Google’s U.S. Mobile Head Talks Local Intent, M-Commerce, Geo-Targeting And More

Mobile advertising is a booming business, and Google, armed with its $750 million purchase of AdMob, clearly wants a piece of that pie. One angle Google has been pushing late is the combination of local and mobile, whether that be through Places, Offers, Sites, and soon, Google Wallet. Jason Spero, Google’s head of mobile for the Americas sat down with us to give us a little more insight to how the search giant is looking to capitalize on advertising, local and mobile.

One of the major factors Google is looking at when it comes to developing its own mobile offerings and products is consumer behavior, says Spero. He says one in three interactions on a mobile phone has local intent, and because of this, Google is incorporating this behavior into its own mobile products for businesses. “Part of this strategy is giving users the build a mobile property that works on a phone or tablet,” explains Spero.

Included in this strategy is the mobile version of Google Sites, which the company just launched as a way for small businesses to create a simple mobile landing page for free. Via these lightweight mobile sites, users post information and even include click-to-call features. After a week of availability, over 3,500 mobile landing pages had been created by small businesses.

One interesting feature that Mobile Sites offers is the ability to actually sell products via the landing page with Google Checkout as a payments platform. Spero says that’s a reflection of the Google belief that m-commerce is going to be critical on phones. But it’s not has simple has just clicking the buy button. It’s also integrating comparison shopping on the phone, click-to-call functionality, and online search for stores. “Ultimately, the experience that a user wants on their phone is delivering all those pieces to the puzzle,” he adds.

Another way Google is investing in m-commerce, says Spero, is though its Google Wallet initiative, which will allow consumers to pay for items via an NFC chip in a phone and an NFC reader at the merchant’s checkout.

In terms of local advertising, Spero says that Google is exploring ways of using ad formats to move customers in the physical world, or via a transaction. Click-to-call ads are a particular focus for Google, and Spero says that these ads perform well on phones because the natural path for a consumer is to want to engage the phone and get more info from a merchant or service. The key in these advertisements on mobile phones is a ‘call to action’ element, which can work for a retailer, florist, insurance company and many other smaller businesses. So far, he says that over 500,000 Google customers are running click-to-call campaigns on a mobile phone. In terms of other forms of mobile advertising, Spero says that because of traffic to the web on mobile phones is exploding, display environment growth is ‘astounding.’

Of course geo-targeting is also a key component of mobile advertising, and integrating the location of a user could to improve targeting and perhaps CTRs. Spero says the demand for geo-targeted ads from advertisers on the local, regional and national level is huge, and that basically businesses in all these categories are competing. Today, Google can target advertising by state, and digital metro area, but soon the search giant wants to be able to target by city of zipcode (Google is only using a visitor’s local information if the user gives permission).

It’s clear from talking to Spero that Google wants to be a one-stop shop for businesses, both large and small, to engage with mobile. Whether that be through offers (which Spero doesn’t consider advertising), payments, mobile ads, mobile sites, mobile analytics and more, Google wants to be the go-to destination. The vision, as he explains, is for Google to be able to help these businesses manage everything, through the killer combination of local, mobile, commerce and advertising.

But quantity of products doesn’t necessarily come hand in hand with quality, and Google will have to make sure that these offering across segments not only work together, but also provide value for businesses (and consumers).