In 2013, with the loss of Places Search, I wrote a post titled Is Google Debranding Local? where I posited that Google was deemphasizing Local as a consumer facing brand. I also noted that Google would make sure that local would “persist as a service feeding critical contextually relevant data to the many current Google products that use local data”.
I would contend that this has in fact occurred and that the basic trend of removing Local branding and local specific features in other products has continued. In June of last year, Google rebranded the backend of local as Google My Business. This allowed Google to create a stand alone app by that name and further integrate the data collection back end needed for local into G+ Pages.
The recent removal of G+ Local search and the Local link from Google Plus further reinforces the idea of removing locally focused forward facing branding and functionality and I think that we may see more changes along this line. When it was announced Google positioned the change to their most active local review writers as a way to make life simpler:
We are making some changes to streamline the Google+ experience, including removing Google+ Local from the navigation bar. You will still be able to see and edit your content under the Reviews tab on your profile, in addition to searching and reviewing local places on +Google Maps, Google Maps for Mobile and Google.com. We look forward to rolling out more features and improvements based on your feedback in the future.
I would suggest that with mobile now the dominant platform for searching and user time, that the future of Google’s focus on local will be as a value added content for the Google Maps App(s) and to a lesser extent browser based mobile search. I don’t think we will see any forward facing “Google Local Brand” any time soon if ever.
While I think we will continue to see local data as an integral part of Google desktop search we may see even less of it elsewhere (like on G+) as Google uses local data (business listings & review content) to further their goal of positioning Google Maps as a dominant mobile destination.