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Free for the Taking: What Can Google do for You?

Special Feature from the 2007 Tax Season Survival Guide

For A Limited Time, Google Offers Tax And Accounting Professionals Free Coupon Ads

By Joe Dysart

From the January-March 2007 Issue & 2007
Tax Season Survival Guide

Apparently, there is such a thing as a free lunch — at least in Google
Land. The Internet search Goliath is offering tax and accounting professionals
and all other U.S. businesses free coupon advertising on its Google Maps site
in an effort to get more businesses to “think Google” for local
advertising. Essentially, the coupons pop up on Google Maps when a visitor types
in a zip code or town name, along with an industry keyword.

A number of practitioners are already advertising on the Google Maps system.
A search on Google Maps for “CPA New York, New York,” for example,
brings back sponsored links to Dwarka P. Kalantry (,
Ratafia & Company (
and Lenard A. Silverman (

Advertising via Google Maps’ “sponsored links” guarantees
high placement in search engine returns when Web users enter in specific keywords,
such as CPA New York.

Moreover, similar searches for accountants in other zip codes yield similar
sponsored link results. With Google’s coupons, tax and accounting firms
across the country can also enjoy the same kind of exposure offered under the
company’s sponsored links program. The primary difference? For a limited
time, Google’s coupon advertising service is being offered for free.

“Google’s goal is to connect searchers with the information they
need, whether it’s halfway around the world, or in their neighborhood,”
says Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder and president.

Given Google Maps’ current reach, the company’s offer to host
coupons from any and all U.S. business at no charge is substantial. The site
saw 23 million visits from Web users in June 2006 alone, who used Google Maps
to get driving directions, generate maps of specific areas, and find businesses
located in a particular town or zip code.

The service also enables users to get additional information on a business,
such as a firm’s phone number, street address, hours of operation, directions
to the firm, Web and e-mail addresses, user reviews and similar info, by clicking
on business names returned by the search.

In practice, creating coupons for Google Maps is a snap. Any practitioner
can simply sign up for a free account at Google Local Business Center (,
click on the “Coupons” tab, and follow the online prompts to auto-generate
their own coupon from a template in about five or 10 minutes. No graphic design
skills are necessary, and you don’t have to be a champion wordsmith. Essentially,
if you have the wherewithal to keypunch in your business name and a few words
about your coupon offer, Google Maps will do the rest for you.

“The coupon creation process is very simple, which suggests businesses
will use it,” says Greg Sterling, an analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence
a market research firm that monitors local search advertising. The fact that
70 percent of U.S. households now use the Web as an information source when
shopping locally, according to a March 2005 study from the Kelsey Group (,
may also help convince businesses to take Google up on its offer.

For established firms already in Google’s database, the coupons generally
appear online in about a week or so, after Google calls to confirm that the
business has actually posted a coupon to its Maps site. Brand new businesses
or businesses not on Google’s radar may have to wait up to six weeks to
see their coupons online. The reason: Google prefers to verify the existence
of these businesses by mailing a postcard to the business address. The card
includes a PIN that the business can use online to activate their business listing
on Google and trigger their coupon to “go live.”

While all the Google coupons generally take the same format — business
name, a short headline describing the offer, and a few lines of text offering
specifics — accountants can upload a small graphic to go with the coupon,
such as a business logo or product pictures. Plus, each coupon also comes with
its own, unique identifier number generated by Google to help prevent coupon
fraud. This latest freebie from Google represents an enhancement of its aggressive
strategy to build a comprehensive, easily accessible database of businesses
throughout the United States, and leverage that database to sell local advertising.

Back in March 2005, Google first went live with the Google Local Business
Center, which offers businesses the ability to get listed for free in Google’s
database, as well as update their listing at any time. Ultimately, Google hopes
to profit from its free coupon program by eventually offering businesses the
opportunity to feature those coupons on its primary search tool, the Google
search engine (
Google search offers businesses a much broader base of users than Google Maps,
and is already used by thousands of businesses as an advertising tool. In the
meantime, the company is courting the business community with a number of other
free promotional services, including the following:

Your website can rank higher in Google’s search engine returns after you
tweak the site’s design with these tools. Specifically, GWT will detail
for your webmaster why certain pages on your site are tougher for Google to
track and why. GWT will also identify the most popular search terms being used
to find your site and allow you to identify and correct any site design “violations”
that are presenting the site, or some of its pages, from being listed by Google.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, you can use the same search technology Google
uses for its search engine as a search engine for your own site. Price:

With this service, Google allows your company to post virtually any type of
marketing materials, job offers and similar fare to its free, online hosting
service. Company *.PDFs, podcasts, text files and the like can all be uploaded.
And you can categorize each item with search terms and attributes that make
it easier for your intended audience to find your materials.

This program will enable your Web designer to ensure that every page on your
website is as user-friendly as possible.

While this service is primarily designed for publishers, Book Search can also
be used by companies offering extensive white papers, educational materials
and similar promotional items. This Google service offers info-seekers a preview
of a few pages of your book, as well as a link to where they can buy the book


Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Thousand
Oaks, California. He can be contacted at 805-379-3673,