How Will Google’s 2013 I/O Change Local Marketing?

I’m a digital marketer, but I’m also a Google user, and Google’s Keynote at the 2013 I/O conference got both sides of me really excited about local marketing and all the changes, upgrades, and opportunities we’ll be seeing rolled out over the coming months. So how will Google’s announcements at the 2013 I/O affect your local marketing strategy? Let’s talk about it.


It’s no surprise mobile is growing. More and more people are using their mobile devices as a primary computing device, and the number of Android phones on the market has risen to over 900 million devices. There was a huge focus on mobile devices at Google’s I/O. In fact, they don’t acknowledge desktops once during the conference, it’s all laptops, tablets, and phones.  To really drive the point home, Google announced three major local APIs for developers, Fused Location Provider, Geo-Fencing, and Activity Recognition.

Fused Location Provider:

Hugo Barra announcing Fused Location Provider at Google's 2013 I/O Keynote

Hugo Barra announcing Fused Location Provider at Google’s 2013 I/O Keynote

Google is attempting to perfect data location. They’ve completely rewritten their location algorithms to take advantage of all available sensors.  Location data is now faster to acquire, more accurate, and uses less than 1% of battery per hour.

My Prediction: One of the main barriers to location based apps is the sheer amount of battery consumption it takes to use GPS. With minimal battery consumption, faster results, and more accurate data, I expect we’ll see a significant rise in heavy usage of location based apps as well as increased willingness to install location based apps. This in turn will encourage local companies to develop apps, as people will be more likely to install.



Google IO Geo fencing

Hugo barra announcing Geo Fencing at Google’s 2013 I/O Keynote

An exciting opportunity for companies with Apps, Geo-Fencing allows you to define radius’s around physical locations that will trigger a notification within your app (up to 100 locations currently). This is great for local businesses such as restaurants, retail stores, or other foot traffic based businesses that want to reach their audience when they’re close to the business.

My Prediction: Geo-Fencing is already available to Google Adwords users, but hopefully we’ll see this feature rolled out beyond app developers and Adwords users. I expect that Google will eventually roll this feature out to Google Places for Business listings, possibly for a fee. This would allow you to notify followers of your page of deals as they near your location(s). This would be an awesome win for local businesses.


Activity Recognition:

Google IO Activity Recognition

Hugo Barra announcing Activity Recognition at Google’s 2013 I/O Keynote

Using the accelerometer in your phone, Google can now recognize whether you’re walking, biking, or riding public transport based on your activity patterns.

 My Prediction: I’m guessing that Google has already rolled this into their local algorithms, and that both search results and directions are tailored to you based on what amount of distance would be reasonable to cover depending on your current activity. This would affect search rankings for a local listing more than basic IP and GPS location data, providing a more tailored results page,  but would make it near impossible to accurately report on rankings for any given keyword. It will become increasingly important to focus on impressions, actions, and conversions for Google Places, instead of attempting to identify rankings.



The checkout process on mobile devices sucks. It just does.

Linus Upson goes over just how many actions you’d have to take on a tiny little phone in order to complete the checkout process. Over 21 actions are required on average to complete an order online. This is obnoxious for non mobile users, but for mobile users it’s more than an inconvenience, it’s a conversion killer.

Google IO Checkout Process

Linus Upson points out how many steps on average are in the check-out process.

Google is taking steps to streamline the whole process by allowing Chrome to collect your financial details upon your first checkout, and offering to use those for future purchases when logged into a Chrome browser on any device.

Google IO Synced Checkout Process

Linus Upson shows how many steps a Google Synced Check-out process would have.

Through this feature, they’re able to reduce the checkout process by 86% from 21 steps to 3 steps.

My Prediction: Mobile purchases will increase, check out/cart abandonment rate will decrease, and the importance of  mobile friendly websites will continue to be increasingly important. Every year for the last several years has been touted as “the year of mobile” but I’m expecting 2013-2014 to be where we really see mobile conversions increase in a meaningful way.


Where I Think Local Is Going:

  • Better Results: Google is getting better at understanding what we’re doing, where we’re doing it, and providing results based on this information. This will be a win for local businesses everywhere as searchers are connected to companies based on comprehensive data and not just keywords and centroids. 
  • Focus on Mobile: Mobile optimization will become increasingly important, meaning it’s not enough to just have a mobile site anymore, you need to make it as easy as possible to navigate and convert.
  • More Focus on Mobile: Mobile conversions are going to increase, which means we need to be focusing more on the channels that drive mobile traffic. Social is going to play a larger role in marketing campaigns over the next few years. 

I’m excited to see how these changes affect marketing strategy and campaigns as they’re rolled out, and am hoping that at least a few of my predictions turn out to be true.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and predictions on where local is going! 

Also, if you have a few hours to kill, I highly recommend you watch the Keynote in it’s entirety (I recommend grabbing a coffee before diving in):

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  • WilcoxAJ

    Great predictions! I watched the IO, and didn’t glean nearly that much from it. Thanks for keeping me informed.

    • daveydemille

      Thanks AJ!

  • Rob Bonham

    Great coverage of the IO, I appreciate you gathering the meat and potatoes for us to digest, if you will. I think if these changes come to fruition, Google will be able to better serve local businesses more than ever. Good move for Google as that would equate to more marketing dollars local biz will allocate toward Google, theoretically. As for ecommerce, I am all about an improved checkout process! I’m wondering if this maybe an initiative to boost Google Wallet users?