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):
- Google bets on funeral homes and gets it wrong, other than a single ad for a florist.
- It’s the same at Yahoo! Local but there are more florist ads so it’s ultimately a better result.
- Superpages forces disambiguation, which is generally awkward but works here to clarify the intent of the query.
- Local.com is like Yahoo (ads are for florists, organic is for mortuaries).
Compare Body Work (auto repair is my interest):
- Yahoo! Local mixes both auto repair and physical therapy in both the ads and the organic results.
- On Google there’s one reference to massage but it gets it right in this case.
- Yellowpages.com makes the assumption I’m interested in auto repair and forces me to choose a category. Again, in this instance that creates a generally better set of results.
- Citysearch mixes day spas, gyms and auto repair shops
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.