The old phrase is “Think Local, Go Global”. Well to my mind, a more important phrase for many businesses is going to be “Think Local, Go Google”. In number terms, the preponderance of businesses are local or possibly regional. Probably they do most of their business with customers within say 20 miles (32 kilometers) of their location. Up till now they have not been all that well served by customer contact tools. Just try to find say a restaurant in the printed version of the Yellow Pages.
Two recent Google initiatives will help such businesses. Both businesses and Google will need to learn how to optimize how they benefit from the initiatives, but benefit they undoubtedly will.
I discuss what is happening here in Canada, but similar developments are occurring elsewhere. The first has been available for a few weeks now. That is Local Search to be found at http://local.google.com/ (Yahoo! has a similar Beta service in the USA but this is not yet available in Canada.) Unlike regular search, the search page offers two fields. The first is for keywords for what is being searched for and the second is for the location. The results page gives a map with results pinpointed. There is also the option to change the area being searched from 2 kilometers to 75 kilometers. It’s a really good tool for searching locally.
Two days ago, Google Canada announced an alliance with Yellow Pages. Since then regular keyword searches are now adding in Local results at the top of the regular SERP if a location was mentioned as one of the keywords. So you can stay with the regular Google search or you can click through to the alternate Local Google Search Page. The latter is clearly now based strongly on the Yellow Pages results. The only way to achieve prominence here is to pay for an enhanced listing in the Yellow Pages.
The enormity of this development should not be minimized. As more and more people rely on search to find local suppliers or services or entertainment centres, then such suppliers will need to pay the price for their visibility. It clearly responds to a consumer or customer need. So it would seem to be a win/win/win solution.