Predictions For The Changing Local Search Landscape In 2010

Dec 14, 2009 at 6:00am ET by Neg Norton
To many of us, 2009 couldn’t end soon enough. But today we have fresh optimism about what’s in store for 2010. I sense a cautious sense of hope with everyone I’ve spoken with that the prospects for next year are stronger for local search providers and our advertisers. Since much of local search is driven by small business, I’m heartened by some recent statistics from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) that show a slight uptick in key small business metrics: sales, earnings, credit and optimism. If those positive signs gain momentum, 2010 promises to be an exciting year—but not without its challenges.

Looking to next year, I’d like to share some predictions on market trends that will impact those small businesses looking to harness local search in order to play a part of our national economic recovery. If local search providers and advertisers keep these trends in mind, I think they will ultimately come out ahead in the local search race.

Prediction 1: Mobile will drive local search growth

BIA/Kelsey predicts that mobile local search ad revenues will grow to $130 million by 2013, and that mobile local searches will increase to 35 percent of all searches by 2013. Amid this growth, we’re seeing significant innovation on the mobile front, from new Yellow Pages iPhone apps to mapping technologies that deliver relevant local information to users on the go.

In 2010, advertisers will be faced with a growing set of options, and many will have limited knowledge of how to break through. The providers that will do well will be the ones who can make sense of this quickly changing platform and deliver programs that offer quality sales leads to advertisers.

Prediction 2: Local search providers will vie for social

The truth is that no one owns social local search yet, but all the major players have an eye on getting there. Here’s why: Neilsen reported that ad spending at top social media sites increased 119 percent over the last year, and the share of social media ad spending to total online spending doubled to 15 percent in 2009.

Advertisers know that significant trust exists within online social communities and that social networks have become a crucial way in which we relate with others. The question in 2010 will center on how we can authentically tap into those networks to serve local business information to consumers looking for it.

AT&T has said it will launch its answer to this question in 2010, and SuperPages has a Twitter search tool available right now. Praized Media launched Calgary.com this fall as a beta program and is hoping to expand it additional regions. I can only imagine where we’ll be a year from now.

Prediction 3: Local print advertising will decline but won’t disappear

Many have predicted the death of print media for quite some time. I don’t believe that print media will disappear anytime soon, but certainly usage is changing. Media fragmentation is causing a gradual decline in the quantity of print Yellow Pages references, for example, although the quality of those references is still very high. Quite frankly, the perception of the usage decline in the printed Yellow Pages far exceeds the reality of what is actually happening.

For advertisers, this means taking a close look at advertising spend and evaluating their print investment. Those who are too quick to abandon it may see a reduction in qualified sales leads, while those who aren’t open to some of the newer platforms available might be missing a big opportunity.

Prediction 4: A hybrid marketing approach will win

My colleagues spent a good part of this year talking about the hybrid model that they’ve deployed in their sales teams. Yellow Pages sales representatives, for example, are now armed with portfolios of options ranging from owned products to partner products. And in this way, have essentially become advertising consultants to small businesses.

Advertisers should think about taking advantage of these kinds of information resources by devoting an hour or two to thinking through the options out there and devising a strategy that spans the appropriate media for the business. It’s more important than ever to consider a hybrid approach because today’s consumers get information for a multitude of places before making a purchasing situation. And that fragmentation will only continue to grow as we head into 2010.

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