Local search has been the hottest topic in search engine marketing since fall 2003. Local Internet search refers to using geographic qualifiers with search in order to find local stores and service providers. Research by the Kelsey Group implies that local searches already constitute a significant proportion of all commercial online searches. Kelsey Group estimates local searches to have a share of 25.1 percent of all commercial online searches in the United States. (Kelsey Group 2004a.) Consequently, the search engines have taken some steps to provide users with the appropriate search tools. Google launched its Google Local (http://local.google.com/) in March 2004 and Yahoo! followed with its Yahoo! Local (http://local.yahoo.com/) in August 2004 (Buckley 2004, URLwire 2004). Other search providers like Ask Jeeves have also developed local search capabilities.
There are many methods of doing local searching online. Usually searchers use a search engine and type in the search box the kind of service, product or company and add a geographic qualifier after (or in front of) that. For example, a searcher looking for a shoe store in Los Angeles, California, would use a search query such as “shoe store los angeles”, “ los angeles shoe stores” or “shoe stores in los angeles california”. Another method of doing local search is to use local search engines, some of which were mentioned earlier in this chapter. The local search engines are great tools for finding local businesses, because searchers can use specific geographic qualifiers to find the closest businesses and see the routes on a map to the locations of the businesses. For instance, a searcher may search for all pizza restaurants within one mile from her exact current location and see the directions on how to get to the restaurants. Internet Yellow Pages and other such online directories, which are also considered part of local search, use very similar methods.
Local search is a prominent part of search engine marketing already, but it is expected to grow very fast, provided that local businesses will start to embrace digital marketing. So far, that has not happened. (Fadner 2004.) The global market local online advertising is estimated to reach US$ 10 billion in 2009 from an estimated 2.8 billion in 2004 (Davis 2005).