Archive for September, 2009

Google Plays Monopoly and Owns Every Place on the Board

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

It’s funny how seemingly unrelated things can happen on the internet at about the same time yet they become related in a round about manner showing the evolution and direction of the web. And when Google becomes a major player it becomes very noteworthy, at least for search engine geeks like me. This past week was one of those times.

Earlier in the week I was reading this piece about Hasbro’s new Monopoly City Streets game and speculation that it would become a major advertising platform, a la Adwords. It’s a pretty cool looking game using Google Maps to power the now global board game.

The next day I was reading about Squidoo’s (or as some call it, Spamdoo) plans for Brands in Public and how it would become a reputation management timebomb or, as many feel, and as Lisa Barone put it so well, a form of brandjacking.

And if you’re a small or medium-sized brand, well then you’ll really hate Brands in Public. Because they’re trying to extort 5k a year from you for a free listening station you could very easily create all by yourself (or for $18/month with Trackur). And if you choose to continue doing it by yourself, you still have to accept the fact that Seth just brandjacked your name. And now you have someone representing your brand when they have no affiliation with your company.

Seth did however cave to the pressure and Brands in Public is now opt-in, instead of opt-out.

On the same day Google rolled out Sidewiki. And if you thought Squidoo was building a reputation management nightmare, well, welcome to the reputation management Apocalypse that Google is delivering to every business and website on the planet. Granted it is kind of a cool feature BUT if your business is not already social media savvy your being forced into it and you should be scared of trolls leaving flames and loosing control of your own website. Google may also see this as yet another place to serve up Adwords thus advertising your own direct competitors, on your own website no less, and they certainly won’t be sharing the revenue with you.

Will Google publish ads on Sidewiki? That remains to be seen but it is certainly likely. Google should also know from it’s Google Maps experience that Sidewiki will be abused as are user reviews for local businesses in Maps.

The very next day Google Maps announces Place Pages where every place in the world will get it’s own web page, with nice friendly keyword loaded URL’s. For local businesses, that already are in Google Maps, these new place pages are essentially a reformatting of the data from their Local Business Listings. There is some speculation that these pages are formatted in such a way to be used as landing pages and with the link sharing function built into the top right corner they certainly will.

Seems to me they have also been better optimized for serving up Adwords. The local business listings had already been showing PPC ads but the new format brings them a little bit higher on the page and the new placement of the map and images makes for a better visual eyeball magnet to draw the eye to those ads. Again these ads are often for direct local competitors of the current page’s business listing, and no revenue share, of course.

New ad placement for Google Place pages

There’s also been lots of discussion in the local seo world that if these pages get indexed and start appearing in search results for local places and local business names then it becomes a game changer. The major Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) sites must all be doing laundry right now to clean out the mess they just left in their own pants.

So where is this all going? And what does it mean for local businesses online? Reputation management is becoming a MUST and it may also become burdensome should Sidewiki become used by a significant portion of web surfers. This is also showing Google’s long term strategy for the internet as a whole. They want a piece of every bit of it. Whether you are a small independent jewelry maker on the outskirts of Buffalo, NY without your own website or you are a major global brand like Coca Cola, expect anyone and everyone to be talking about you and Google, like Squidoo was attempting to do, to hijack your brand so they can slap ads on it.

In the game of Monopoly the objective is to own all the places. With Place Pages Google now owns a web page for each and every location on the planet. And with Sidewiki, even for websites that don’t translate to an on the ground brick and mortar location, they can soon park a billboard on that space. They won’t be paying you rent. Do not pass Go and do not collect $200. Or in Seth Godin’s case, do not collect $400.