About 18 months ago, local search seemed like a slam-dunk revenue stream. It seemed all search engines needed to do was provide the ability for local businesses to create geotargeted ads, then watch hundreds of thousands of plumbers, accountants, and dry cleaners sign up. We heard projections of a rapid spike in not only the number of advertisers using search, but also the number of dollars flowing in to the engines. The long tail was supposed to wind its way through every neighborhood in every city.

Expectations were overly exuberant.

Fact is, local merchants don't really see the value of a click, and clicks are what the engines are selling. The engines saw local search as simply a subtopic of the general world of search: searching for a local business was no different than searching for an electronics business. "Local" was simply an extra parameter in a standard-issue index.

The interfaces and online experiences clearly reflected this mindset. It wasn't compelling for advertisers or users. Ultimately, using a local search engine wasn't much better than picking up the hardcopy Yellow Pages or dialing 411.

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