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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Google Places: The Yellow Pages of The Present and Future

Lest anyone think I dost protest too much, check out the following post.  Google has to the position, the product, and the power to be the king of local search.  Like the 2010 Lakers, it is there's to lose.

Is Google Becoming the New Ma Bell?

First off, some younger readers might not get the comparison. The colloquial term Ma Bell ("Mother Bell") was used to refer to the conglomerate that held a complete monopoly over all telephone service in most areas of the United States. In effect, they were the utility that brought communication to U.S. consumers and businesses. Fast forward about 100 years and we see a similar "utility" emerging in Google as it moves further to embed its product set and services in the minds of both consumers and businesses.

Nowhere is this pattern more evident than in the realm of local search. With over 65 percent marketshare of search (according to comScore) and nearly $12 billion in annualized revenue from U.S. search (according to Google's Q1 2010 Quarterly Earnings Summary); I think we can all agree that Google is a successful business. Interestingly though, all of this success has come from leveraging a relatively small base of advertisers, around 1 million U.S. advertisers (as of 2009). Considering there were over 29 million businesses in the U.S. in 2008 (according to SBA), it stands to reason that Google has an opportunity to dominate the local search marketplace.
Let's consider the facts; one in five searches on Google is now explicitly location-specific. Recently, Google has taken some steps to enhance the local-search process on its site as well as the local content itself. Most notably, these steps include:
  • The revamp of the Local Business Center - now called Google Places
  • Google Maps allowing service-based businesses to target service areas
  • The enhanced localization of Google Suggest

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