‘There Is No True Leader in Local Search’?

I had an email exchange with comScore this morning based on yesterday’s release of data. I was told that yesterday’s numbers are only “IYP” and not “Local Search” (see the July, 2006 data). While this takes us down the circuitous path of definitions that are no longer really meaningful, it also raises some basic questions about what’s included and what’s not.

Take Yahoo!, the IYP leader, for example. Yahoo! has several properties that might fall within the IYP category: Yahoo! Local, Yahoo! Yellow Pages and Yahoo! Maps. Which of these three Yahoo! properties are in and which are out in the new comScore “IYP” data? (Most local searches on the Yahoo! network are actually happening on Yahoo!.com.)

Also why aren’t Citysearch (which used to call itself an IYP) or Ask City included in the data? These could be defined as IYP sites in the same way that Local.com is. I recognize one has to make choices, but these points illustrate that the distinction between “local search” and “IYP” is either gone or almost gone. For example, SuperPages would prefer to be considered a local shopping destination rather than an IYP site.

In today’s MediaPost article on the new comScore data, Stuart McKelvey, CEO of TMP Directional Marketing, is quoted as saying “There is no true leader in local search.”

This is not an accurate statement.

It may be accurate to say that there is no “branded” leader in local search (meaning no “person on the street” consensus when you ask “where would you conduct a local search?”). But in reality the local search leader is pretty clearly Google.

Why do I say that? Here’s why:

As a pure consequence of search volume in general — most local search is taking place at the major search engines. The traffic at the local versions of these sites is less than 5% (some argue 1%) of overall traffic at the “front door.” In general search, Google is the market share leader, followed by Yahoo! and Microsoft. (Much of local search happening on the general engines may be “invisible” because geographic modifiers are often not being used — this goes to undercounting volume — so a local search may not appear as such.)

Therefore, in terms of explicit local queries at IYPs and related local subdomains of the major search providers, the market share may break out exactly as the comScore data suggest but there’s a larger context here that isn’t being reflected.

I’m doing a free webinar today on these and other issues in local search at 1pm ET/10 Pacific.

4 Responses to “‘There Is No True Leader in Local Search’?”

  1. Rich Hargrave Says:

    I suspect “there is no leader in local search” would have been more accurately stated as “the leader in local search is still undetermined, as comScore (and other measurement services) have not yet clearly defined the local search space”. It’s like a game of poker, except everyone’s using a different currency! The ever-changing statistics are frustrating and are of no help to our industry until we can all agree on what exactly should be measured.

    I’d submit that 100% of all IYP-based search is local, that’s the nature of online directories. It’s the two-box approach; “what” and “where”. Simple. Then add all algorithmic based searches from main-stream engines which include geo-modifiers. Next, include all searches generated from those local algorithmic properties (Yahoo! Local, Google Maps, Ask City, etc).

    Lastly, and here’s the more difficult part, we need to look at the algorithmic searches which have local intent, but are not explicitly local (no geo modifier). Terms such as “pizza delivery”, “cheap rental car” and “emergency plumber” should certainly be included.

    Am I missing anything?

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Nope, I generally agree. But the larger universe of local includes classifieds and verticals, as well as travel sites, etc.

  3. Howell Jones Says:

    Bingo! True that plumbers and pizza parlors are local…but the person looking for that is usually a local…they already know who they are calling…they are just going through the mechanical process of looking up the number… is that really what local is? If so, then IYP will be the leader…Would local not be defined by the user and their query…right?

    What you just described with classifieds, vertical..(as in vertical niche directories) and travel oriented information is a very familiar site to me…You threw out a term a few years ago “ubiquitous”….I think that this term is more of a curse than a quest…Being everything to everyone…will still leave some disgruntled and dismayed….IYP certainly has all the information…but they are missing components…LiveDeal is a good strike for them…I hope they spend years developing that integration, as it could really shift their site in a positive way.

    Also..as in Oz…Look behind the curtain….who supplies the most relevant local information to all the directories that you listed??? Would that person not be the leader? Yahoo, Ask, Google, MSN, Marriot City guide, AOL, Thrifty Rental Car City guide, OAG..etc, all are delivery vehicles for this rich content….agreed that no leader exist in the public’s mind…but one is emerging as a relevant resource for target markets looking for converting clientele.

  4. Erron Says:


    I think that this is an extremely fudge-able stat unless you define a couple of questions at the beginning, which I don’t think that everybody does before they muse about who is leading local search. These are my quick questions to size up how much local search a website has:

    1. Are they including directional media local search _only_ or do things like map views count, too. For example, if I look at my house with an aerial view on MapQuest or Google or Yahoo maps, is that local search?

    2. Are they defining local search merely by which website they are looking at (as if everything on one site must be exclusively local search or not local search?) I think this is potentially the worst way to do it. For example, if somebody looks at a blog post about a new bar, isn’t that local search despite the fact it is not an IYP or local search guide?

    3. Are they including both organic search and SEM? I can think of reasons on either side to include both or exclude either of them to say which site is bigger. I think this will be a subjective criteria with no universal consensus.

    4. Vertical Aggregators of Customers and Content – I think that most of the content and search results on vertical sites must be counted as local search because these are fulfilling a directional media role. Maybe none of them has Google or Yahoo-level traffic, but they clearly are workhorses of local search in their categories even if they are not overall numerical leaders in PV and UU.

    5. What is the minimal criteria for deciding that a freeform earch query in a search engine, as opposed to their local properties, is indeed a local search? Each search engine has their own way of doing things. Also, if a search engine has the search queries “pizza” versus “pizza in Chicago”, should we say both are local because “pizza” somehow _implies_ local? Well if you do, will everybody subjectively get to decide which terms are inherently local without a geo-target? That would be chaotic.

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