The Local Product Definition Redux

One of the things I like to think and talk about in local is the “product definition.” In other words, what content is included and what is not. It’s a metaphor for the whole local arena because people have such trouble with definitions.

Local has historically been synonymous with “yellow pages.” As I’ve said repeatedly I disagree with that definition.

AskCity pushed the boundaries of local a bit with products and events (financial and real estate data coming soon). Local.com recently added jobs search and shopping (though not “local shopping”) and Judy’s book added “deals” (for monetization reasons). This past November UK yellow pages/local search site Yell.com added classifieds and online comparison shopping. (Askthelocal in the UK offers local store inventory information.)

In the US, SuperPages some time ago added eBay and Shopping.com data to its site in an effort to offer more reasons to use it.

According to comScore the largest share of US local search lookups fall into the Arts & Entertainment category (e.g., theater, restaurant, theme park, sightseeing) with a bit of “travel” thrown in. After that are specific business lookups (white pages) and category searches for service businesses (yellow pages).

It’s very interesting to see this experimentation with how the local product is defined and whether consumers ultimately respond to comprehensiveness or depth/focus. It’s a bit of a recapitulation of the general vs. vertical search debate.

2 Responses to “The Local Product Definition Redux”

  1. Will Scott Says:

    Greg, you hit on a point I find challenging (ok, really annoying).

    The problem with ‘product definition’ in local search is that it is dependant on search. Therefore, these media companies must compete with search relevance to demonstrate market relevance.

    So why is this a problem? Completeness of data, or more critically lack thereof.

    So, the yellow pages and local search companies (henceforth abbreviated IYP) compete for placement by manufacturing, or buying, relevance.

    The fact is that individual business sites are typically more relevant. IYP, while offering variety, are often frustrating in their lack of real relevance.

    My concern is that this IYP competition hurts the truly (search) relevant, forcing them to buy placement to regain that which historically was naturally theirs.

    If I’m more relevant I want to come first. I don’t want to have to buy IYP placement just to get back where I was — especially when the market is more fragmented than even the print and the various IYP offerings leapfrog with each new cash commitment. And then, I have to pay more to get what I really want: high quality links.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    I agree it’s a complex problem. In print YP “relevance” or “quality” has been associated with ad size/placement, which is a dubious proxy for those things. In a way that dynamic is being reproduced in IYP, as you describe.

    I agree it’s complex. There’s almost no way for an individual, relevant business to rank in general search results (except see: http://searchengineland.com/061217-112255.php). But in the individual local products that’s not as true.

    But what I was trying to get at in the post above is the notion of what content set comprises “local search.”

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