Local is getting hotter by the day. More people are using search to find local businesses, and the

Kelsey Group

seems to report on a new potential value ($31.1bn in 2010) of the local search industry each week.

We are seeing waves of new companies entering the area, each with a different angle of approach.

Google is taking local search particularly seriously, although, given its fractured method of releasing new products you’d be forgiven for having them pass you by.

In rough chronological order, here are Google’s recent releases in the space:

  • Local Business Centre

    Google allows businesses to claim ownership over their listings and add deeper content. More recently in the US, Google has integrated a click-to-call feature and custom printable coupons.
  • Local Results in Natural Search – Google adds a map and three results to local queries originating from their normal web search product. Try searching for ‘pizza in n1‘ for example.
  • Google MyMaps – This is a more recent addition. Effectively killing a number of Google Maps mashup sites, the launch of MyMaps allows anyone to create a custom map complete with pictures, links, shapes and pins. Expect map-based city guides, and a host of best restaurant / bar / and pub lists.

  • Google 411
    Think of this as a voice recognition version of a UK 118 number. Speak the name of the business or type of business you are looking for and be connected to the company for free.

  • Google Apps for Small Businesses
    More broadly, Google is in part aiming its suite of productivity apps at small businesses, with page creator and Google Checkout combining to get any business into the world of e-commerce in minutes, with Adwords the premier tool for driving traffic to its new site.

It’s a powerful set of products when lined up like this. While some are very much early days, and others vastly under-subscribed, one can only expect that the girls and boys from Mountain View will prevail.

That said, this is not intended to deter others from developing in the sector; it simply demonstrates what a large potential market we are faced with.

In fact we’ve been working on our own local product which we intend to release in the coming months.

This marks the beginning of my series of posts on local search; stay tuned to E-consultancy for more.

Local is without a doubt one of my words for 2007, such a pity Google went and called it Maps.

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