Last week I paraphrased Marchex’s Matthew Berk who told me over the phone that he thought local search, from a consumer perspective, was essentially a solved problem.
He’s elaborated this view in a column today over at SEL:
Put simply, major search engines do a good enough job of surfacing local listings and phone numbers to consumers who need a specific product or service at a moment in time. The rest of the local search “opportunity,” beyond the one or two review aggregator sites lucky enough to also pop up—is all a matter of either SEO (indefensible) or arbitrage (sinking margins). In other words, consumers have accepted the solution the web search engines provide to them, not because it solves the problem in the best possible way, but because they have built intractable habit. Better local search, grounded in innovative product or technology, has little or no opportunity to break the habits the engines reinforce day in, day out, across billions of searches. The battle has been won.
I argued that there’s another category “local discovery” that isn’t solved at this point. I’m interested in your thoughts.