right of the page.
Groupon said the company designed these Pages based on its “experiences working with more than 650,000 merchants worldwide . . . They’re intended to help our customers make more informed purchases and have better experiences at local businesses.”
Most significantly, perhaps, Pages will appear in search results on Google, and they will also show up in Groupon.com search results.
In one sense, this is Groupon’s version of “inbound marketing.” Companies will search for themselves on Google, discover these Pages and claim them or contact the company. That contact/claim provides the sales opportunity.
In another sense, Groupon is giving away local SEO in exchange for qualified sales leads. But it’s also a big SEO play for Groupon itself — to keep the brand in front of people as they search locally and to start associating that activity with Groupon.com itself.
The company wants consumers to come directly to Groupon to search for local merchants and deals. Pages provide content to Groupon, and it may also help “reinvigorate” the company’s local deals business. Somewhat ironically, if a consumer is already looking for a merchant or restaurant, that individual is likely to be motivated to buy with less of an incentive than required in a push context (e.g., in email).
The “request a deal” feature may also help the company deliver new value — qualified leads — to SMBs and establish or repair its trust. Groupon’s reputation took a beating during the “daily deals bubble” including related negative coverage surrounding the company.
There are other Groupon products that it can offer and sell to SMBs once it gets them in the door with Pages: scheduling/booking, point of sale systems, analytics and reputation management. Groupon sees itself not as a deals vendor but as a commerce platform for SMBs, not unlike the way that Square describes itself.
In the big picture, Pages is but the latest move — though a significant one — in Groupon’s evolution from a push to a pull marketplace, from an email marketing company to a (local) search site.
In an email to me last week, a Groupon spokesperson said:
We want to be the first place that people think of when they’re looking for something to buy, do or see around them. In order for that to happen, we have to provide a number of choices for every search in our marketplace. [ ] We’re still going to show you the four places where we’re currently running a Groupon deal, but we’re also going to show you ratings, tips, money-saving opportunities and other useful information for the other six businesses.
Pages help connect the last mile of local commerce by bringing together hundreds of millions of Groupon subscribers and millions of businesses in one place.