Google has added new features to its local search engine, in hopes of attracting a bigger audience and creating more inventory for its advertisers.
The company has integrated the newly-launched Google Maps. It’s also integrated various other bits of information — including user reviews, hours of operation and credit cards accepted. All of these are gathered from various sites across the Internet, including Citysearch, Dine.com, SuperPages.com, Gayot.com, AOL CityGuide, Frommers.com and RestaurantRow.com.
The additional information, especially user reviews, also helps Google better rank search results to meet searcher queries.
Ads targeted based both on search queries and local geography appear atop natural search results on Google Local.
Google competitor Yahoo has already integrated advanced mapping and user reviews into its local product. Yahoo’s local information is hosted on the portal, however, rather than gathered from other sites around the Web.
In a presentation at the Search Engine Strategies show in New York, representatives from Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and Ask Jeeves all pointed to local search — especially local search on mobile devices — as the most important area to which marketers should pay attention.
“Users already navigate the Web by search; not by a browse or random walk paradigm,” said Marissa Mayer, director of consumer Web products at Google. “Search is also going to become the dominant paradigm for people to find information about the area where they live.”
Mayer said the demand for Google’s local search product was surprisingly high. In fact, it drew more traffic in December than Google’s shopping search product, Froogle, during the holiday shopping season, and without local search being linked from Google’s home page.
This year, 154 million consumers shopped over the long holiday weekend, an increase of 3 million from last year
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