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Google's Mobile Moves Tighten Its Grip On Local

It’s all starting to come together. Yesterday Google announced that it was adding check-ins (and loyalty categories) to Latitude. It also announced the global expansion of HotPot, its recommendations tool.

Google Places apps for both iPhone and Android allow people to rate and review businesses (HotPot’s objective). And on Places Pages, in Android, you can also check-in (that’s coming to iPhone). In addition all of this is deeply integrated with Google Maps and Navigation on Android handsets.

Now step back: Google is also developing a Groupon clone. No doubt deals/offers will also be distributed on Google Place Pages when that service gets off the ground. Separately Google has been experimenting with “mobile Offers Ads” that show discounts and coupons intended to drive foot traffic to offline businesses.

Broadly speaking Google has been having great success with location-aware ads that generate phone calls or show the nearest store to mobile search users. Some of this was recently discussed in my piece, A Year Later Even Google Surprised By Success Of Click-To-Call.

We can now see how Google is starting to leverage its massive local infrastructure across products. Each product or service is a doorway into others and helps reinforce usage of the overall system.

There’s a whole “local value chain” here for consumers that’s self reinforcing. Search Google with voice, get the local listing, visit the Place page, call the business or get turn-by-turn directions.

It’s impressive and it should be very scary to other local publishers (including Yelp) who have Android apps. Only those with very strong brands, like Urbanspoon, Yelp or Facebook, will survive the tightening integration of Google location-related services on Android devices in particular.

Google is also doing all this across platforms: Google’s growing dominance in local on the PC supports mobile usage and vice versa.

People upset by Google referring traffic to Maps or Product Search on the PC haven’t seen anything yet. The mobile integration of products is becoming like a Chinese Wall that will separate mobile (Android) users from most of Google’s competitors. I’m not saying there’s a secret conspiracy; I’m saying that Google is logically integrating, improving and leveraging all its products and creating user behavior that will shut out most other competitors.

This is much less true on smartphone platforms other than Android: iPhone, RIM, Windows, WebOS, Nokia. But right now Android is winning.


The combination of Places, Maps and Navigation on Android is extremely powerful. Yet all that becomes more powerful as check-ins are introduced — and later offers to support them. Ratings and recommendations then make the system even better and reinforce usage, etc: the network effect. Google Place Pages owners will get analytics that will enable them to see check-ins and deal redemptions in their locations, thereby creating a powerful closed loop from online/mobile to offline.

Foursquare will be fighting for its life on Android in a year unless it has radically evolved. That will be even more true for other LBS sites and services that have little brand recognition or differentiation. Right now Google Places is the leading LBS service according to a recent survey from Microsoft (actually). I only see that lead growing.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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