Local search (i.e., using the Internet to search for businesses in a local geographic area) is attracting a lot of attention right now. Expect advancement and innovation in this area during 2004.
Many small businesses that consider their markets to be local are unable to take full advantage of Internet search and pay-per-click advertising. Up to now Internet search sites have not been very good at enabling users to find local information, i.e., local retailers and local service providers.
Sure there are local-focus Websites where small businesses can advertise to increase visibility in local markets. Local newspaper sites are one example.
But when it comes to a more comprehensive approach — using major search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN, and other major search tools like online Yellow Pages to find local businesses — the process is awkward and hit-or-miss, at best.
Yellow Pages providers and the major search engine companies aim to change all that, starting in 2004.
According to the Kelsey Group, a market research company for the Yellow Pages industry, about 60% of small businesses report that the majority of their customers come from within a 50-mile radius. Also, 10% of all local searches ultimately result in a buying decision. Obviously, enhanced local search capabilities could provide a big boost to small business.
The major search engine providers are working on a variety of ways to enhance local searching. For instance, Google is working on two ways, including plotting Internet IP addresses geographically and asking searchers to plug in their location when they search.
One advantage that the Yellow Pages providers have is their local sales forces. Properly deployed, the local sales forces can help educate small and medium-sized businesses on how to advertise to get the most out of local-search techniques on the Internet.
Local search is a hot trend in the Internet world right now. There are a lot of dollars at stake, particularly in the paid local-search category. The Kelsey Group estimates that the market for local-paid search could be $2.5 Billion (USD) in the United States alone by 2008. With this kind of money up for grabs, we expect to see considerable improvement in local searching capability during 2004.