Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Today Google has announced the launch of the Google Local Business Center. It provides local businesses with the opportunity to update information like hours, wi-fi availability, etc.
In savvy circles, interest in local search has been percolating for some time, but for the most part, analysts have been sceptical. Google casually mentioned that Local is already one of their biggest draws. All it took was to put a tab for it on the home page. This was greeted by a yawning press.
Allowing businesses to directly work with Google on their local listings has major implications.
(1) The gloves are off, as predicted in an issue of Page Zero Advisor not so long ago. Partnerships with yellow pages listings companies will eventually be phased out as Google forges direct listing relationships by the heapful. I believe now as I have believed for some time now that the supposed advantages of traditional directories -- big sales forces -- are minor in the face of business' desire to have a direct listing (and billing) relationship with the top search engine.
(2) This is really Directory 2.0, isn't it? Yahoo invented the darn thing, then began charging for it, but it made sense to some businesses, and not to others. It was decontextualized and not that useful to users. It definitely had limited appeal to "offline" businesses. Anyway, the more useful it becomes, the more critical mass this will develop. Businesses will clamor to list because users are making heavy use of the directory.
(3) We'll be interested to watch how listings are ranked, and how Google phases in new enhanced listing options.
(4) This is the reintroduction of metadata into the web listings game. Will businesses lie? How will they be supervised? Will "GLO" firms pop up? (Google Local Optimization.) Will they all be "ethical"?
Local search is racing ahead - at Google, and in other places. Most consumers are unaware just yet as to how useful this is all going to be... but they're finding out fast. As my research colleague Mark Shawera and I argued in the first draft of a white paper we didn't have time to release because the space keeps moving so fast... savvy information aggregators like Google and Yahoo are going direct to businesses and are going to have no trouble taking a big chunk of business away from the crusty old yellow pages companies. Traditional directory companies are in big, big trouble.
To get started with Google Local Business Center, go here. Currently this is available only in the U.S.
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