Sunday, December 23, 2007

Future Gazing - Predictions for 2008...Local Search

As promised, here is the second installment of predictions for 2008.

This time I've got no excuses for ambiguity, foolishness or obvious statements so, here's a leap of faith and a wish that if they are in any way valid, you'll be on the positive end of them...

Local Search

1. Reviews

Growing skepticism as every local search guide starts to offer reviews and review communities. Businesses get hurt, gloves come off and the users catch a really good glimpse of faulty models.

Reputation management takes off on a niche agency level and becomes one of many possible shiny new service offerings within the struggling CMR community.

Those sites that implemented the right models will see a slowed but steady increase in UGC while the others see acute growth at the start of the year with a sharp drop off in Q2.

2. CRM

As small businesses start to recognize the value of two way communications with their customers, there will be an increased interest in CRM solutions for the small business person and as such, the local search providers will start to capitalize on this by adding offerings to their mix. Some smaller niche sites have a head start and I believe that the mainstreams will take it to the next level.

This is one of my favourite topics and I’m really looking to 2008 for it’s big debut.

3. Retail Based

As users come to expect more from their local search engines, it will become necessary to tie retail based results into the engines. The complexities surrounding inventory will be hashed out this year paving the way for full-on retail search by product-type, brand, and SKU in 2009. Krillion leads the thought process here but many more players surface.

4. Networks

Newspapers, radio and TV broadcasters start to get aggregated into network models. Smaller players will get the ball rolling but larger media companies will enter with higher levels of sophistication and ultimately revenue opportunities.

It will be the year of packaging local to the masses for non-search based networks. Yellow Pages publishers will want a piece of this display-based pie (naturally).

5. Social Network battle

Local search engines come to the realization that they are not social networks by nature. Hopefully, they will focus on their claim to be local search experts without trying to over extend their services to the point of unfocused mediocrity.

Partnering with the Social Networks becomes more attractive and more difficult as bidding wars start to surface. Supply and demand makes it possible for the networks to pick and choose.

Mini applications (although they are tired) will put some thorns in the sides of publishers.

6. Maps

Accuracy issues are resolved this year. Despite some outrage over UGC being applied to the correction of map applications, the ability for outsiders to do this is a long sought after development and will become a service offering for agencies managing multiple accounts or marketing directors.

The true value behind mapping isn’t unleashed yet this year. It’s still sorting out bugs and getting media revenue matched up with GPS. Q3?

7. SEO

Vertical directories start to compete heavily with the national directories and gain visibility in the organic playing field.

Rich media throw wrenches into the algorithms (for a short while)

Some developments in advanced taxonomy take place. The inclusion of pronouns etc. to get deeper SEO results combined with the human engines that are cropping up will enhance user experiences and challenge SEO agencies.

8. Mobile Searching

Thanks to the swank new devices introduced in ‘07, user experience is enhanced to the point of full local search adoption among the holders of those devices. The Google OS will seal this deal and make it ultra-intuitive to search locally, communicate findings and maintain them portably.

Users will want more though, and the current content will frustrate the masses. Fortunately for the industry, this won’t mean abandonment. The need is clear and users will be (without choice) patient while the products come together.

I know there's more as this industry is bursting with momentum in a ton of directions. I thought I'd mention the easy ones.

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