Can Local Search Get Bigger Than Google? Is Google Local Dying?

Yesterday, the local blogosphere was full of catchy titles like “Can local, vertical search get bigger than Google? ” and “Google Velocity: Froogle and Local are dying while Video and Blog are surging What were those all about?

First, the Ars Technica article (can local get bigger than Google):

Every few months, someone wonders aloud whether local and vertical search providers will one day kill off Google. These companies offer specialized searches within specific locations or industries; if targeted search results are what you seek, these may provide better answers than a general query. The most recent proponent of this theory is Jason Prescott, who argued last week that “specialty search engines could one day become more important than Google.”

Prescott’s main point is that general search doesn’t always work very well. Using other data, he claims that only four out of ten business professionals are satisfied with the results they get from places like Google and Yahoo. This creates a niche that can be exploited by more targeted search engines that index only specific businesses, for instance, or that concentrate solely on local search.

Then, the Compete’s blog article (Google Local is dying):

Google has been criticized for being unable to succeed beyond its core Web Search offering. Last year Forbes “graded Google” and didn’t give the internet superstar high marks beyond the core web search products. Just last week Forbes “re-graded Google” on
the past year’s performance. At Compete we tend to look at things a bit myopically. We’re all about the data. (…)

Despite just about everyone in the search world chiming in on the shift to a more local web, Google Local took the biggest hit over the past year. To be fair this is mainly due to merger of Local and Maps. The growth in Maps more than offsets the decline in Local.

What it means: First the Compete article. As “Alex” says in the comments, “Don’t read so much into the drop off in ‘local’. It is simply the old name for maps and still remains up for legacy reasons as a cname. Inbound links are almost entirely to maps now, so the traffic was simply redirected. So local isn’t dying, as your title says.” My friend Greg
agrees
: .The Compete blog headline “Local Dying” misleads somewhat because Google renamed Local “Maps” last year. Essentially there is no more “Google Local;” local.google.com yields the same site as Google Maps. And, according to Compete, Google Maps makes the strongest showing in its middle category, so-called “performers””. I complete agree with both assessments. Although the “local” portion of Google Maps is not very good, the maps themselves are excellent.

Then, the Ars Technica article. I don’t believe that, individually, local and vertical search tools will become bigger than Google. Although I am a big proponent of verticalization (see my second 2007 prediction), these will remain smaller sized than the Google mastodon. That’s usually the concept of niches. You’re smaller but you’re better (Zillow is
mentioned as a perfect example). But I agree that vertical and local search sites are chipping away at Google’s current supremacy in many verticals. I think most experts agree that in local search, there’s no clear winner as well.

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