Google Offers, If You Can’t Buy ‘em, Beat ‘em

I got an email from our editor asking me what I thought about Google Offers and if it is something I’d want to write about.  I initially thought that it was just another attempt for Google to try be social, something Google still hasn’t figured out it can’t do in a vacuum. But something about Google Offers stuck me as different than other attempts by Google to go social or beat out market leaders.  What’s different about Google Offers is that Google Offers is about money.  Something Google knows how to make a lot of.

Google’s nose for money makes it easy to understand why they pursued Groupon in late 2010. While no one has commented specifically, the Google buyout of Groupon was rumored to be in the $5-$6 billion range. Groupon eventually walked away from the deal and is now preparing for an I.P.O. that values the company at $15 billion. Never one to admit defeat, Google confirmed the existence of its Groupon competitor, Google Offers, to Mashable in late January.

We’ve seen Google launch tons of social products with mixed success in the last couple years.  Wave, Buzz and Hotpot are a few examples.  Each one was a way for Google to compete with something they wanted to own.  The problem is that Google was attempting to reach into a market and niche that they don’t necessarily understand: socializing and user engagement.

Google is a master at returning relevant results which is why their search and their video channel YouTube work so well.  It should be noted that YouTube’s social aspects were built and mastered before Google bought it.  Google just drove in the traffic, advanced the search capabilities and added it to their search results for more traffic.  This is just my opinion on how Google advanced once the social and engagement aspect was done. Searching for things and getting results is great, but being able to get people to be social, stick around and react is something that seems to constantly be out of the capabilities of Googlers.  They know how to build very efficient systems but they forget about how to get people to engage them, use them and want to come back to them again. The difference between those products and Google Offers is that Google Offers is about money and reach, not as much about community or user engagement.

Adwords and Organic Search

Google is the leader in search volume.  There are millions of people searching for coupons each month on Google.  Millions of local searches for food, spas, therapists, groomers or pet supplies and everything else people need.  Because Google has this reach they can easily use this to gain interest in Google Offers.  You may not like it, but Google is a business and a for profit.  This also means that they have a right to show what they want and to who they want.  That also gives them the right to exclude competitors to their own products.  Would you promote your competitors to customers inside your own store?

If Google feels that Google Offers is a better result than a competing company, say Groupon, or a local company, it is their right to show their own product or service on their own search engine.  If people don’t agree with that or think that the results are not relevant, they have the choice to use other search engines.  Google is not your friend and never pretends to be, despite promises not to be evil.  Their job is to show what they feel is most relevant and to keep their company earning revenue.  With their massive amount of reach they can easily show these offers and hopefully get people to join.  If what they show is not relevant or useful for people, they will eventually kill off their search traffic and other engines will begin to gain market share.  This is also something that Google knows which is why they will more than likely continue to show competitors to also give a variety and better user experience.

Gmail

Google owns a huge email service.  This service can show ads and can gain interest.  Because of the heavy reliance on email for companies like Groupon and Living Social, Google can follow this model and use Gmail to their advantage.  They can put an ad up to join Google Offers while an end user logs in and if the end user agreed to receive offers and opted into Google’s email list, they can distribute information and possibly some of the local offers as a sample to potential users of Google Offers.

They Have Relationships With Local Businesses in Non-Groupon and Non-Living Social Markets Already

Because of the massive amounts of advertisers around the world on Google Adwords, they already have relationships with companies of all sizes.  Combine this with the use of Google Map and Places listings, what Google has is thousands of small business that are already used to working with them. Groupon and Living Social still are relatively new and aren’t in every market. Google has relationships everywhere can possibly beat them to underdeveloped markets.  I know I was looking for Groupon offers for my websites in certain cities and they aren’t available yet.  If Google Offers creates an affiliate program, through the Google Affiliate Network, and has it expand in those Markets first, they could easily start taking over.

Even without the affiliate component this is important and a huge advantage  since Google already has the local advertisers’ eyes on their newsletter and in the Adwords interface, they can now promote Google Offers directly to those companies who are waiting for Groupon and Living Social and try to get those companies involved without having to have a foot team out their working to build relationships.  They will then be first in those smaller markets and first to take over.

Building a Referral Network

Adsense is a great way to help get referrals for Google Offers.  If Google would add a banner or a note as publishers log into the interface talking about promoting Google Offers, or to sign up and payout on a commission, referral or click through basis, they could easily begin building a user base through their content network.

Webmasters with local blogs can promote an offers feed to their readers building extra value to their visitors by having new offers regularly along side what they were there for in the first place.  General sites can promote it as a new service or Groupon/Social Living alternative.   Webmasters with low CPC’s through AdSense may replace AdSense if it is a fixed CPC that is higher than their average payout per click (They will have to remember that not all offers will be relevant to their sites so they could end up earning less as well).  This network of publishers and bloggers that use AdSense can become an extremely powerful tool to get Google Offers out to the general public and build their brand.

Unlike moving into a social market where there is a  leader and then attempting to leverage what they are simply not good at; with Offers, Google has relationships with the advertisers and local businesses already in place.  Google also has an incredible reach into the consumer markets and can probably track how the Groupon and Living Social users look and surf through the web (which gives them an advantage in data as well).  Google also has a network of publishers that is possibly the largest in the world and if that’s not enough it has an affiliate network in its pocket.  With all of this in their reach, this could be one of the few non search related Google products that can take off.  It’ll be interesting to see how it works.

About Adam Riemer

Adam Riemer has been an Online Marketer for over a decade. Having worked in house and on his own, Adam Riemer helps both large and small companies develop, execute and analyze Marketing campaigns for ROI and branding in both the B2B and B2C world. You can reach Adam or find out where he is speaking or which Clients he is working with by visiting his blog at http://www.adamriemer.me or follow him on Twitter @rollerblader.