Edgar Griggs

Greg Sterling on the Big Trends Shaping the Future of Local Search

Greg Sterling, Future of Search as presented at Rocks Digital 2017Local search marketers have strong feelings about the different trends happening and how they are affecting local search today, and how it will be presented in the future. Greg Sterling, VP of Insights at Local Search Association, explores this topic in his keynote at Rocks Digital 2017. Keep reading for the highlights.

Trends Shaping the Future of Local Search

We are continuing to see a decline in the use of desktop computers and an increase in the use of mobile devices when people are searching for something within their local area.

1. Marriage of Online + Offline

There are more and more technologies and various things that are working to bring the online world together with the offline world. For instance, many online technologies are being designed so that you still get a benefit from visiting an offline retailer.

2. Location Intelligence

Many apps and programs are instituting upgrades within their systems so that the programs are more aware of your present location, in order to give you better responses to questions asked of the application – and better local search results.

3. AI, Virtual Assistants & Bots

Over the next few years, we will be seeing more and more virtual assistant machines and companies coming into existence. This will greatly affect how we interact with the local world around us.

4. Mixed Reality & More Devices

Right now, there are more and more companies creating virtual reality goggles and eyewear. Over time, we will see even more technologies where there is a blending of things that are done online with things that are done offline.

5. Consolidation of Control

The top 5 brands – Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple – are working to become the main players that control how we work with local search.

Apps are extremely transactional. Microsoft found that right now people are using more nouns, but eventually, they are moving towards using verbs for their searches.

The Past Meeting the Future

  1. More Answers, Fewer Links. There was something called Ask 3D. Google search came after that. But Ask was the first to really promote the search engine model.
  2. Answers Not Links. Survey respondents wanted virtual assistant to provide direct answers, rather than a list of search results (61.3%).
  3. 30 Million VA Devices by Year End? That is a possibility, but there will definitely be many more as time goes on. We are getting more and more appliances that we talk to (lights, refrigerators, laundry machines, etc.).
  4. AI / ML Everywhere. Every developer conference I have been to talks about how AI is really affecting more and more things.


Adwords Express: “Not Effective”. Doesn’t really work on its own, but…

Adwords Express + AI = Success? There is a possibility that combining the Adwords Express product with AI can make it much more effective.

Virtual Assistants are Getting Smarter

  • G’s Alpha Go Beat the World’s Go Master. Go is a really hard game that takes much work to play, and a machine was able to beat the World’s premier Go master level player.
  • Apple Business Chat
  • Bing Places Bot. You can ask the Bing Places Bot different questions and it can help you get answers for what you are looking to do. Really simple, but also really powerful.
  • Google Too. Is still in the Beta development stage, but it presents SMS +.
  • Google Assistant: Conversational Search. Google can call upon the search index and is increasingly able to understand pronouns. Example: Who was Abraham Lincoln? How old was he when he was assassinated?

50% Voice Search by 2020

This number may be too large for the prediction, but it is definitely showing that we are going in that direction.

Location Intelligence: Swiss Army Knife of Digital

You can now do many things with Local Intelligence. You can figure out who your customers are – and who your competitors’ customers are – giving you real insights.

  • Audience segmentation
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Customer insights
  • Offline in-store attribution
  • Offline to online re-targeting – can find out the stores customers went to, and then give them ads online.

An Augmented Reality Future?

  • Google Lens
  • In-Store AR – can use their phones in a store to see how a piece of furniture would look in their home.

Future of (Local) Search Will Be Different

  • Optimize your data/ content or multi-platform devices.
  • Try not to be overwhelmed.
  • Do not sit on the sidelines.
  • Experiment with different technologies to see what they can do, and learn more about them.

Questions from Audience

Question: Isn’t it dangerous to get so focused on personalization of products?

Answer: Although there can be some difficulties, since not everyone that views your website or uses your product is from the same country you are, people should not fear working to make their products and services more personalized.

Question: Which is more affected by local search – apparel or groceries?

Answer: Actually, products across the board would be more affected. There are many products that you buy or use that local search will influence.

Edgar Griggs

Edgar Griggs loves to learn about new technologies and high tech gadgets! You’ll find him at local events around the DFW Metroplex and sometimes blogging for websites like The Interestingly Cool Stuff Blog and his TrendHunter page at!

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