The future of Local Search: Report from the field

What is the future of local search?Number one search engine Google wants to determine the local search future, just like it aims to lead all the myriad forms of search and advertising it is setting its eyes on.

What is the future of local search?

Number one search engine Google wants to determine the local search future, just like it aims to lead all the myriad forms of search and advertising it is setting its eyes on.

Several hundred local search and advertising executives have convened in Santa Clara for the Kelsey Drilling Down on Local Conference this week and they have a few ideas of their own, however, for how the local search opportunity will unfold in the coming years.

At the pre-conference reception last evening, I polled conference attendees for their take on: “What is the future of local search”?

Steve Cissel, Founder & CEO, Lawn & Garden Yellow pages, (LGYP.com) is “betting the house on” niche verticals.

Cissel believes aggregation of knowledge by sectors is the future of local search, His formula: Local Content + Local Commerce = Local Advertising.

For example, at LGYP, “On each page you will find the searchbox in the top left corner to help you find products (categories), companies (names) and plants. Just type in what you're looking for, select a state or zipcode and Find It!”

Kevin Leu, Public Relations Manager, MerchantCrircle (merchantcircle.com), predicts in the future the Internet will be “less of the World Wide Web, and more of the Local Wide Web.”

“A lot of sites will have a section where you can put in zip code or area code and do a search for an area that is pertinent to find relevant business information and maps,” according to Leu.

At MerchantCircle, the “evolution of the web into the Local Internet makes it possible for businesses to target and advertise directly to potential local customers who are online right now, searching for deals, recommendations and information in local communities. Free tools help merchants develop dynamic business listings and raise visibility in search results.”

Roger Treese, Managing Director, New Era Strategies (newerainc.net), sees mobile as the tool that will spur online-offline local connections, with search a fundamental component. As richer, more relevant local data comes online, searchers will interact socially, such as through personal recommendations, and then transact locally, Treese believes.

New Era helps develop “non-traditional end user enhancements and revenue-generating strategies that pair online with offline click-and-mortar initiatives as well as assists in location-based business partnerships, enhancing directory assistance services.”

Lou Morsberger, CEO, ValueStar (valuestar.com), preducts the future of local search will be about creating content that isn’t currently online, because “what is already online isn’t worth much for local and is worth less than print Yellow Pages.”

For Morsberger, the current online experience of basic business listing data and “thin user reviews for anything beyond restaurants,” needs to be improved. Local services represent super verticals and with easy functionality providers such as dentists or plumbers could schedule visits, Morsberger believes.

ValueStar “turns customers' satisfaction ratings of local service businesses into a sales tool to help quality-focused businesses differentiate themselves from their competition, attract new customers, build loyalty with existing customers, and increase their visibility in their local area.”

Terry DiNatale, Founder, WebVisible (webvisible.com), sees a local search future “so bright, you got to wear shades.”

“It will be a hybrid between those of us who facilitate adoption and those of us who facilitate self-provisioning,” DiNatale believes, with a combination of SME on-premise sales and push marketing tools such as email and telemarketing.

According to DiNatale, because SMEs “don’t buy advertising, they are sold advertising, there will always be a role for local advertising sales reps.”

WebVisible’s software service suite includes “local search marketing, locally-targeted banner advertising, fixed placement ads, profile and landing page technologies, and call-related services packages, privately branded and sold by resellers in the yellow pages, newspaper and online marketing industries.”

Erron Silverstein, CEO, Solfo, a stealth mode start-up, predicts local search will be the “distribution of enhanced content and advertisers through open APIs so that any end user can find relevant advertiser-based data in their search results.”

“In the future, all sites will have to provide high quality search results to their end users or their economic model will be unsustainable,” according to Silverstein.

Matt Booth, Senior Vice President and Program Director, Interactive Local Media, Kelsey Group, looks to “The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy” for inspiration on the future of local search.

But is “42” the answer?

Booth believes the future is about the transition of ad dollars from offline to online. Both ad dollars and consumers will transition over to the Internet on a vertical by vertical basis, so predicts Booth.

Increasing specialization around vertical content and specialized selling is the thesis for local search, according to Booth.

STAY TUNED FOR MORE COVERAGE FROM DRILLING DOWN ON LOCAL!

For now, read up on Local Advertising challenges and opportunities:

When will Google Local reap $39 billion local ad sales opportunity?
Should Google really buy Intuit?
CitySearch bails out InsiderPages: What’s the deal?
Spot Runner vs. Google: Let the TV advertising battle begin!
Google QuickBooks 2007: Death of Yellow Pages, local newspapers?

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