2009 was the year that the local search business officially changed. First, the fortunes of the paper directory publishers dramatically nose-dived. Not only did all of their losses accelerate, but two of the largest Yellow Page publishers – Idearc and R.H. Donnelly – had to file for bankruptcy. Additionally, strong campaigns are afoot nationwide to scrap the automatic distribution of white pages phone books.
On the other hand, online local search providers have been growing and competing more fiercely. Aside from the online offerings of the traditional Yellow Pages providers (Superpages.com, YellowPages.com, YellowBook.com) and aside from the local offerings of the major search providers (local.yahoo.com, local.google.com, bing.com/local), a number of independent local search companies are making inroads. In fact, over this past weekend the buzz was that Google was in negotiations to buy Yelp.com for over $500 million. Moreover, as of this morning, the reports are that the owners of yelp.com have turned down Google. Obviously, there is a lot of money to be made in doing local search right.
As marketers, therefore, it’s worth refocusing on local search as an integral component of overall marketing efforts. Even national retailers can make effective use of local search shopping sites, such as ShopLocal.com, to drive business to each of their locations. Some simple steps include getting and verifying listings in each of the local search sites, encouraging and addressing reviews on those sites, and including advertisements on them.