Google devoted considerable resources to Local Search in 2010. The sheer number of changes in Google Local/Maps/Places in the past year, coupled with the quickening pace of those changes and what top Googlers have recently said about the local space give us clues to what we might expect in 2011. Here are my predictions for Local Search on Google in 2011:
Google obviously knows the importance of reviews to Local Search and has instituted review response capabilities, review removals and new review filters as well as their own Recommendation Engine, Hotpot. In December, it began a new type of offline marketing campaign in Portland, buying billboard space and newspaper ads to promote the use of Hotpot in conjunction with popular area businesses. In 2011, I expect Google to:
- Continue to wage war against review spam.
- Heavily promote reviews directly on Google.
- Get pickier about which other review sites it deems worthy of inclusion on Place pages – this will likely be based on the real or perceived authenticity of the review sources.
- Integrate Hotpot recommendations into all things local and mobile.
SMALL BUSINESS OUTREACH
In 2010, Google tested various forms of directly and indirectly influencing small business owners to participate in its online offerings. It tried everything from YouTube videos to webinars to email campaigns to telesales to putting up a mini site in partnership with the Small Business Administration. In 2011, I expect Google to:
- Continue to aim directly at small business owners with their message using more traditional (offline) marketing methods.
- Create and promote more simple, do-it-yourself features for small business owners.
- At the same time, offer more support for agencies that work on behalf of small businesses in the Local Search space.
This past year, Google introduced 2 new forms of paid ads aimed at small businesses – Google Tags and Google Boost. It also made AdWords upgrades related to geo-targeting, added click to call ads and instituted special pricing ads for hotels, which sent the lodging industry on the warpath. In 2011, I expect it to:
- Heavily promote all forms of paid advertising directly to small businesses.
- Create additional forms of Local/Mobile paid advertising.
- Buy a Groupon clone and use it as a way to sell more advertising to small businesses.
- Go head to head with the Internet Yellow Pages with an expanded sales force dedicated to the local market.
- Develop and promote a check-in service in conjunction with Hotpot so that it can precisely target advertising to the searcher’s location.
Google has also been working on new features that will enable it to appeal to even more small businesses. This includes things like Local Product Search, Send to Car, Google Checkout mobile app and the Google Places API for developers. In 2011, I expect Google to:
- Continue to develop new features that appeal to small business advertisers to bring them into the Google “system”.
- Find new ways to integrate Local/Mobile search and paid advertising into as many other Google platforms as it can.
- Facilitate developers’ use of Google Places data into new apps, platforms and layers on existing platforms.
So there’s what I see in my Local Search crystal ball for the next year. Check back in 12 months and see how I did!