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Is Mayer’s move to Local for Google a demotion?

I have written in a few places this week about the move that Google announced as Marissa Mayer, their front facing VP of search products, was leaving that position and taking over Google’s location and local services activities. There has been widespread speculation about what this move means, including many who feel that this was a demotion of sorts. As far as I can tell that couldn’t be further from the truth.

To be honest, I have no inside track at Google. I don’t have Google moles lurking in the halls of the Googleplex who are at the ready to text me (or whatever moles do) with hot insider info. All I have is years of business experience and a decent understanding of the Internet space. As a result, I have firmly latched on to the increasing importance of local Internet marketing.

Marissa Mayer

Image via Wikipedia

I have not been on the bleeding edge of this movement like David Mihm, Mike Blumenthal, Matt McGee, and many others. Instead, I feel like I am part of the leading edge because, while knowing the technical ins and outs of the local Internet game is good, seeing how these techniques are best applied for business success is even better. We are just at the phase of this movement where people are getting a glimpse of just how critical this area of search and Internet marketing will be to their businesses future. Those who get in now will be early adopters and the greatest beneficiaries of this shift to the local level.
Back to Google and Mayer. By taking one of the most visible people in the Google stable and putting them in an area that is poised for growth but is in its awareness and product set’s infancy, Google is saying that this is important and it is going to make money. They need an alternative to offset the unbalanced revenue weight placed on search. Even though this is Google we are talking about here, nothing lasts forever.
So why Mayer and why now? Well, the now is easy. With the adoption of the smartphone rapidly increasing, location and local marketing services are becoming more available to people who are using their phones to help them navigate uncharted waters or who are looking for new options. The misconception that local Internet marketing is for locals is starting to fade away.
Huh? What I mean is that if you are “a local” then you already know a lot about your area and need less help with finding your options. I live in a town of about 30,000 and I know most of the options for restaurants, gas stations, etc. On a daily basis, however, there are thousands of cars that travel a major north / south road through my town on their way from somewhere to somewhere else. When they are in their car within a 5-mile radius of my town they are not “a local” but they are local. This means they may need to find a restaurant or gas station or auto repair shop locally in my town even though they are not “a local”. They may need to get something from a store, which is “on the way”. There are so many reasons why thousands of people who are not locals become local when it comes to their service needs.
If you are shaking your head about that explanation, I apologize. It seems like many SMBs aren’t getting it either, as less than 10% of Google’s Place Pages have been verified and optimized by business owners. Shame on us as an industry for letting that happen.
So why Mayer? That’s a little more difficult and open to wild speculation, which I will gladly partake in since this is the Internet marketing industry after all. Mayer is young, attractive, successful, wealthy beyond our wildest dreams and does not need to have a job. She is also an influential player in the building of the one of the most recognized brands on the planet. That brand is due to the product set she has overseen for some time now: search. In other words, she knows her stuff.
Now for the speculation. She may just like a challenge and sees the local and location services as the next wave of the future. Imagine the business legacy she would have by being attached to two paradigm-shifting business offerings that literally changed how people live on a day-to-day basis. Assuming there is a significant ego that needs to be fed, this is the perfect storm for someone like Mayer. She doesn’t need the money, so she can concentrate on the game changer for its own sake. Sure, there is more money to be made, but that’s for three or four generations from now to spend.
So, is moving from the VP of the world’s most powerful search engine to an area that is on the cusp of exploding into something even more life-changing than search a demotion? I don’t think so. It just sounds smart to me.

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