The prodigal son of a search engine comes home

How is Google integrating Google Maps data and what does the future hold?

Over the past 14 months, Google has been integrating ever more local data into its main search results page. This use of Maps data on the main results page indicates how important Google thinks that local is.

The first major change of many this calendar year was the renaming of Google Local to Google Maps (April 20, 2006). Here is a list of integration since the last quarter of 2005:

Google Feature ~Date of Introduction
Plus Box December 9, 2006
OneBox Business Listing Map July, 2006
Onebox Authoritative Listing Map July, 2006
Google Local renamed to Google Maps April, 2006
Top 3 local listings Onebox November, 2005
Integration of Google Local & Google Maps October 6, 2005

Obviously Google Maps gets many fewer visits than the Google search page (in fact only 1/100 of the visits, about 25 million searches a month). For now local data is also being pushed out to cell phones (via directory assistance, SMS, Mobile Maps) but that too is not having a very significant impact.

Most users only find information that Google presents on its main search page. It seems too that most users when they do find a phone number on a search engine still end up picking up the phone to call (see Greg Sterling’s analysis).

Given this usage, local data only has impact today when Google presents it on the front page. It is, however, not easily tracked at this point. If a business is called from a front page local Onebox listing, there is nothing comparable to web analytics to automatically register the behavior.

There has been a steady and rapid integration of local data into the main Google page. More will be coming along. Perhaps it will be presented within the existing user interface or perhaps in some new presentation model.

I would like to hear your thoughts on which of these introductions to date has most increased the use and value of Local Data when found through the main search results? Was it the Plus Box (Loren Baker seems to think so) or do you think it was some other feature?

What would you like to see integrated in the main Google search results page in the first few months of 2007?

Here are the features that I would like to see integrated during 2007 that would increase the utilization & value of local data:
-Click to call (this could have tremendous impact)
-Call tracking and analytics for the click to call (it would be nice to know where the call comes from)
-Coupons (someone might know they exist then)
-More than three local businesses listed in the Onebox results

Let me know what data from the Google Maps data set would you like to see on the front page of Google. What data do you predict they will put on in the next few months and what was the most important of 2006?

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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One thought on “The prodigal son of a search engine comes home”

  1. From anecdotal evidence, the map is by far the most powerful additional tool. It’s an amazing marketing advantage. I’m aware of 4 anecdotal examples where the map showing for a long tail search is of huge advantage to a business within a competitive environment. In three cases I’m aware of it showing up with a long tail search for a major city. That is an amazing advantage.

    The map overwhelms the page real estate and is a powerful inducement for searchers to contact the firm.

    Dave

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