The local search landscape is constantly evolving, and even major publishers like Google grapple with the challenges of displaying (and profiting from) local business information. Amidst this climate of instability, Google announced they will be shutting down the Google+ Local App on August 7, only a year after it was first introduced. This decision is part of an effort to streamline local results into the Google Maps for mobile app, which essentially contains the same information. This app’s demise represents just a sliver of the many changes that Google’s local display scheme has undergone.
Google initially offered Google Places pages, which featured individual pages dedicated to local businesses containing basic business information. Last year, these Google Places pages were integrated into Google+ as a tab on the left sidebar called Local. Google+ Local Pages integrated information from Google+ to include star ratings, reviews and photos from Google+ users. While this move streamlined and expanded Google’s delivery of local business information, it also represented an attempt on Google’s part to push their social media platform, Google+. Google+ Local Pages is Google’s attempt to siphon local market-share away from other social media sites (like Facebook) AND other local review sites (like Yelp & Citysearch). With the creation of the Google+ Local Pages came the creation of the Google + Local App.
Now that app is dead. The same information that could be found in the Google+ Local App will be streamlined into the new Google Maps for mobile app, which just debuted earlier this month.
The Search Agency’s local search expert Brian McCarthy weighs in on how these changes signal heightened competition within the local mobile search market:
“With local mobile ad spend predicted to increase 750% by 2017 to $9.1 billion, (BIAKelsey “From National to Local Mobile Advertising Zeroes In”) Google is laser-focused on maintaining or growing their share. Facebook’s recent blowout quarter centered on their success with mobile advertising, so clearly the race is on. This change by Google should provide the best experience for their users while also capitalizing on the opportunity for revenues. Score one for Google.”
In combining local business and review information into the new map app, Google seems to be leveraging their enviable map data to dominate the local search landscape. What’s for certain is that this landscape is anything but stable. This announcement encapsulates the spirit of trial and error that is arguably required when designing local search results that are both user-friendly and profitable.