Google Director of Local & B2B Marketplaces Sam Sebastian today discussed the company’s strategy to verticalize local ad sales and account support, while keeping the search product more of a broad horizontal experience.
“We’ve verticalized from a sales perspective,” Sebastian told Peter Krasilovsky during a keynote interview, “but from a product perspective, there is more emphasis on universal search; not going too deeply down a particular vertical.”
This is equally to maintain positioning as a core search engine, as it is to not play in the space where smaller more specialized sites may have Google beat. “We haven’t gotten too crazy on vertical products, because that can open up a can of worms,” he says.
As for sales, Sebastian describes that Google has a sales and support infrastructure for major advertisers with both national marketing objectives and locally targeted advertising. The latter includes franchise=based brick-and-mortar businesses like Coldwell Banker or McDonald’s.
This is where verticalization happens. The strategy is to learn the ins and outs of these verticals and then to apply or replicate strategies. “This allows our people to get deep with customers and bring experience and perspective that they wouldn’t otherwise get,” he says.
But to Sebastian, it’s not just segmentation in the ways we traditionally think about verticals such as real estate, autos, finance, CPG, etc. Rather, the segmentation — and commonalities through which tactics can be replicated — can be defined by an industry’s maturity or where in the “funnel” the advertising exists.
“When you’re in the guts of lead generation for a travel business versus top of funnel for Proctor & Gamble, it’s tough to do a lot of sharing,” he says. “But when you clump verticals by maturity, or place in the funnel, we can learn some things and apply best practices.”
Sebastian also took the opportunity to handicap Patch.com and the efforts of the previous speaker Jon Brod — not to mention his former boss and AOL chief Tim Armstrong.
“I would not bet against Tim Armstrong,” he said. “He’s a sharp dude.”