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I was surprised this week when Google Offers didn’t get more of a media blitz. It did get some coverage, and to be fair the news had leaked weeks ago so the thunder was effectively stolen.

But what coverage there was, mostly missed the point — focusing on the tired but still somehow sexy angle of “[insertnamehere] killer” (in this case, Groupon).

The real story is how offers will plug in to a massive distribution network that is Google search, Gmail, mobile and about 26 other products. But the biggest synergy will come from payments.

Through the recently launched Wallet, Google will be able to reduce friction in deal collection and redemption by having it automatically tied to transactions (no more printouts).

That speaks volumes for adoption by users and — equally important — for advertisers. The latter will be a function clearer and more automatically tracked ROI.

Of course there are major hardware barriers to this actually playing out. It’s one big chicken-and-egg scenerio with compatable (NFC) devices and the corresponding point of sale terminals.

But Google is basically underwriting the implementation on both ends — including NFC chips in Android (and stickers for non-compatable phones), and POS hardware for a growing list of retail partners.

And it will all be open for more credit card, device, retail and other partners that will constitute an ecosystem. It’s only a matter of time before the hardware/compatibility issues go away.

But more than all this, the other angle being ignored is that this could really just be all about search. Payments/Wallet could be yet another “moat” to protect what is 97 percent of Google’s $30 billion revenue stream.

This simply comes down to offers and transactions (via Wallet) that close the loop on the path from search to conversion. This is basically the holy grail of search.

We explored this angle last week and in further depth in my Search Engine Watch column, just out this morning (excerpt below). Also check out our webinar yesterday that explored lots of this.

If you’ve been awake for any of the past 48 hours, you probably heard about Google’s new Offers product. And you’ve likely read at least one headline that included the words “Groupon Killer.” Most of this coverage has missed the point.

Offers comes just a week after Google’s much anticipated launch of “Wallet” for making payments via NFC-enabled Google smartphones. There’s a lot of strategy behind this one-two-punch, its timing, and how these platforms will interoperate.

After all the talk about Groupon or Square, Google’s Offers/Wallet combo won’t really be either. It will lie somewhere between by closing the loop on deal distribution, redemption and payments, in ways not really being accomplished by anyone right now.

This comes down to the continuity of finding deals, saving them to mobile and then paying for them in a way that automatically applies a discount at the point of sale. The beauty is reducing friction for users (no printouts), and enabling clearer ROI for merchants.

But at the heart of all of this, make no mistake, it could just be all about search. As is often the case with Google’s ancillary products, they are in the end a collective moat around its true profit center.

Read the rest.

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