In the past few months there have been some fairly dramatic shifts in the local search landscape, especially in mobile. To most local competitors it may not seem that things have changed because most of the changes have yet to fully materialize. But they are coming and have potentially serious implications for the competitive environment.
The following have happened or been announced since May, 2012:
• Google+ Local (replacing Google Places)
• Apple Maps and expanded Siri “assistant” functionality
• New visibility and importance for Yelp reviews via Apple and Bing relationships
• Android “Jelly Bean” with virtual assistant, Google Now and new “cards” replacing the traditional SERP
What these developments suggest is a future in which Google and Apple (with Yelp) dominate local business lookups on mobile devices. All this comes as increasing volumes of traffic (15% to 30%) are mobile, and many local publishers look to mobile for growth or to compensate for flat or declining growth on the PC. Yet Apple’s entry into local search and Google’s recent Android Jelly Bean-related local search enhancements emerge as potentially major roadblocks to those consumer-growth strategies.
Both Apple and Google are introducing new capabilities, content and user experiences around local that are compelling and generally beyond what most local publishers are capable of developing themselves. These services marry voice, maps, local business information and POI data with reviews and other rich content. They also have the advantage of being integrated at the operating system level. All this creates a number of heavy barriers to competitors. Indeed, we’re seeing the beginnings of what could become a kind of “duopoly” in local-mobile search.
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