The ground has shifted dramatically when it comes to local search. A July 2008 report by Borrell Associates, “Say Goodbye to Yellow Pages,” predicted print Yellow Pages directories would lose 39% of their annual revenue over the next five years. The reason is driven directly by how users of the Internet research their purchases.
“We have clients looking to cut millions of dollars per year in print Yellow Pages advertising,” said Dan Hobin, CEO of G5 Search Marketing, a local search technology company. “The issue becomes when to cut, as you don't want to cut too soon.”
G5 last year released an analytics tool connected to its local marketing platform to help advertisers with multiple locations shift from local Yellow Pages to online advertising. It conducts “predictive analytics” on how many customers will be lost by eliminating print directory ads versus customers gained through other channels.
The landscape is filled with smaller companies specializing in connecting business purchasers with local suppliers. And, predictably, social media is getting involved.
“People don't go to Web sites anymore; Web sites come to them,” said Chris Baggot, CEO of Compendium Blogware, whose software helps companies set up employee blogs that can be discovered more easily by viewers using local search.
Compendium enables corporate bloggers to label their blogs in several ways, including vertically, geographically, by product and by topic. Encouraging employees to blog—and setting up those blogs by industry and interest area so that they can be found locally—plays into a basic human desire, Baggot said.
“This is saying, "Our company is full of human beings,' and business searchers want to find people who want to solve their problems,” Baggot said. “The concept of the long tail plays best locally.”
Another company, WebVisible, offers software that matches local businesses with prospective customers who research purchases via the major search engines. Its technology, based on identifying computer IP addresses, places locally oriented banner ads, sponsored link ads, and audio or video ads on search results pages.
“It's not really about search,” said Carey Ransom, VP-corporate development and strategy at WebVisible, in discussing what Web users expect from their online research. “It's about find.” M