Saturday, February 27, 2010

Local Search Frustration? Here's Why

Local Search Complexity = SMB Frustration

At our recent Local University in Spokane, Mike Blumenthalexplained to small business owners how Google and Bing assemble a Local listing. Mike explained that the major search engines pull in a number of disparate pieces of information (street address, phone number, hours of operation, etc.) about a business from just about any source they can crawl – obviously weighted more heavily towards sources they trust, including their own Local databases.

He further blew our minds with the notion that this two dimensional chart of location information not only expanded infinitely in two dimensions to cover additional local information sources, but also extended into three dimensions, with time as the additional variable. Suggesting, in other words, that recent changes to listing information that aren’t corroborated by other sources may be overwhelmed by the weight of a particular listing’s history!

This lack of transparency and understanding of how listing “clusters” are formed understandably leads to frustration on the part of the business owner, particularly when his experience to date has simply been to tell the Yellow Pages rep how he’d like his information represented year after year.

The bottom line: if you don’t claim and verify each and every listing on each and every search engine and data provider, Google and the other search engines are forced to make a “best guess,” by clustering information that seems to match up, and they don’t always guess right.

My Take

The daunting and inefficient choices for local advertising are temporary - a left-over effect of the mad rush by businesses to get found on the Web.

As Web advertising options begin to take shape, social media is achieving dominance in both traffic and advertising effectiveness. HubSpot's Mark Roberge demonstrated this in his keynote at yesterday's Hartford Business Journal eTechnology Summit. By a show of hands, he illustrated the staggering contrast between purchase decisions influenced by traditional ads vs. social/web research & recommendations.

The "Social Web" provides major advantages over the "Search Web" - higher quality interactions; less "noise"; lower cost' higher yield. Consumers and advertisers who 'get social' will realize these benefits.

The only losers will be the firms who thought short-term and provided unimaginative quick-fixes as well as old media firms that failed to adapt.

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