Experts Blog

What’s New in Local Search? May 2011 Edition

By Mary Bowling on May 05, 2011 - 04:18 PM

Google says. At the South by Southwest Interactive conference (SXSW) in Austin in March, Google VP Marissa Meyers said ( paraphrased): ( ):

  • Google needs to step up its customer service for Google Places. Yeah, this can't happen too soon!
  • 40% of Google Maps usage comes from Mobile devices. Are you ready for those users?
  • 6 million Place pages have been claimed by business owners. Huge opportunity still exists!

Yelp reviews explode. In mid-March, Yelp announces that it has reached more than 10 million reviews on its site. By mid-April, it says the number has risen to 17 million. Crazy growth? Massaging the numbers? What's going on?

Ad market share updates. Kelsey Group Research reveals that about 14% of local advertising dollars are being spent online. They predict that will rise to 16% this year and to nearly 25% by 2015. Their research shows Google with about 60% of Mobile ad share and BingHoo with about 10%.

Google Circles. Rumors fly about a new social network, Google Circles. Google sources say they have no plans for a Facebook competitor but are trying to make existing products more social. We're definitely seeing Places becoming more social. What do you think we'll see next? launches. Canada Get Your Businesses Online offers a free website, a URL and hosting, as well as free online marketing advice on using Google tools and products. This is a brilliant strategy to pull many more SMBs into the Google fold. Bing responded with free mobile websites as part of its new Business Portal launch.

Top level reorganization at Google. As part of it, Jeff Huber is made Senior VP of Local and Commerce. This may be a clue that Google will be concentrating on the transactional aspects of Local Search going forward.

Google Instant now in Places. Now (unless you opt out), when you begin typing a query into Google Places, Google predicts what you're looking for and gives you suggestions. Search for your own business in Places and see what Google Instant suggests. You may be surprised at what pops up.

Products can now appear on a merchant's Place page. With Product search, close-to-real-time inventory availability and the link to show a list of nearby stores with the product in stock can be a real boost to retailers. However, it needs a lot of work to become user friendly for most small businesses. Those willing to jump in and learn how to make it a routine part of their business process at this early stage are likely to reap disproportionate rewards.


Google Hotpot absorbed. Google announces that their new Recommendation Engine, Hotpot, is becoming part of Google Places. This is obviously in line with Google's goal of consolidating their disparate Local products. It's also the logical home for Hotpot and sets Google Places up to become more social through its networking features. Nothing about Hotpot actually changes. It simply becomes a feature of Places, where it belongs, rather than a stand-alone product.

Google removes QR codes from Places accounts. Just when QR codes were beginning to get widespread attention in the marketing world, Google removed them from the Places Dashboard and revealed that it is moving towards near field communications as a way to link the online world to the offline one. Not only can NFC deliver business data to Mobile users, but it enables online Mobile payments, something Google badly wants. QR codes are not going away. Google is simply not making it quite so easy for businesses to use them in conjunction with their Place pages.

New Phone Support for AdWords. Free phone support for Adwords advertisers is now available in the US and Canada. It will roll out to other countries. Call 1-866-2Google Monday-Friday between 9am and 8 pm Eastern Time. I've heard that some of the reps on the other end of the phone are also trying to help callers resolve problems with their Places listings. How official is this customer support? How effective is their advice? Let us know about your experiences!

Google Tags are being retired. Although Tags was given plenty of opportunity through several iterations to be a winner, Google is quickly phasing out this flat-rate local advertising product. It's logical to assume that it is only worthwhile to the relatively few businesses that ranked well, since Tags placed on ads deeper in the SERPs are rarely seen.

While it did generate revenue, several new local ad products, like Boost, and features within Adwords, like location extensions, can be much more profitable for Google. They also appeal to a wider range of businesses and are more effective in attracting new customers.

Google Places team goes to Madison WI. As part of their push to engage more local businesses with Google products, the Places team has 4 events scheduled in the Madison area. Other cities getting special attention from Google Places are Portland, Austin, Las Vegas and Charlotte. Part of the push is to encourage reviews and ratings on Hotpot by rewarding active reviewers. Google is also assigning community managers to each city. How Yelp-like!

As part of their outreach, Google also held a Hotpot contest in San Francisco and partnered with Chase bank for a live seminar series for SMBs in NYC and 4 other cities.

Bing revamps Local. Bing releases a new Business Portal and new features for their local business listings. There's nothing earth shaking, but there are some nice new additions that the Google Places people are surely watching. search/archive/2011/04/11/see-how-the-bing-business-portal-can- help-your-business-grow.aspx

Bing is gaining market share and Bing mobile apps are getting reviews. I think it can gain a wave of new business listers and positive press by offering the customer service that Google Places badly lacks. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case and the business who lost their listings in the migration are not yet getting any help.


Perhaps the best new feature is the ability to set up free daily deal type offers through Bing, allowing businesses a way to test offers and keep all the rewards to themselves.

New Local Search tool available., a UK agency, released their cool new local ranking tool from beta. You can get a free 30 day trial, so take it for a test drive soon. It works for both UK and US businesses and there are other tools in the works that I can't wait to get to try out. checker/

The Yellow Pages Association rebrands itself as the Local Search Association, but they still have walking fingers in their logo. Will their members really become digital marketing agencies or are they just putting new clothes on their paid ad networks?

Map Maker launches. Google MyMaps are replaced with Map Maker as its tool of choice to gather user generated content regarding what's where. Google has added some checks and balances to cut down on the types of spam frequently seen in MyMaps, with edits requiring approval before they go live. They promise fast turnarounds on edit approvals. Most Google products are released first in the US and then rolled out to the rest of the globe. MapMaker has moved along a reverse path and the US is one of the last to get it. http://

Google Profiles are back in a big way. As part of the socialization of Google Places, profiles gain new importance as the home base for your social activity on Google. Your budding Google social network currently revolves around Hotpot, with reviews and ratings. Watch for Google+1 to play a more significant role going forward.

Google Offers begins. Google begins pushing its Groupon-like daily deals product, Google Offers, through a public beta signup.


Deals will soon be available in Portland. Expansion will most likely point first to the San Francisco area. Take a look at the Daily Deals Ecosystem here.