A few years ago there was quite a bit of chatter about Local Search being the next big thing. But for a long time it just never materialized. If I had done a “predictions for 2007” post, one of my points would have been: Local search finally comes of age.
The pot has been brewing for a while now and all the elements are seemingly coming together. I know this has been repeated often for the past few years, but I think the tipping point is finally here.
Danny Sullivan (The Godfather of search) has been telling everyone for a long time now that Google will flip a switch to become a lot more local-centric whenever somebody looks for something that Google determines is local-based. That has been slowly creeping into search results, and has accelerated as of late with the Onebox, Plusblox, and (very recent) integration of Google Maps into SERPS for local-centric queries.
The search engines have been making moves recently and it looks like the competition for local dominance will be heating up. Google is well positioned because of its insane search market dominance, however I think Yahoo has a better local search product (that just came out of beta), plus they have a lot more reviews and human-powered qualitative data, which are crucial elements for successful local search. Telecoms are gearing up by joining forces, Yahoo is making deals to bring local search into cars, Google is making deals with mobile phone manufacturers directly. The Local space race is definately heating up.
One significant hurdle is the atrocious hardware/software lag in mobile phones. As soon as more phones come with easier internet access, this market will really take off (especially with the 14-24 year old demographic). The iPhone should be a pretty big market facilitator – it looks like it will definitely raise the bar for mobile phone manufacturers.
Last month I added a “local” tab to my Netvibes start page to monitor some blogs that explore this (finally) emerging market. You might want to do the same – I recommend you subscribe to Understanding Google Maps and Local, Locally Type, Small Business SEM, and OneBoxer if you are interested in following developments in this space.
Also, Graywolf has just started a great interview series on local. And if you haven’t yet done so, check out Sugarrae’s Optimizing for Local post – it’s one of the best posts on the topic I’ve ever seen.
I’ll probably feature more local-centric posts in the future as this market matures – with tips for optimization – so if you haven’t done so, subscribe to this blog.