Recently, I was in the airport where I watched a 10-year-old boy show his dad how to access Google Maps for directions to their hotel. I had to laugh. But then I started pondering how local search and navigation have changed in just a few short years. When had I last used my atlas? It's pretty outdated - the 1997 edition, and that's probably around the last time I used it. The point is maps, as simplistic as they may seem at times, are not just for the atlas anymore.
Maps are fairly uncomplicated. You are here, and you want to go there. However, when you throw a word like "Google" or "Bing" in front of maps, you have a much richer experience. Back in 1998 when Google Maps was just starting up, the main purpose of the Web site was to map roads, highways, towns, and cities. Fast forward 12 years, and local search sites of this caliber are now a symbol of all things local search. These sites are a venue for businesses to promote their local relevance to users. They're a place where consumers can not only find out how to get somewhere, but what will be there when they get there. And all of this started with a map.
What About IYPs?
It's no news to anyone that the progression of local search started with print yellow pages and has since moved online in the form of Internet yellow pages (IYPs). However, search engines have gotten wise to the fact that consumers are closer to the point of purchase when using IYPs than they are with search engines. That's why search engines are upping the local search ante, and, as a result, are starting to steal share from the IYPs on both the big search engines and their respective local search sites.Source: comScore, MyMetrix Media Trend Report, total monthly unique Visitors for select media
In terms of unique visitors, Google Maps leads the race and taking share from some IYPs. In the past, many of the IYPs relied heavily on favorable organic SERP (define) placement as a traffic driver to their local sites. Now that Google (and Google Maps) has increased its local search results, users don't have to click through to the IYP sites.
Some IYPs that have realized this decrease from a lack of SERP placement have regained traffic through increased distribution and promotion of their sites. YellowPages.com is a good example of a site that has made a comeback in the traffic wars, and consequently, is now taking share from some of the smaller players.
There Is No Silver Bullet
Local search, however, isn't just about Google Maps or YellowPages.com. It still surprises me how advertisers, both local and national, look for one site or tactic to be the magical solution to their lead generation challenges. As I stated in a recent Webcast for ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, silver bullets don't exist in the local search space. To be successful, advertisers must research local market options and develop a diversified portfolio of sites and ads to capture maximum results.
If all of this sounds complicated, take a breath and relax. With just an address and a phone number, businesses can take control of their local business listings. Businesses that will become trusted and more relevant to a consumer's search are the ones that will proactively provide accurate information, as well as relevant content that will make them stand out from the competition.
A Look Ahead
There's a lot going in local search, and it's almost as hot of a topic as the uprising of Facebook and Twitter. Whether it's a general search on Google, a question asked on Facebook, or a restaurant you find on your smartphone, local search is all-encompassing. Here's the evidence:
Small Is the New Big
Local search may have taken awhile to get its foot-hold in the online world, but with all of the current activity and potential for the future, local search will make this world a whole lot smaller. To be successful in local search, marketers should implement programs that target where local usage is today. As for the future of local search? It's going to take on a whole new meaning in the social realm. Stay tuned for more on that in next month's column.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Gregg Stewart is president of 15miles Local Marketing, a full-service marketing agency specializing in digital local solutions, headquartered in Connecticut. 15miles is a local search agency supporting the offline, online, and mobile solutions for businesses of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies. At the helm, Stewart applies his successful, tenured career in interactive advertising and local search to the ongoing development of digital solutions for his clients' online-marketing campaigns. Through his strategic counsel, national and local brands become better equipped to target and reach niche consumers for increased leads and sales. In addition to his Clickz columns, additional columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
March 19, 2014