After writing and researching on the subject for about a year, I’m surprised that the notion of local search still hasn’t popped up in more interactive marketing discussions. When will interactive markets will stop splitting off the notion of search marketing from local marketing? If the one billion local searches a month consumers are already doing haven’t done the trick, I’m not sure what will.
Local search, as you may know, is the act of using a search engine to look for something in a specific city or neighborhood (for example, a search for “Nikes in Cambridge, MA” or “Nikes in Havard Square”). When you execute such a search, you get a list of businesses that fit your request, typically in a special box on top of the results page that sets local search data off from the “standard” search results.
Today, the major search engines are quietly competing to win at the local search game, with Google (GOOG), MSN and Yahoo (YHOO) all hard at work to build killer local search tools and features. (MSN execs told one conference, in fact, that 30 percent of their search volume is local.) But much of this is blowing past interactive marketers.
Right now, it’s my sense that if an advertiser considers promoting local businesses at all, it’s an afterthought–or that they assume that consumers will find listings through such omnibus sites as DexOnline. But that gives marketers very little ability to shape a customer’s overall experience and lead them to a purchase decision or information request.
Now, bear in mind that one of my anchor clients is a local search services provider, so I’m a bit prejudiced here, but I’ve come to believe that it’s high time local search be seen as simply “search” and accounted for in every interactive marketing plan. The Web just isn’t a big, blunt instrument anymore; it’s a tool for daily living, too, and that’s what local search offers.