AdAge on Local Search Challenges

Tied to the Kelsey Group’s forecast release is this article on local search in AdAge:

[A] challenge remains for the major [local search] players: collecting enough information. Most use web crawlers that seek out data about companies on the web and put them into an index. Google, for example, can work with a large retailer to get a database of its locations and store hours, but there aren’t a lot of data sources for fragmented local industries such as plumbing and contracting.

60,000 ZIP codes, 80,000 towns
“You’re talking a challenge that spans 60,000 different ZIP codes and 80,000 different towns,” said Paul Levine, general manager of Yahoo Local, which he claims is the most-used local-search service, with 30 million-plus unique searchers a month. Its mission, in addition to providing listing data, is to help searchers make decisions, he said, through services that combine listings with driving directions and add user-generated content.

Another issue, said Matt Booth, senior VP-programming director of interactive local media at Kelsey Group, is that the amount of consumer feedback for businesses outside of restaurants, bars and certain types of shops is still small. “It’s a lot easier to get consumers to put restaurant reviews on the web than one for a plumber,” Mr. Booth said.

1. Yes [accurate] data is a huge problem. But it will eventually be solved. Users are part of that equation.

2. I disagree with Matt Booth (as represented in his quote above). While more people are probably inclined to write a restaurant review, reviews for plumbers (and most other categories) already exist. For example, today you can find reviews for local plumbers at ServiceMagic, Yahoo! Local, Angie’s List, InsiderPages, Google, Citysearch and on non-commercial sources like the Berkeley Parents Network — the list goes on.

The problem is not the availability of reviews but getting a critical mass of reviews in one place.

The reviews exist in most of the major categories. But like local search itself those reviews are fragmented and distributed all over the Internet. That’s why folks like Grayboxx (which hasn’t launched), Openlist and Boorah are seeking to aggregate reviews content from multiple sources. Google does that too, but mostly through feeds from partners like Yelp and Citysearch, among several others.

Regarding the challenges the article points out about SEO/SEM by local businesses . . . Folks like ReachLocal, LocalLaunch, WebVisible, MatchCraft, SuperPages/Inceptor, Leads.com, Marchex/TrafficLeader, Innovectra and Ingenio, among others, are addressing the challenge directly or indirectly through sales channel partners.

Self-service is a minority use case. DIFM (do it for me) is the way forward for most SMBs seeking to get into search results, etc. And there is a growing list of players only too willing to help.

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Here’s a post I did yesterday at Search Engine Land rounding up and commenting on all the local forecasts currently in the market.

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