Local Search Sites Past Peak

    January 7, 2008

Whether it’s because of consolidation and pressure from above (Google, Yahoo, etc.), or too much competition from one another, including newer upstarts, traffic to key local search sites appears to have peaked about two years ago.

(Disclaimer: I know Alexa isn’t 100% accurate, but above the 5,000 rank it’s probably roughly accurate.)

Major local search, review, & listings sites like CitySearch and Superpages.com were stronger a couple of years ago – note the decline of late. Upstart Yelp had momentum and looked poised to break through past the others, but has backed off in recent months. Other contenders like InsiderPages and JudysBook threw in the towel.

This isn’t to say that user interest in local search isn’t surging, just that no category killer is emerging (other than Google), and that the path to success in this vertical seems littered with failures. Given this reality it seems that many of these plays are going to need to exit into the arms of a potential category killer (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, or at least IAC or a major media company) lest they remain mired in mediocrity and facing low barriers to entry, like Zagat.com. Going it alone seems like an uphill battle – especially given the stakes and the capital that’s behind the old meatball sundaes in the space as well as the Googles of the world.