Safe for Mom and Pop
Local search is evolving, with each new year promising the breakout moment. Ad revenue from local search is on the rise, but generally, "The consumers are way out in front of the marketers on this one," says Greg Sterling, SearchEngineWatch's local search expert and principal at Sterling Market Intelligence.
The share of online searching at the major engines, directories, and other verticals far outpaces marketing spends. For the big engines, which see about 60 million uniques a month, the problem is two-pronged. Too few national retailers use search to send people to local outlets because they have no way yet to track its effectiveness in the retail environment. And the coveted mom-and-pop local service vendors hold the purse strings on the billions of dollars that still go to Yellow Pages and newspapers. Go figure: It turns out that plumbers are better with pipes than with keyword ad-buying and campaign optimization.
That situation may be changing as third parties like newspapers and print directories start reselling search inventory to longstanding local customers as part of their standard media buys. Meanwhile, Google is finally getting directly in front of 3.7 million small business users of Intuit's QuickBooks software. AdWords is now integrated into the program's workflow environment."That is a potentially huge thing," says Sterling, pointing out that local search products are already highly evolved, comprehensive, and well trafficked. Now they need to be made safe for Mom and Pop, Inc. "Simplification has been critical, and that is what these companies have been able to do," Sterling adds.