Google Local Business Referrals is Shutting Down

Filed in Google, Local Search by Matt McGee on December 8, 2008 13 Comments

Google Local Business Referrals logo16 months after its launch, the Google Local Business Referrals program is shutting down. Google will close the program at the end of this month.

This is the program which offered individuals cash in exchange for visiting local businesses, getting their contact details and other business data, taking photos, and then submitting them to Google for inclusion into Google Maps. These “foot soldiers” were also tasked with promoting Google AdWords and other Google products to the small business owners. The program launched in August 2007 and offered $2 per business submission, and an extra $8 if the business owner followed through and verified the data submitted to Google in the Google Maps Local Business Center.

A Google spokesperson offered this statement when I asked for confirmation that the program was closing its doors:

On December 31, 2008, we will end the Google Local Business Referrals program, which was one of many Google Labs initiatives that we had developed as part of our ongoing commitment to experimentation and testing new ways to help businesses establish a presence online.

Many relationships have been built as a result of Google Local Business Referrals, and local connections between representatives and businesses have been forged that we hope will continue. However, the program will conclude at the end of the year as part of our effort to ensure that we prioritize our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business.

Google wouldn’t say how many individuals signed up, nor how many local businesses were added to Google Maps and/or signed up for AdWords as part of the program.

The Local Business Referrals rep who emailed this tip over the weekend says he averaged around $25/hour in the program, and some reps made a little more than that. No doubt, though, that many reps made much less, too. In a previous post on this blog, I speculated that the program would fail because it didn’t guarantee enough money to the foot soldiers, that many small business owners would be too busy to follow through on verifying their Google Maps listing, and that even if they did follow-through, the verification process is hit-and-miss.

According to a post in the members-only Google Local Business Referrals discussion group, Google has established these procedures for shutting down the program:

  • All submissions received on or before 11:59 PM PST on December 31, 2008 will be reviewed.

  • No additional submissions will be reviewed after that deadline; no resubmissions (from rejected referrals) will be reviewed after that deadline.
  • Postcards will still be sent to businesses for any approved referrals. You will not be able to request a postcard resend after 11:59 PM PST on December 31, 2008.
  • Representatives will be paid for all approved referrals which were submitted by December 31, 2008 at 11:59 PM PT.
  • Without waiving our rights under the Local Business Referrals program Terms and Conditions, we will provide the $8 referral fee for business verifications received no later than March 31, 2009 at 11:59 PM PT. Verifications can be received by mail or via the online form.
  • All remaining balances will be paid out monthly. This includes balances that fall below the $25 threshold for pay-out.
  • You will still be able to update your W-9 form on the LBR Center (www.google.com/local/referral). We encourage you to do so if you move
    in 2009, so we can pay you for any verifications that arrive after the shutdown deadline.

  • You’ll still have access to the LBR Center to view stats for approvals and verifications, see your payment history, and update your W-9.

The Google Group itself will also shut down at the end of the month.

Comments (13)

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  1. Mike says:

    Notified about this post by Andrew Shotland. I din’t know such a program even existed. I think these foot soldiers would be better off visiting businesses, taking photos, and posting the information to their own blogs. Kind of “hyperlocal” like.

  2. Miriam says:

    This is important news, Matt. Thanks for covering it. I have wondered how this program was going over the past months. Looks like it didn’t work out as Google might have hoped.

    Honestly, when I think of Google’s imperative need to let local business owners know about Local/Maps in order to begin to have an accurate, up-to-date index of local business data, I think a national TV commercial would be the fastest and most effective way to get the word out that SMBs need to sign in, claim their listing and keep it current.

    Barring this, I think we’re going to continue to see a local index plagued with errors.

    Thanks for reporting on this, Matt.
    Miriam

  3. Ben Saren says:

    I can’t help but smile a bit. I called it back when it rolled out. Sorry to be self-promotional but I really was just waiting for this announcement.

  4. Matt McGee says:

    Yeah, no surprise on this one, Ben. But they get points for creativity, I suppose.

    Miriam – I like your TV commercial idea. I think that would be a smarter (but more $$$) way to go.

    And Mike — love your idea, too. :)

  5. brad says:

    I honestly thought they should have partnered this program with Newspapers, YPs, and others who were already visiting local businesses. It would have given the reps a little bit of a boost in income at very little cost because they were already on site.

    Sometimes partnering is much more effective than trying to do it all yourself.

  6. Jun Valasek says:

    Tye program just did not work and I think anyone who is monitoring this already expect it to happen…As above posts says, they should have partnered it with papers.

  7. David says:

    Interesting that might explain why some many where offering free setup, but its interface makes it painfully slow even if you have the time to setup things up.

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