Comscore released their data on biggest traffic gainers for 2006. One of their conclusions related to Local:
â€œGoogleâ€™s popularity has been driven by… the rapid uptake of some of Googleâ€™s applications beyond traditional Web search…examples include…62-percent growth in visitors to Google Maps”
With Google’s recent upgrade of the Local OneBox this trend should continue in 2007. With this upgrade Google has added between 10 and 12 new entry points into their Maps product on every local search. These entry points are all in the critical “above the fold” upper area of the page and really provide searchers who don’t scroll little place to go but into Maps.
Of interest to me is that this incredible increase in Google self promotion has received far less notice and comment than did their use of tips to self promote. There is a related issue brought up by Donna Bogatin that Google is now also competing more heavily with “key local AdWords accounts: Citysearch, AOL, Zagat”.
As Greg Sterling points out in his post; Less is more and will Google own Local:
Google is not the best local application online by any means. (Yahoo! Local, Ask and Yelp, for example, are better.) It has taken some steps to improve the user experience but it could certainly do a great deal more….Whatever the reason, the company is not doing all it could in local. But Google is probably now at the peak of its market dominance (I could be wrong of course). And with a few simple tweaks it could literally dominate local â€” verticals are different â€” because of its general search volumes.
Regardless as Google refines local ranking algorythms, this change will significantly increase use of Maps from 1% of Google total traffic. Whether they are able to leverage their not best of class product in Local for market dominance, remains to be seen.