Local Search at Rest, and Local in Motion

Mike Blumenthal, of Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local, and I have been discussing Google Local and the seeming inertia that keeps it from being the heavily traveled online destination that it could become.

As part of that discussion, I came up with a quick list of why Google Local might not be as accurate as it could be, and why it might not contain as much information as it could. I think that we both agreed that it has the potential to be used much more widely, and after I sent Mike this list, I started thinking about some of the patent applications and initiatives I’ve seen from Google that might make it a service used by more people, more quickly.

So, I’ll provide the list I sent to Mike first, and then a list of some of the things that could be in the pipewords for Google in the future.

Inertia in Local Search

Keep in mind that Google Local attempts to collect information from a wide variety of sources, including structured data from telecoms about businesses, semi-structured information from business and local directories, and unstructured information from the web pages of enterprises and sites that write about them. Local is probably only as good as the sources it collects information from.

(added – November 8th, 2006 at 2:00 pm – Mike has posted a thoughtful rebuttal to this list at his blog in Will Google Maps (Local) data become more accurate & useful over time. He raises some pretty good points.)

Some reasons why Google Local isn’t quite ready to be a Yellow Pages replacement:

1. Companies move, and don’t update address information at all of the directories they paid to be placed within.

2. Companies move, and don’t update older pages on their own web sites that have the old addresses.

3. Companies move, and have no control over other web sites that point to them which can contain old address information for them.

4. Many companies can’t afford to pay to be placed in many business directories that require payment, so they don’t. This is even more true for small businesses, and nonprofits.

5. Business name registration is done on a state level through incorporation or formation of a limited liability company, or a county level with the registration of a trade or doing business as (dba) name, so the possibliity that there is more than one company with the same name in different states or counties can be fairly high.

6. Trademarks protecting business names do so within a particular classification of business, so the possibility of having more than one company with the same name, conducting different kinds of businesses is a possibility.

7. Many businesses put their location information on their web sites in ways that are less than helpful to search engines, such as graphics of text rather than text itself.

8. The ideal way to provide information about a business location for Google Local is in key:value pairs, like phone:(202) 555-4567, but most sites don’t do that.

9. Companies with more than one location often hide those locations behind forms that search engines have trouble accessing.

10. Companies that serve a wider region than just one zip code either hide that information behind forms, or put it on their web site in a way which confuses search engines attempting to extract it.

11. Small businesses often don’t see any advantage in being placed in local directories on the web, and instead rely upon advertising through print and radio.

12. Many small businesses don’t have web sites, and haven’t realized that there can be some great reasons for being found on the web.

13. Phone book information for many small businesses isn’t always very informative or complete, and may be outdated (the ad appears in the phone book, and the business decides to move three months later – no need to contact the phone company since it won’t come out with a new edition for a good number of months).

14. New companies don’t have an incentive to provide a lot of information with the phone company when they are starting out, either, especially if they missed the deadline to be included in the Yellow Pages.

15. Misspellings, typos, and other errors happen when people place information on the web – and there are too many addresses for a manual review and verification.

16. The Google Local Business Center is a great idea. But, I tried to do a Google Business Local listing for a friend’s business. The wrong person answered the phone and hung up on Google. A few weeks later, that same person mistook the postcard Google sent out to verify the business as junk mail, and threw it away. I like the verification system, but wonder if it could be improved to help protect us from ourselves.

Entropy in Local Search

Some reasons why businesses should be motivated about having Google list both business and location information about them:

1. Coupons

Businesses can create coupons for their goods or services in Google Local. This is nice because you can tell how effective the effort has been to market your business with Local Search when you see people start arriving with those coupons. Google’s patent application covering the use of coupons is Generating and/or serving dynamic promotional offers such as coupons and advertisements

2. Shopping Kiosks

The patent I linked to above doesn’t just provide a way for businesses to issue coupons through Google Local. It also describes a system where Google Local could be used to help people navigate around a shopping center or district, or a resort area, and find out movie times, see what nearby stores have in stock and order those things for pickup, see how long the wait time is at a restaurant and make reservations, and much more. Kiosks could be set up in these areas for people to use, or they could access the information on their phones. Merchants could update information whenever they wanted, including promotional and inventory information. I wrote more about this in Google’s Holy Grail of Shopping?

3. Traveling with Google

When we travel, it’s not just a matter of getting from point A to point B, but how we get there, and what we might pass along the way. This has been a busy area when it comes to patent applications this year for Google. Many of the following not only discuss helping people travel, but also what they can find along the way, from restaurants and hotels to stores and other stopping points. Here are some posts where I’ve written about patent filings and services from Google involving maps and local search:

Google a Cab – Intelligent Fleet Services Management – Find the nearest available taxi and hail it through a local search interface, find out where the cable man is while waiting for him, track your package delivery in realtime on a map. If you have a business that provide services involving transporting people or goods or making house calls, you might want to look this one over.

Ending Gridlock with Google Driving Assistance (Zipdash Re-Emerges) – Use your phone as an intelligent navigation system that can help you route around busy streets.

Customizing Travel Directions with Google – Learn about the businesses along the journey, and make your own customized path.

Human Friendly Driving Directions From Google? – Landmarks, with pictures, are a wonderful thing to drivers like me, who need more than some lines on a map, and text on a page. I usually do fine with directions until the last half mile, where I end up getting lost and curl my directions up into a ball. Would you like your business to be one of these landmarks?

Google Transit Trip Planner in Toronto? – Transportation is more than just cars, and the future of Google Transit might include almost every type of travel, while providing information about places long the way.

4. Ads on Phones

Living in a college town, it’s difficult to miss how popular mobile phones and handhelds have become. At least half the people I see walking around town by themselves have a phone pressed up against an ear. The amount of handheld devices that can act as phone and camera and web browser is growing and growing. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve seen from Google that addresses mobile web search:

Google Improving Mobile Search – easier and quicker entry of text on a handheld device.

The future of ads on phones? – Advertisements with call functionality

Google Ads on Handheld Devices, For Local Area Advertisements – The patent described in this post describes a process that is half invention, and half propaganda, attempting to convince small business owners of the value of placing ads online for mobile users to see.

Conclusion

Coupons, kiosks, travel, and phones – are these enough of a foundation to convince business owners to invest more effort in making sure that information about their businesses can be found online? Are they the types of services that would inspire more people to use something like Google Local. I think that they are, but some of those aren’t developed yet, and some significant changes and improvements to the ones that are need to be made.

Including local results at the top of organic searches is a step in the right direction. I’d love to see a link to “more information about these listings” which might lead to an explanation of where they come from, and possibly a link to the Google Local Business Center for businesses that might aspire to have their listings show up in local search.

An easy way to search for Coupons from local businesses would also be very helpful.

Imagine Google Kiosks in a City like Las Vegas, where people could find out information about restaurants and shows, stores, hotels, and casinos from a single screen (or even on their phones or home desktop computers).

There’s a bright future for local search. But how far in the future?

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45 thoughts on “Local Search at Rest, and Local in Motion”

  1. Though Google can certainly weave its way to accomodate all the (rightly noticed) aspects that prevent it from listing all the local businesses correctly, I’d say it is the business owners that often don’t provide any local information or if they do, that’s all they do to associate their site with a location.

    This is (I suppose) is the bottleneck of mainstreaming Google Local to other areas. Sure, Google may find those sites that do show their locality and it’d be great, but it’ll be useful when most of the businesses go there. Maybe Google’s success in showing the right businesses to the right customers will spur the site owners in the right direction, but that alone won’t be enough, as we know, not every business site owner is up to date with the online industry news.

    So, I suspect, the online marketers need to realize the potential profit they can bring to online businesses and direct their clients in this direction as well.

    Great review, once again, too :)

  2. Thanks, Yuri.

    Google’s biggest impediment here is probably Google. They aren’t making it as easy as they possibly can for businesses to take advantage of Google Local.

    Yes, this is an opportunity for online marketers. It’s also an opportunity for early adopters – for those who start using the coupons and other services while their competition isn’t paying attention.

  3. That’s precisely what I meant: an opportunity both for the site owners (both retail online shops and service providers) and the marketers. There are a couple of local search engine optimization services, but I haven’t yet studied how they optimize a site for the location.

    It appears the pace the web people adopt the local optimization will affect how websites get optimized and how Google Local gets used more. Which, in turn, in part depends on how much success Google can bring to the site owners.

    It is all interconnected, isn’t it :)

  4. The different participants rely upon each other for success. If they all recognize that, then it could lead to the creation of something that all of them will find pretty useful.

    One of the aspects of local search opimization that goes against what Google’s guidelines state is the understanding that computers are pretty dumb, and they need things spelled out carefully and clearly. Google says, “write for users, and not for search engines.” Yet, one of the areas where search engines need help when it comes to local search, is making it easier for the search engine to identify and extract relevant geographic location information – see 7,8,9, and 10, in my first list above. Human readers have no problems with some things that search engines struggle with.

  5. Well, it is true that search engines sometimes have trouble with something, but if the site is created with usability and accessibility principles in mind, it’ll be accessible to the search engines as well.

    For instance, the text will be in text, the data will be properly formatted and all the free information will be available without barriers (forms, logins, etc).

    I’d imagine it’d be alright to create a page about a specific region on a nationwide website. No need to hide anything then and it’d help the traffic somewhat, too.

    It is also true, however, that some things made for humans can’t be read by the search engines, of course. I’d guess the Google guidelines need some common sense and be checked against reality. Nice catch, too :)

  6. Right. One of the local patent applications, which looks at different web pages, and tries to identify which site is the “authority” site when it comes to business information about that site looks at which site has the most business related information. This could be such things as days and hours open, whether or not free parking is available, if the place is accessible to people with handicaps, and others. Those are also great things for visitors to the site, who might visit the place in person. Common sense, but more so in hindsight.

  7. I feel that Google Local and the Mobile Web are just an ideal arrangement. The competition (Yellow Pages, etc.) does such a poor job of providing search and getting clean data that there is a real vacuum there. IMHO the Mobile Web is where it’s really happening now and this is one arm of development where Google could really make a killing. That will happen because they have the ability to try to make sense of disparate data and the ability to do search much better than anyone else.

  8. Great points, Barry.

    The funny part is that the Yellow pages are in an ideal situation to gather information directly from people who are paying them to show that information. They have the business relationships, and the start of an infrastructure to provide a service that could make them a leader in this area.

    I like the approaches that Google is taking, and would love to see some of the processes described in those patent applications come to fruition. The mobile web is a compelling area because a generation is growing up around using it – being connected to information and ideas whenever they want. And it becomes that much more useful if they can find out about the area around them in a meaningful way, even if it means attempting to create structure out of apparent chaos. It is an area that Google seems to be getting a grasp upon.

  9. That’s an excellent idea on local search and mobile systems, Barry. It certainly is another area to watch out for. At least makes sense to use properly structured markup and CSS, I guess, in addition to local site optimization.

    By the way, there are Google Maps for Mobile – a fraction of what can be done with mobiles and local businesses. I am guessing, just as Google Local, it won’t be used as much as organic search, but it still can be used to bring 5-10% of customers.

    However, as Google Maps for Mobile will increase quality and reach, it’ll be a pretty useful tool both for potential customers and local businesses.

  10. bill/yuri/Barry

    The combination of Google Maps & Mobile is a powerful next generation tool to foster adoption of Local Search. But it requires a new generation of hardware/software. I don’t really know phone replacement rate but that means that its widespread use is 2-3 years out.

    I think the new 877-520-FIND service is an example of Local Data (it uses Google Maps data but who knows who actually runs it) that is usable on very phone today…it has all of the characteristics necessary for wide spread adoption:
    1)Its Free
    2)Its intuitive
    3)Its fills a perceived need
    4)It works (at least well enough)
    5)It provides more information than the current system with little effort

    As for the Yellow Pages succeeding; I don’t think so. The value equation has never really been in their favor. They developed a business model that worked in a time of monopoly. But most small business people resented (even hated) the incredible cost and unmeasurable returns that they provided.

    Local Search spreads the cost across more people and segments. It values the data as much as the ad making it a more viable small business tool on the money side (if not on the technology side)

    Mike

  11. Those are good points, Mike. Especially that Local is spreading the costs amongst more people and segments. But, if you follow the link to Anita’s post above mine, she makes some pretty good statements about the added level of confusion that may bring to small businesses.

    Posts like your best practices one and Yuri’s on local site optimization can help people understand some of the challenges that brings, as well as discussions like the one that we are having here.

    The intuitiveness and ease of use of something like 877-520-FIND can help grow a user base for the information, and that may be incentive for many businesses to put more effort into getting their business information into those local searches.

  12. Good information Bill:

    As an owner of a local business with a strongly optimized site and especially one who has been tracking my data for several years now I’d like to add a couple of comments from observation.

    1. Users still clearly prefer regular search to any form of advanced search. Its astonishing to me the scarcity of visits my biz site gets from google maps or msn/Y local. The usage doesn’t seem to be there. Alternatively my site is well optimized for many variations of phrases on any of the engines that combine variations on my industry/business/services and variations on regional geo descriptions. The volume of searches of this ilk off regular search versus the number of visits I get from G Maps or Y or MSN local remains rediculously high for regular search versus any of the variations of Local.

    Users aren’t going there.

    2. Doing a search on any version of Local versus doing a normal search with a long tail description that includes a geo description in the search takes an extra step or two. Why bother if the information and rankings are similar. Again I don’t see users migrating to these areas.

    3. Theoretically even if a multitude of businesses enter information onto Google Maps the listings will begin to be similar to the age old versions of print YP with lots of businesses listed for the same service. How do many businesses of the same category distringuish themselves in these well established local advertising media? They pay for large display ads in which they can list features and attract readers eyes.

    If G maps successfully attracts many businesses to its listings what will G do and the businesses do to make the listings work for consumers/G/the businesses?

    It seems to me the more features the individual sites show and the more features G Maps provides the more G Maps will be similar to the YP hard copies with large amounts of information replicating expensive display ads.

    Finally, and again going back to my experience as a biz owner and webmaster…G Maps serps depend somewhat on distance from a starting point.

    As a website owner I can dominate for certain phrases for a region in regular serps whereas I can’t in a system that puts a lot of weight on distance from any point. How do I overcome that in G maps? Probably I have to load up the site with all the features at my disposal. At some point I’m sure G will charge for all this and it will become a modern version of the print YP.

    Still I’m very very interested in all this. I utilise G Maps and Y and MSN local for my site and use it as much as possible. Still until users start migrating to advanced methods of search I don’t see it really taking off.

    Dave

  13. Thanks, Dave.

    Appreciate your sharing your experiences with local search and results, and the impact (or lack of impact) those have had.

    I thought it might be good to share some of my experiences as a searcher on Google Local to see where people might be getting frustrated with the service. My latest post is on Looking for a Library on Google Local and some of the problems I encountered there.

    Are people trying out local, and running into some of the problems I did, and losing enthusiasm over it, or are they continuing to use it inspite of those flaws? I don’t know.

    I’m optimistic about its future. In spite of everything, it’s still lightyears ahead of the old paper yellow pages – especially when what you are searching for is outside of your telephone service range, and you don’t have a copy of the yellow pages for that area.

  14. Some time ago DazzlinDonna of Seo-scoop.com fame wrote about moving to a new region and needing to find vendors to providef for her family in the new house in the new region.

    She used versions of Local (gmaps, Y and MSN) and did local searches and just couldn’t find the vendors.

    In some regard its a lack of businesses with web sites and their lack of regsitering the sites in one form or another with the engines.

    I know if I do searches for local services I’ll do them on the web and compare them to print YP versions for totality of responses.

    There is still a gap that might take years to fill in moving businesses onto the web. As you noted beyond that businesses open and close and move thereby making it hard to keep track (on the web and with old hard copy directories.)

    YP is motivated to do this via paid advertisements and salespeople with commission based incomes. The total volume of businesses is huge though, and the work necessary to add that much volume is extensive.

    Further, in a former profession I sold services into the business community and specifically the retail community. Thousands of business owners with multiple perspectives, decision making times, other interests etc. Its hard to move them all in that direction.

    I’m a big follower in Local. Time will tell how it will move along.

    One other observation. I’ve been active in a number of forums dedicated to Local activity. Some of the most active participants are those from internet aggregators that are developing directories, SE’s, and various services like Google Maps, Local. Other active participants included business owners. The number of SEO’s/SEM’s/advertising services etc. that could move lots of businesses into activities like Google Maps/Local was not that great. In fact one of the most active participants is Chicago from Webmasterworld and other forums. He is well known in the industry. I believe he and his business have used multiple strategies to develop local web activity. He would be a great commentator here to discuss his experiences from all perspectives.

  15. By the way, there was a thread at Cre8asite Forums that confirmed, that people do prefer to use more long tail (search terms with geographical terms) searches to find local stuff.

    I’d suspect it happens, because it is, indeed, easier to type one more word, than switching to another similar service. As I said before somewhere, Google is integrating Google Maps/Local into organic search, so this should be another way to:
    – get businesses into Maps/Local to appear high in organic searches
    – keep customers using the main (organic) search to find what they want

    I am too optimistic about local search, but I’d expect it to fluctuate a lot, between what customers want and what others have to offer. So far, Google is going slowly, but in the right direction, it seems.

  16. There was a paper which I wrote about not long ago which looked at some sets of Altavista queries not long ago, and attempted to separate out travel related queries – Research on Travel Related Search Queries.

    I’d really like to see the same type of research done on local type queries, but I’d guess that they probably are longer, just by the fact that they likely are distinguished from many other query types by the inclusion of Geographic Location Information within them.

    What would be really interesting would be to use information from Google, see how long those types of query sessions are, and how frequently people click through to the local results displaying across the top of organic results.

  17. It appears that organic Google serps have already begun to roll businesses with Google maps insertions into higher serps.

    Of note DazzlinDonna referenced this at seo-scoop the other day, off a comment at pubcon. While I believe the terminology used (one box) was in error (someone meant google maps) the evidence is that businesses with google maps insertions are getting #1 serps ranks with a local map for search queries that include a combo of the name of the business and the name of the town/city they are located in.

    Its a powerful tool for organic serps and a huge reason to get your business into Google Maps.

    Dave

  18. Hi Dave

    It might have been Danny Sullivan who mentioned that during his keynote speech. By “one box” he’s referring to the results that show above the organic results in Google, regardless of whether they are local results or images, or other types.

    Regardless, having both a link to local results, and a map to your business appear above the organic results is a great thing for a business. Funny, you don’t even need a web page to appear at the top of Google’s web results if you are in local results. But having a site that appears at the top of the organic results and in the local listings too, is pretty nice.

    I’m not sure if I would prefer that someone click through the web page or the local result in that instance. I’d guess the web page – but if a searcher chooses the local result, that might mean they are more likely to have made up their mind that they are coming to visit in person already. Maybe?

  19. Bill:

    I couldn’t comment as to whether long tail searches or Google Maps is better for conversions. To date the sites I review get a teeny percentage of traffic from Google Maps versus long tail traffic with a combo of geo description and service.

    I don’t focus on percentages but rather total conversions.

    IMHO until Google Maps traffic begins to approximate long tail searches in the serps it will be a moot point for most businesses.

  20. Bill:

    Saw this citation today. Its via Ewhisper in a thread who I believe works at Locallaunch with Justin Sanger. It comes from a thread at WMW and was made in July.

    According to Hitwise, Google Maps is 1.38% of all Google traffic. So, when you consider Google’s query share, and then the fact 1.38% of Google visitors use their maps, the numbers shrink pretty quickly.
    How much traffic do you see from Y Local (or views on the listings page)?

    Don’t know how current or how accurate the info is…but that is a very small share of traffic.

    On the other hand. Long tail searches in organic search with geo descriptions are the more telling metric against which usage of Google Maps should be measured. Alas I haven’t a clue as to that number and/or the percentage of searches of that ilk.

    Dave

  21. According to Hitwise, Google Maps is 1.38% of all Google traffic.

    I wonder how many searches that might be. A Search Engine Watch post from last December mentioned that Google had 2.5 billion searches last October. Assuming that they did at least the same this year, 1.38% of 2.5 billion would still be a significant number (34.5 million)

    You’re probably spot on that long tail searches using geographic terms outnumber local searches by a pretty significant number.

    Let’s break those other searches down a little differently. If some searches are informational, others navigational, and still others transactional, which category do local searches fit into? I would guess that most are transactional, in that someone is searching for a place to actually go. So, the percentage becomes larger, because it’s a percentage of a specific type of search.

    It’s also a query associated with visiting a specific place in person. What is the percentage of all organic searches that involve someone wanting to find an office or physical storefront? I’m not sure that I could say for certain, but it’s likely that number that we need to use to compare to local search traffic. At that point, we’re comparing like things.

    Does it make sense to break organic traffic/queries down like that?

  22. Bill: As you mentioned this is dramatically easier to read on firefox than explorer.

    I agree. Comparing traffic on G Maps and Y and MSN local to long tail searches is a more relevant comparison. I have no idea if any independant service is looking into that or could give the public an idea as to the number or percentage of local type searches. I’d bet my bottom dollar that Google knows what percentage is local and could tell us if they wished. Frankly once they figure how to drive dramatically more traffic to local it becomes an on line replacement for the YP and they can seriously monetize that.

    While, experts define searches the three ways you describe localized searches might be characterized diffferently versus non-localized searches. I’d guess the majority of localized searches are transactional with some being informational.

  23. One last thing, Bill. I’ve spent part of the last few days exploring the importance of and working on some sites with regard to having a G maps entry for a local business and how it is reflected in key local searches. They are critical money search terms for each business/type of business.

    In 2 cases, having a G Maps presence with a #1 ranking in organic search with the map is boosting contacts into the business. In the third case we entered a G maps entry for a business that was ranked 1st for a critical money term. Someone else recently supplanted this #1 via their own G Maps submission. We are going to see if our G Maps submission will negate that impact.

    Very critical financial concerns with regard to real sites.

    If the third experiment pans out….I’ll have turned 100% from someone dubious about the value of G Maps to a 1000% believer in it being a critical component of any local effort. And I’ll be sure to report the results.

    Dave

  24. Wow. Encouraging so far, Dave.

    I’ll be looking forward to your results.

    One concern I started to have a little earlier today was whether people have developed banner blindness when it comes to local results in the one box space, expecting to see paid ads in that area instead of local results.

    I was describing the potential for a site to be listed in those local results to someone who had to look a couple times at the results page before even noticing the local listings in the one box location. I’m looking forward to see the results of that submission.

  25. Whatever the banner blindness effect is, the total amount of traffic G gets will still allow some people to click through the #1 G Map spot.

    Will be looking for the results of your experiments, Dave :)

  26. Guys: We will have to wait to see if the submission to G Maps on the third example changes the character of G serps for this money phrase.

    From a visual perspective I’ve shown the map effect to a couple of people and they were impressed. I think the onebox impact with a listing of several businesses is minimal.

    In the 3rd example we will be happy if we eliminate the map for the competitor and have the G serps respond with a onebox listing of competitors. Hopefully our client will return to #1 for that local money phrase.

    Whether you or your client achieve a map in G serps or negate a competitor from obtaining the same is extremely powerful and important and in my mind necessitates use of G Maps.

  27. One last thing:

    Two of the sites I referred to are a friend’s clients. I’m assisting the friend. After more thorough investigation we found that in an example where a map and reference to a site replaced the client’s site at #1 in g serps, it did it for 1 specific money term. For other money terms in lieu of the map there is a onebox at the top w/ a list of various businesses providing the service including the operator who supplanted my friend’s client at #1 for the money term in question. My friend’s client was #1 for this term directly below the onebox.

    It would appear that you need to include within the submission to G Maps ALL of the relevant money terms.

    Dave

  28. I had one other Thought on this.

    I’ll bet G is tracking traffic into the sites with maps and ascertaining the effect on clickthroughs and traffic to the site as a G #1 with map versus a site ranked first w/out map.

    We won’t know the results but if G finds a substantial difference and positive impact it will be the first step to monetizing G Maps.

    My observations and the smallest of feedback suggests that the map is a huge advantage. I don’t have access to the number of sites with this advantage and how it has affected their traffic.

  29. I imagine that Google is tracking the impact of those maps as an interface feature carefully.

    Have you seen those results both with, and without the inserted maps?

    Clickthroughs aren’t just about seeing which result is more relevant than others, but also a means of testing which algorithms and which interface features are more useful to viewers/users. I’d imagine that if, during query sessions, people are seen to stop searching for more results after clicking through a result that includes an inserted map, that we might see more of those maps in the future.

    Even more so, if the inclusion of the maps spurs more people to register their businesses with the Google business center.

  30. Bill: I did some estimating on total number of google local searches (long tail organic plus Google Maps) starting with Greg Sterling’s assumptions: http://gesterling.wordpress.com/2006/11/21/googles-local-revenues/ II used the widely accepted WAG method (wild @assed guesses). Of course his own analysis may have components of the WAG method.

    I came up with about 2 billion searches in a year. Your estimate for Google Maps comes to 400 million/year; 20% of the total. That might begin to approximate where long tail searches compare with usage of G Maps. That 2 billion number represents about 7% of 30 billion searches (2.5 billion/month from last October you cited above)–and not too different from Greg’s estimate for local searches as a percentage of revenues)

    Of course the WAG method and my numbers are subject to lots of criticism and revision. In any case it suggests that G Maps usage represents a significant but minor percentage of total searches for local goods and services.

    As a business owner I’d always advertise strongly into any source of 20% of my potential business.

    My own experience in reviewing the analytics of local sites is that G maps usage anc actual traffic to the sites from G Maps is not that high. Nevertheless I recognize that actual traffic to any of these sites from G maps would not equate to long tail search for a number of reasons. I suspect that G maps searches would skew to a number of competitors based on proximity for all the businesses I review. Similarly all of the long tail searches that hit the sites include relevant state names–and those coming from a far distance in either state would more likely orient to competitors.

    In that sense my individual businesses probably both over report relevant local traffic and under report G Maps traffic.

    Anyways that is an attempt to tie G Maps traffic to long tail geo oriented search traffic.

    Dave

  31. Excellent points, Dave.

    You have me thinking about a post listing some of the limitations of long tail organic searches, and some of the limitations of local searches.

  32. Yup, an orthodontist located in Long Island New York with the #1 serps rankings for New York Orthodontist or Orthodontist in New York is not going to service a potential customer contacting him off his website when the customer is located in Buffalo, New York.

    We get a fair number of requests that come from too far a distance from for either of the two states for which we optimize. That becomes an internal business process in dealing with an overload of requests.

    I’d still rather have the number one serps ranking referenced above, and besides that I’d want the #1 serps for Long Island orthodontist, the #1 for the county and town names orthodontist and any other regional or localized phrases.

    BTW: My estimate for total number of G localized searches are “only” 50% lower than Greg Sterlings!!! LOL!
    Dave

  33. I’d want those results, too. Even if they were inaccurate.

    Did a search on a business type in New York City. Not a large niche, but was surprised to see only a couple of businesses listed in the City, and then the third one was in New Jersey. I didn’t expect that.

    I am three miles from Maryland, and two miles from Pennsylvania, and yet when I do a local search, I rarely see Maryland or Pennsylvania results, even if I know that there’s a resource just over the state line.

    Sadly, that’s a problem that’s a holdover from the days of the yellow pages, when I would get a listing of busiesses in Delaware, and a copy of the Delaware Yellow pages, and not get a phone book for Northern Maryland, which might have closer businesses.

  34. Bill:

    I just learned this… but one of my direct competitors folded. I was astonished what they told us re..bringing in business. They were ahead of us with regard to usage of Local, especially Y Local–but made good use of G Maps and MSN local.

    I’ll learn more about this shortly but in about 1/2 a year of actually operating they did about as much business as we do in 1/2 of an average week. That is spooky. Sad…(though not to me). They copied a couple of very effective things that we do to attract local leads.

    There is a lot more to do than just effective web positioning for any local b @ m.

    Dave

  35. Hi Dave,

    It sounds like they may have had some issues that weren’t related to search rankings.

    As you say, there is lot more to marketing, and running a successful business than how well a web site does in search engines.

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