Google Business Referral Representative – Is It Worth and What Does It Mean for Local Businesses

On August 6 – our friends at gSpy – Spy on Google were one of the first sites to break the news that Google has finally released it Business Referral program. Over the past number of days, I have been getting a number of emails and phone calls asking me what this potentially means for local businesses and whether there is actually a solid business model here.

From the official Business Referral Representative site on Google – Joining the Google Local Business Referrals (LBR) program is a great way to earn some money while connecting people to the businesses in your neighborhood. The information you collect could be seen by millions of people who use Google every day. And you’ll be helping the businesses you refer attract new customers while also making it easier for people in your community to find the products and services they’re searching for.

As a Google Business Referral Representative, you’ll visit local businesses to collect information (such as hours of operation, types of payment accepted, etc.) for Google Maps, and tell them about Google Maps and Google AdWords. You’ll also take a few digital photos of the business that will appear on the Google Maps listing along with the business information. After the visit, you submit the business’ info and photo(s) to Google through your Local Business Referrals Center, and we’ll pay you up to $10 for each listing that is approved by Google and verified by the business.

Currently this program is available to US residents – I tried signing up myself, but it would not accept my Canadian address.

I think this is an interesting move from Google and as always they tend to get lots of coverage. However, I challenge whether the program will actually be a success. By success I mean – is this enough incentive to get individuals to do all this leg work for $10? What level of trust does a business have to have with an individual to allow this information to collected and aggregated? What happens when the information changes? These are just a few initial questions that I had.

For $10 – this seems potentially like a low amount. As an individual – the people that I know that have lots of contacts with small business on a regular basis – typically bill at $95-$150 per hour. Based at $100 per hour bill rate – $10 is worth 6 minutes – there is no way that you could possibly collect and explain that to any small business within that time frame. Even at half that billable rate – we are still only talking 12 minutes. But what about incorporating this into an existing sales call? Many SEO/SEM firms that I know could potentially offer this service to their clients as a value add – this has potential, but I still question the economics.

One thing Google has going for it – is that almost everybody knows 2-3 business owners. I remember a comment when I was young from one of my uncles – “there are 2 ways to make a million bucks – get 1 person to give you a $1M dollars or get 1M people to give you a dollar”. If Google could get each of their Adsense/Adword partners in the US and then the world to give them 1 business profile of information – this may one of the most cost-effective digital content collections programs ever launched.

For local businesses – I do have one caution – know the person or the company that you are providing this information to, especially if you let them manage the verification for you. I know many small business owners who got burnt by letting people manage their domain names, only to have the expire, held for ransom, and even heard a case where the domain name was sold to a competitive company. Could you imagine what would happen if your listing displayed your competitors phone number?