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Online Local Business Listings in the Search Spotlight

December 19 2009

Businesses have another reason to establish and maintain their presence online. A while back I touched on how online local business listings help bubble a business’s presence in search engine listings and results. That integration might become tighter now that Google is looking to acquire local business directory Yelp (NY Times link).

As the NY Times reports, the move is motivated by the fact that many users are turning online for local business information as well as looking up local business information via their smartphones.

Web companies big and small are trying to give people information about restaurants, news and events within a few blocks or miles of where they are. Yelp dominates the market for local business listings and reviews in big cities.

Those services are becoming more important as the popularity of smartphones grows. The cellphones are connected to the Web and equipped with GPS so advertisers can know where a person is standing.

It’s a nascent technology so far, but GPS enabled smart phones are out there and as our technology becomes more location aware, more opportunities exist to use that information to help customers and advertisers. As BusinessWeek reports:

[Yelp’s business directory] data would likely prove valuable to Google’s mobile efforts, too. This year, a free app preinstalled in the Motorola (MOT) Droid and other phones using Google’s Android software let users receive turn-by-turn navigation to their destination. With Yelp’s data, the app could suggest restaurants and other services along the way.

Having Google integrated would make access to this data easier for many users. The benefit for Google is in easier access to small business owners:

[Greg] Sterling [principle of Sterling Market Intelligence] says a Yelp deal might be about more than just ads. “[Google] has ambitions that are broader than simply selling advertising. There’s a whole range of stuff they can offer” small businesses, he says. By cozying up to more mom and pops, the company may hope to get the word out about its Google Docs and other online apps. The vast majority of small businesses buy competing software from Microsoft.

Which simply means that if you don’t want to get overlooked by users taking advantage of this growing convergence of internet search and mobile device internet access, businesses need to fortify their online presences to take advantage of how users are looking for them.


As of December 21, 2009 it appears the potential Google/Yelp merger is off. This doesn’t detract from my point that businesses need to plan for visitors from local search and mobile devices.


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