The Year in Local Search: A Timeline of the Top Stories of 2014 | Street Fight

The Year in Local Search: A Timeline of the Top Stories of 2014

The Year in Local Search: A Timeline of the Top Stories of 2014

Paper_booklet_brochure_prospectusThe holiday season is a time to contemplate the year gone by, so let’s take a look at some of the top news stories in local search over the past twelve months. It was a year marked by Foursquare’s dramatic rebranding, Google’s release of a new interface for small businesses and a major algorithm update, and several product upgrades and partnership announcements from the likes of Apple, Yelp, Yahoo, YP, MapQuest, and Bing. Studies released during 2014 emphasized the growth of mobile search and personalization and the importance of listings management. In all, it was a busy year for local.

January

  • Thousands of Google hotel listings hijacked by a malicious booking website; Google fixes the problem and issues an apology
  • Google adds 1,000 new categories to the Places dashboard, dramatically improving international category coverage
  • Google embarks on a project to photograph hotel interiors for local listings
  • Yelp expands its Consumer Alerts program, announcing that 285 businesses have been flagged for fake reviews
  • Yahoo releases local business “snapshots” in search results, similar to Google “cards”
  • Microsoft signs a multi-year agreement to license Foursquare location data for use in Bing local and mobile search

February

  • Yahoo adds Yelp reviews and listings to local search results
  • Yelp redesigns business profile pages, emphasizing visual display and easier access to information
  • Google makes its dramatically updated Maps interface, available as an option for several months, into the default desktop user experience
  • Google cracks down on fake FBI and Secret Service listings created through Map Maker, updating its quality control measures
  • Google adds menus to restaurant search results

March

  • Yahoo begins displaying Nokia-powered indoor maps
  • Google begins releasing updates to make bulk upload of listings easier for multi-location businesses
  • Apple acquires WiFiSlam, a startup devoted to accurate indoor mapping

April

  • The latest Local Search Study from comScore/Neustar Localeze/15 Miles is released, showing that local searches on mobile are most likely (78%) to result in a purchase
  • YP announces the release of Mybook, allowing users to organize and save information about favorite local businesses
  • MapQuest refreshes its user interface and adds content from Yelp, Foursquare, GrubHub and others
  • Businesses express frustration at losing Yahoo reviews as a result of Yahoo’s deal with Yelp
  • The LSA releases the Local Mobile Trends study by Thrive Analytics, showing that mobile use continues to grow for local shoppers, especially among the older demographic
  • A study from Placeable shows that 73% of consumers lose trust in a local business when presented with inaccurate listing information online
  • Apple files a patent for providing a seamless transition between outdoor and indoor directions

May

  • Google Maps integrates Uber ride times in its iPhone and Android apps
  • A Google-sponsored study from Ipsos MediaCT shows that 88% of smartphone users and 84% of tablet owners conduct local searches, and that 56% of all “on the go” searches carry local intent
  • YP announces ListingPro, a product that allows SMBs to manage local listings and reviews
  • Mike Blumenthal estimates that 20% of businesses worldwide have claimed their Google Plus Local page, equating to 20 million businesses, roughly the same as Facebook
  • Google begins showing Knowledge Graph content in Maps in a new feature called Quick Facts
  • Instagram drops Foursquare for location tagging in favor of its parent company Facebook
  • Yelp adds feature allowing users to upload video reviews

June

  • Google rolls out Google My Business on desktop and mobile to 236 countries; a major update replacing the Places for Business dashboard, Google My Business consolidates management of local, social, and paid activities and lets businesses manage their Google presence from one portal
  • Google starts selling domains to SMBs through GoDaddy, saying 55% of businesses still don’t have a website
  • Google announces Android Auto, a platform that brings the Android phone to your car’s display screen
  • Apple launches a “vast project” to use built-in iPhone sensors and iBeacon technology to map the interiors of large buildings

July

  • A Nielsen study (commissioned by Yelp) shows that Yelp is the most influential and trustworthy local reviews site among consumers
  • Google releases the “Pigeon” update, a major local algorithm change designed “to provide a more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals” and to improve “distance and location ranking parameters”; one significant effect is to remove the Local Pack from many location-targeted SERPs, resulting in increased prominence for directory sites and Yelp in particular
  • Google updates Maps for iPhone and iPad, adding visual elements and expanding the “Explore nearby” feature, followed by a similar update for Android
  • Foursquare moves all check-ins to the Swarm app, rebranding the Foursquare app with a focus on local search and discovery
  • Google begins rolling out instant verification of business listings via Google Webmaster Tools

August

  • Foursquare launches an updated app designed to aid local discovery, with an emphasis on mining its own data to provide personalized recommendations
  • Bing releases a major maps update, adding “hundreds of Streetside images, 3D city images and new high resolution aerial images”

September

  • YP partners with Goodzer to add product and service information to local listings
  • Apple announces the release in early 2015 of the Apple Watch; among other features, the watch will enable local search with turn-by-turn directions enhanced with haptic feedback (buzzes that tell you which way to turn)
  • Google expands Maps navigation to 20 additional countries, focusing on Africa, the Caribbean, and South America
  • Google upgrades the My Maps product, which allows users to create and share custom maps of favorite businesses and other local content

October

  • Moz releases 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors study, showing results largely consistent with the previous year, with an increase in user behavior and proximity as ranking factors
  • Apple CarPlay-enabled Pioneer stereos are released to consumers, bringing iOS and Apple Maps to the automobile
  • Google unveils a video series showing small businesses how to get online, telling businesses they do not necessarily need a website and emphasizing local sites, reviews, search marketing, and social networking
  • Google announces Locations Business Accounts, allowing multi-location businesses to use the Google My Business dashboard more efficiently by sharing access among multiple users, and updates the My Business app, allowing businesses to respond to reviews, receive review notifications, and view call analytics
  • Apple launches Apple Maps Connect, a self-service portal allowing businesses to claim Apple Maps listings for the first time
  • TomTom and deCarta announce a partnership to offer an alternative to Google Maps
  • Groupon launches Groupon Pages, a new business directory with 7 million US listings
  • A locksmith in Northern Virginia sues Google and other local directories, claiming $8.4 million in lost earnings due to fraudulent listings

November

  • Twitter unveils the Small Business Planner app, designed to help small businesses effectively manage their Twitter accounts
  • Google releases another Maps redesign for mobile, adding Uber price estimates and OpenTable reservations
  • Google showcases a new “Entertainment Pack” replacing Carousel for entertainment-based local searches; Carousel results for popular categories begin to disappear
  • Apple releases list of new Maps content partners, turning to third parties to supply information on multi-location businesses
  • Facebook launches new Places directory at facebook.com/places, designed to help users discover local Facebook business pages

December

  • After Google’s withdrawal of the feature, Bing begins experimenting with Carousel-style local search results
  • Google releases major update to Google My Business quality guidelines; the descriptors allowed in February are again forbidden along with several other changes
  • Google relocates My Business telephone support to India and expands operating hours
  • The Google Pigeon update expands beyond the US, rolling out in UK, Australia, and Canada
  • A survey from InsideLocal shows that citation inconsistency is the most common problem affecting local ranking for SMBs

Damian Rollison is vice president of product and technology at Universal Business Listing, a company dedicated to promoting online visibility for local businesses. He holds degrees from University of California, Berkeley and the University of Virginia, where he worked at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. He can be reached via Twitter.