Ring, Ring. Hi, It's Google

Google Inc., which helped popularize the idea of automated ad sales on the Web, has been quietly turning to an old-fashioned tool–phone calls–to compete in the hot market for local business advertising.

The Internet-search giant this year has hired several hundred sales representatives to call U.S. businesses such as spas, restaurants and hotels to promote new advertising initiatives, people familiar with the matter said. The effort includes an office in Tempe, Ariz., with around 100 sales representatives, one of these people said.

Since 20% of searches done on Google are for local information, “a strong Web presence can help neighborhood businesses answer those searches and bring in more customers,” said Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of geographic and local services, in a prepared statement. Google’s new local ad offerings “are simple and they work, so we’ve been investing in marketing and sales to support them.”

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