#LDS15 Why Google Will Dominate Local Search for a Decade

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SW_20150305_CO_7074_lowresOver the past few years, some watchers of the technology industry have suggested that Google was at risk of losing its hold on the search market. The shift to mobile, they argued, would chip away at the companies reach across the web.  But in local, its competitors — Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook — have yet to make a dent.

During a presentation at Street Fight’s Local Data Summit in Denver Tuesday, David Mihm, director of local search strategy at Moz, argued that a few key innovations will keep the search giant on top.  The company’s massive local data set, said Mihm, offers a distinct advantage that will allow the firm to leave competitors further and further behind. Here’s what Google has that the others don’t.

Google has a backlog

Most important, Google has data — and a lot of it. The company has nearly 10 years of local business data in the context of search results, Mihm said. That backlog of information is a goldmine for the company, and the ability to analyze precision data is only getting better with the Pigeon and Hummingbird algorithm updates.

Google+ was a trojan horse

“Google+ has always been kind of a Trojan horse,” Mihm said. “What it did was give Google users each a single, permanent login. You’re always logged in across all the services and devices. It allows them to do amazing things with tracking because they’re able to track across all the different services they provide.”

The single Google+ login allows the company to collect a layer of demographic data as well. It tracks the sites that each user visits and provides a huge advantage for Google when it comes to selling well-targeted advertisements.

Google is making investments in purchase behavior

The search giant recently made investments to help understand purchase behavior. For years, consumers have been able to book hotels and make restaurant reservations directly from search results, shortening the time users need to spend on bookings and increasing Google’s value. The company is currently testing in-store pickup options.

“Very few companies can match that purchase intent,” Mihm said. “It’s a huge advantage for them in proving to advertisers where their target markets are.” Another connection Google is making is from maps: when a user asks for driving directions to a certain location, Google is linking that action to potential purchase intent.

Semantic search

Google’s 2010 acquisition of Metaweb essentially allowed them to take content from disparate sources and associate it with other entities. Those entities are surfacing as part of the “knowledge graph.” Combined with the backlog of data they already had, Mihm argues that semantic search allows the company to further understand the implicit meaning of an action that can be drawn from context.

Due to limited search space on increasingly smaller space on devices such as Apple Watch and Google Glass, Mihm semantic search provides ambient information that doesn’t come from a conventional, structured data form. “This is just the tip of the iceberg of what Google can and will do,” Mihm said.