8 White-Hot Trends Lift Local Search in '08

Eight local search trends will rock the search engine world in '08. Here are the ones with the most momentum as we roll into the New Year:

Local Search in Motion

YouTube has popularized watching online video clips -- a trend that has made its way to local search in the form of watching small business video ads. Citysearch pushed this forward in May with the launch of video ads from TurnHere, and a torrent of IYPs followed suit. Many small businesses (SMBs) are eating it up, with a longstanding desire to advertise with video -- traditionally cost prohibitive on cable TV. We've only seen the beginning.

Universal Appeal

Universal, or blended search, is a trend which, like video, started in the general search world and migrated to local. An ideal local SERP (define) for keyword "Toyota Prius" should give you local classifieds listings, local dealer listings, video buying guides for hybrid cars, maps, and video ads for local dealers. Several online pure plays including LiveDeal, Vehix, and Citysearch, are working on different combinations of these blended search models, but we have a long way to go.

Local IP + TV Search = RIP Web 3.0

IPTV is the sleeping giant in local search. Telcos are collectively spending in the 11 digit range to bring us IPTV on the backs of high speed fiber networks. So far AT&T's U-verse package has a yellowpages.com channel that lets users search for a pizza or a plumber using the remote.

But the local opportunity will be much greater, as content capacity (switched video architecture), on demand product models, and IP based targeting will make IPTV a local search medium that will rival the Web. By virtue of the aforementioned online video trend, SMB video ad libraries are being produced as we speak to fill some of this "air time."

Local Search, Moving Target

Mobile local search is a technology with a "tipping point" that is perpetually 18 months away. But now we're closer than ever, given the loosening of carrier control that has traditionally stifled innovation in this sector.

The iPhone open SDK that we'll see in February, combined with Google's Android open source mobile operating system launched in November, will enable a level of distributed innovation that we've seen on the Web. Local search will be one of the top beneficiaries.

The 311 on 411

Related to Mobile (but an important distinction) is free directory assistance (DA). The Kelsey Group forecasts annual ad-sponsored DA calls to exceed 2 billion by 2012 (50 percent CAGR).

Google's (goog411) and Microsoft's (Tellme) entrance to the market will continue to shed mainstream light on it the fact that there is an easy alternative to paying two bucks for a carrier delivered 411 call (the slam dunk selling proposition caused Google to start advertising on billboards this year). Through usage increases, ad inventory will grow and AdSense-like audio ad networks will contextually target local radio spots, DA, and repurposed sound tracks from the growing ranks of video advertising mentioned above.

Searchification of SMBs

It's a little difficult to sell someone AdWords if they don't have a Web site. Bringing more SMBs online represents an opportunity to increase the addressable market of search marketers.

Even better, being the one who provides the training wheels to get Joe SMB up and running, can represent an important foot in the door for future SEM (define) services. We're seeing lots of different flavors of SMB landing page, Web site and SEM bundles from the likes of LocalLaunch, Marchex and WebVisible. Meanwhile, Facebook has launched its own attractive landing page and ad product bundle.

Bottom line: Whoever corrals these elusive SMBs, will do so with easy to understand product bundles and a way into the SMB front door. The latter will continue to happen through sales channel partnerships with yellow pages and newspaper publishers.

Agnostic True Believers

Related to the above point, the yellow pages industry, by virtue of its massive sales force, has a leg up in selling Web sites, SEM, SEO (define) and a variety of sponsored placement packages on their own Internet yellow pages (IYPs). There's still a long way to go, but many yellow pages publishers are starting to act on the fact that the IYP sales channel is the greatest asset they have.

Only after they truly embrace the "platform agnosticism" they've been talking about for years, will they be able to become dominant resellers of search-based marketing; and maintain greater ownership of the $16 billion U.S. print yellow pages ad dollars that are quickly migrating online.

The 3Ds

This year Microsoft and Everyscape introduced many of us to 3D mapping. This has mostly been a novelty but will gain utility in the coming months as we see greater broadband penetration through high speed fiber network deployments (driven by IPTV). As usage grows, 3D maps will develop greater local search functionality.

Transactional revenue streams will develop around local search products when users can check out a restaurant interior in 3D and reserve a table. Inventory data, in store pickup, and other features starting to be seen from the likes of NearbyNow and Krillion, will also grow with more immersive 3D mapping. In the meantime, there are clear opportunities in travel and real estate, but that's just the beginning.