The new Google Experimental Map View provides an intriguing look into the future of local search (as envisioned by Google). Between the the Google Maps API being used by a large number of vertical search engines like Trulia and their widespread indexing of geotagged information, Google has a significant trove of geo referenced data to bring to the local search party.
Their recent introduction of Map View in Google Experimental demonstrates how Google might make this vertical search category information available to a general search inquiry in the main search results. For example if a user were searching for “houses for sale, Olean NY” they could be presented with the view now seen via Google Experimental:
It is of interest to note that these results come from trulia.com and similar sites. For a searcher with limited need in the housing market these results might just be enough to satisfy their needs. If she were driving around with an iPhone looking at homes it might totally satisfy them.
Google is the elephant in the room of search and of local mobile search. I have always felt that there was space for the vertical search engines in the room if ultimately only in the corners. These engines provide passion (yelp), details (trulia & zillow), and a unique business model (ibegin).
But as the Google Experimental Maps View demonstrates, the corners of the room just got a little smaller. Google is positioning Google Maps for Mobile as the mainstream search tool of the hand held future. As they integrate results in this way fewer search visitors are likely to click through to the vertical engine as their superficial queries have been answered. While there will still be a viable business model for these engines it may include a future with a lower percentage of total traffic. Mobile search will expand the market for local search but even so these verticals will need to be vigilant to maintain their customer base.