An Eye-Opening Local Exercise

It’s probably quite rare that you sit down and perform the same search across multiple sites to compare results. However, it’s a very interesting and helpful exercise to observe the user experience and the quality of the data. In many cases results (springing from the same commercial databases) are comparable. In other cases they are not. In almost every case the user experience is different, sometimes dramatically so.

A couple of interesting examples involve searches I performed for “funeral arrangements” and “body work.” These are inherently ambiguous queries. Am I interested in flowers or a funeral home? How about car repair vs. massage or chiropractic? In such situations, the IYPs that force users to pick categories tend to provide better results but the presentation and the information built around those results isn’t always better.

Funeral arrangements (I’m looking for flowers):

Compare Body Work (auto repair is my interest):

I would encourage people to create a number of your own queries and try them across local engines, especially executives of the various competitors themselves. It will reveal very quickly where the weakeness are in the product that need to be rectified to remain a viable online competitor long term.

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5 Responses to “An Eye-Opening Local Exercise”

  1. Steve Goodwin Says:

    Interesting note. An ambiguous search phrase that shows non-relevant organic results, most likely results in higher clicks for sponsored listings that are relevant. Thus the advertiser sees higher click-throughs and assumes greater value in those sites.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Right. But it’s not a systematic or conscious thing. It’s just the way it turned out in those cases where the engine couldn’t figure out the query intent.

  3. Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local Search » Local Links of Interest | Developing Knowledge about Local Search Says:

    [...] An Eye-Opening Local Exercise – Greg Sterling [...]

  4. Dave Oremland Says:

    Most searchers will use major search engines before IYP’s or local.com or any other 3rd party entity. And of search engines they will use google.

    As much as there are wierd results for ambiguous terms, the critical issue for most users is how google presents them and how they can narrow the search within google to get the results they want.

  5. Greg Sterling Says:

    Only recently did Google (after years of prodding by me and undoubtedly others) introduce neighborhood filters and things like “sort by rating.”

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