Much attention has shifted towards local search marketing in recent months, but many might be unaware that it has been around for quite a few years and has been a big part of the way the search engines have evolved to what you see today. In November 2010, Google made a massive change to the local search results, integrating those results with the organic results.
I am currently working on how-to guide for local search marketing for Vertical Measures, and let me tell you, I have never had to edit a writing piece as much as I have this. Things in the local search industry are moving fast, very fast, and business owners, more than ever, need to try to keep up. Google has a very cool time line of corporate milestones, that it updates every so often with the changes and new products it rolls out.
Here are the instances that had to do with local. And, with the way things are going, this timeline will likely be missing something by tomorrow.
March 2004: Google introduced Google Local, offering relevant neighborhood business listings, maps and directions.
February 2005: Google Maps was released and featured satellite views and directions.
Shortly after that, Google Local was available for mobile devices and included SMS driving directions.
June 2005: Google Earth, a satellite imagery-based mapping service combining 3D buildings and terrain with mapping capabilities and Google search, is unveiled.
February 2007: Traffic information introduced for Google Maps for more than 30 cities around the US
May 2007: At our Searchology event, we announce new strides taken towards universal search. Now video, news, books, image and local results are all integrated together in one search result.
June 2007: Google Maps gets prime placement on the original Apple iPhone.
June 2009: We add a new dashboard to Google Places, which gives business owners information, such as what people searched for to see their listing or how many times their listing appeared in search results, about how customers find their businesses in Google Maps.
September 2009: We introduce Place Pages to Google Maps: one page that organizes all the relevant information about a business, point of interest, transit station, neighborhood, landmark or city—in any part of the world—in one place. Place Pages include rich details, like photos, videos, a Street View preview, nearby transit, reviews and related websites.
October 2009: Google Maps Navigation, our turn-by-turn GPS navigation system, includes 3D views and voice guidance—and because it‘s connected to the Google cloud, it always includes the newest map data, lets you search by voice or along a route, and provides live traffic data.
April 2010: Google Places (formerly the Local Business Center) gets a new name along with some new features, like showing service areas and, in some cities, the ability to use an easy advertising program called Tags.
November 2010: Google local results and organic results were combined, creating mayhem in the local search industry with local search experts attempting to find all of the consequences of the changes.
Local search has evolved dramatically over the past few years as the demand for local businesses in search results has also increased dramatically. While things have changed, the message to local businesses is still the same. Local businesses must pay attention and engage with this elephant called Google if they wish to succeed online.