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The release of Google Maps Mobile last week in the UK got a distinct lack of coverage, yet it is a tool that underpins the huge opportunities for local mobile search.

These are currently drastically under-exploited - indeed, local mobile search is where the real value of mobile search lies, i.e. search in relation to your physical location.

The mobile maps tool is currently not accepting advertising, but Google Mobile Web Search has been accepting ads for some time now. The content is less than compelling; ringtones, wallpapers and ads for MSN’s competing products are aplenty. But the real quality could be drawn from businesses bidding on relevant keywords that are targeted specifically at people in that locale.

The chances are that mobile searchers are looking for something immediate, particularly if they are completing a local query. They aren’t in the stages of planning a night out; they are on the streets looking for a service they require. For these reasons, these people are of particular value to businesses.  

What's more, there are many more actions they can complete on a phone; they can have details sent via SMS, they can call the business direct, and they are able to view directions and maps to locate the service physically. On a sidenote, how long do you think it will be until Google integrates a mobile payment process into its Checkout product? If Google really is interested in PPA, local mobile searches present some very unique opportunities.

So if you are convinced by the available technology, you’ll be bowled over by the prices. As highlighted by E-consultancy in a recent roundtable briefing, many of the top brands are yet to latch onto mobile. Paid mobile search prices come in well below a third of those of their desktop older brother, and thus the opportunity for land grab is very real.

Mobile is about to tip - I’m not the first to say it and I won’t be the last. The adoption of proper browsing standards, the impact of high technology phones such as Nokia’s N Series and Apple’s much hyped iPhone, and finally the fall in price of data plans have laid the ground well. Now is a very good time to get involved in paid mobile search, and an even better time to get involved in local mobile search. The clicks are cheap, the competition is minimal and the user base continues to grow.  Think desktop search circa 2001.

Duncan Jennings is the managing director of eConversions, a specialist paid on performance search marketing company.

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