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Where Is Google Local? I Missed The Memo


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#1 bwelford

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 01:45 PM

I am having a problem with this Google Local that everyone is talking about. I've searched for it but so far without pinning it down. local.yahoo.com will give you Yahoo! Local and local.bing.com gives you a somewhat faceless Bing Local. That's what I'm looking for: something that looks a bit like the online Yellow Pages approach.

However try local.google.com and you end up on something called Google Maps. The word Local does not appear anywhere on the page. That is not really what I'm looking for. If I'm searching for my local pizza as so many others seem to do, then I want a name, address and telephone number. Since Google is aiming to catalogue all the information in the universe, it should not be too tall an order to serve up something really local.

Local Search particularly as we all go mobile and iPhone our way around our neighbourhood is clearly where there is a lot of money to be made. Yet Google seems to want to go at this the hard way. Local Search is not something you'll find mentioned or linked to on any of their main online properties. There is no Local link that I can find on any desktop PC web page they maintain. I've written about my frustrations on this in a piece entitled, Wot No Google Local Search.

What Google seems to prefer is that we put our query in the Google Search field (or presumably the Google Chrome browser uni-field) and they will guess as part of the Universal Search process, whether it seems to be a Local Query. I realize that's a great challenging intellectual exercise for the algorithms, but all I want is a local address. :) If they guess correctly that it's a local search request, then they'll add in a list of ten 'local' businesses at the top of the Universal Search results, but still add in the Web results as a safety net. When you think about it, it's somewhat ironic that they deliver the local results as part of a Universal search.

Given that they seem to want to put another name on Local Search, it is perhaps not surprising that the Local Business Center is also not what it seems. This is only a way of getting us all to improve the quality of the data in their Maps database. Unfortunately some people have thought they might own a piece of this. In other words, it would be for businesses the equivalent of the Google Profile they have brought out for individuals. As another thread points out, this is turning out to be a Completely And Utterly Farcical Google Local Verification Procedure.

The bottom-line on all this is that once more we are seeing a highly intelligent group of people assume that if they create the best technical product they can, people will like it. It's probably time to go back to the drawing board, guys and gals. Think customer-centric. Figure out how to meet people's needs and try to meet them. Failing all else, you could just do a Me-Too on what Yahoo et al are doing.

#2 SEOigloo

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 02:20 PM

Hi Barry -
Whereas Yahoo! and Bing have one specific section that is Local, for Google, they have chosen a broader interpretation and Local data is covered, as you have seen, in two places - in Maps and in the Universal SERPs. 2 separate algorithms govern these 2 types of information (you'll see ranking differences for the same searches between the 10-pack and Maps).

Maps has very moderate usage, according the data I've seen, but Google's decision to put local data into the Universal SERPs is very significant. They are choosing to let you get local results from page 1, without having to click into a Local entity. It's a bit like how they show you video results for some searches, without you having to go into Google Video or YouTube. I think they are striving for an easier and more integrated experience.

Personally, I'm fine with this simple approach. What I'm not fine with is the epic number of errors in the data and the utter lack of customer support.

#3 EGOL

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 02:30 PM

heh... You have a valid point, Barry. If people who are attune to SEO ask such questions then maybe they need a portal for everyone.

#4 bwelford

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 03:31 PM

Hi Miriam

We will probably have to agree to differ here.

It's a bit like how they show you video results for some searches, without you having to go into Google Video or YouTube. I think they are striving for an easier and more integrated experience.

That's fine and dandy if they have any chance of guessing say 90% of the time what people want and delivering that 'above the fold'. I don't think they will ever achieve it. Of course by not delivering exactly what the searcher wants they do have the opportunity of serving up Ads so that could be affecting their decisions here.

For some searches you don't need a more integrated experience. You know what you want and you just want Google to serve it up. That reminds me that I did write an open letter to Matt Cutts suggesting he might want to recommend a simpler set of buttons on the classic search page. By now with Universal Search seeking to provide a more integrated experience, the 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button is even more of an anachronism and wholly inappropriate.

Does anyone want to make any guesses on when the I'm Feeling Lucky button will disappear? Customer-centric! I don't think so.

#5 SEOigloo

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 09:15 PM

Hi Barry,
I don't think we disagree, because I find I agree with your comment:

That's fine and dandy if they have any chance of guessing say 90% of the time what people want and delivering that 'above the fold'. I don't think they will ever achieve it. Of course by not delivering exactly what the searcher wants they do have the opportunity of serving up Ads so that could be affecting their decisions here.


I think you're absolutely right.

#6 Guest_rustybrick_*

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 06:18 AM

It was named Google Local at one point, which is why local.google.com still works.

Mike B has a good timeline of those events at http://blumenthals.c...ine-comes-home/

Google Local was renamed to Google Maps on April 20, 2006.

Technically, they should likely redirect local.google.com to maps.google.com. :)

#7 bwelford

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 07:12 AM

That's a great explanation by Mike B. back in 2006, Barry, of how we got to where we are. Thanks for pointing that out. Little has changed.

It explains what goes on 'under the hood' but still leaves open the question of whether Google is handling it the best way. Serving up local results when you guess a Universal Search request looks as though it needs some local results thrown in is technically difficult, as we are seeing. Even on a mobile device, you cannot rely on GPS positioning to spot the location since the local request may be about somewhere you are travelling to.

The two-box approach to Local Search is extremely efficient. OK the competition all uses it and Google has a fixation on a single search box. However they could be pursuing the wrong solution.

#8 earlpearl

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 09:09 AM

Interesting points, Barry. In comparing maps.google.com with local.yahoo.com and local.bing.com it would seem that maps.google.com is less usable and less inherently intuitive--less like a Yellow Pages index than the other two.

On the other hand, by inserting information from Google Maps into organic searches at google.com Google is definitely responding to a need that is reflected in searches that are made dramatically more often in the main search engines than in the alternative search options (maps, local, or local).

Bill pointed this out from a massive study in Yahoo about how a search engine may determine geographical intent. From that article he extracts data from a study of a massive number of yahoo users. He includes this information in his article

13% of searches involve some level of geographic intent
50% of searches involving geographic intent don’t actually use a location in the query (like searches for “pizza” or “dentist”) (my emphasis)
84% of queries that include locations do so on a city level


The survey data involved several hundred million searches.

Similarly a couple of years ago, Greg Sterling at Screenwerk reported similar findings with approximately 50% of searches having geographic intent...but no geo modifiers (ie Dentist instead of Chicago Dentist).

In the context of better providing relevant information to searchers I think the addition of maps inserts into google.com searches was an excellent one. (Its just too bad the data often stinks)

As Miriam stated above, the number of searchers who originate their local searches in either maps.google.com local.yahoo.com or local.bing.com is absolutely miniscule.

#9 glyn

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 09:59 AM

Local is about diversity of information, as is all the stuff with the mixed listings. Make the results stand out from the competitors. As authority sites continued to grow, so too did the overall sterility of that first page. Over time authority sites could pull local based results just by tweaking their title tags.

So, throw a bone to business, get listed at the top, ahead of the competitors. Throw a bone to users - look at the range of information on our first page - and pat on the back at GHQ - we're gathering all this wonderful SMBusiness information for future marketing.

Just my thoughts.



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