Recession, Business Failures and Bad Data

This past weekend I was in the commercial area near where I live. It’s several blocks of stores and local businesses, many independently owned. There are a few chains (Noah’s Bagels, Starbucks) but not many. But I noticed that a few of the stores had moved or gone out of businesses.

This got me thinking about local search and mapping sites. I don’t know the “refresh” cycles on the commercial databases and I know that Google and Yahoo allow the community to edit listings. However, it made me think that before this recession is over there are going to be a lot more local business failures.

This may more broadly affect the quality of the data and user experience online and in mobile. I don’t think anybody’s going to do anything differently in view of this.

Seeing these businesses close it made me also want to patronize independent businesses even more — to help them survive.


13 Responses to “Recession, Business Failures and Bad Data”

  1. Tim Cox Says:

    Greg – yes – I feel the same way. I do try to push my business to local retailers over (say) Amazon, when it makes sense and I feel they can add some additional value.
    Great to (finally) meet you last week.
    Best, Tim

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Good to meet you too Tim.

  3. statelinemedia Says:

    I run a local directory covering an area in Northern IL and this is an ongoing project for us. I tend to be very picky about keeping our data up to date and we are preparing to do a mailing to appox 20M businesses both to tout our new site design and also to simply update our records. I have had numerous conversations with alot of the big boys and my question is always the same. What is an acceptable percentage of bad listings. I just saw a listing the other day that went out of business over 5 years ago. To me that is ridiculous. Now how they improve is beyond me which is why we stay small. We are looking at moving into the Madison WI market in 2009 but only of we can keep our listings up to date.

    We also work alot on giving local businesses in our market alot of exposure through both our online and print directories and we are launching a new site for the holidays that allows our local businesses to have a business info page and also info pages for different products so they compete for the browse online/shop offline buyers.

    Personally I think we need to do as much as we can for the local business segment of our markets.

    Anyway I enjoy reading your outlooks. Keep up the good work. Dave

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Thanks for your comments

  5. Craig Baerwaldt Says:

    When I bought my iPhone a month and a half ago I used Google Maps to find the closest store to an afternoon appointment, that had phones in stock. Two of the three listings on the map for a particular store were bad numbers. This would not have been so frightening, if this were not a phone company! I know that AT&T/Cingular have had a plenty of merger activity and once the data is out they are not always responsible for cleaning it up. There is no question that there is a lot of bad data out there and an increased number of store closings will only make it worse. Listing A & G are incorrect, while B is the only correct listing for 600 Pint Street. f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=at%26t+seattle+98116&sll=47.579024,-122.303975&sspn=0.371017,0.892639&ie=UTF8&ll=47.622769,-122.25787&spn=0.090016,0.22316&z=13

  6. Greg Sterling Says:

    It’s very aggravating when you encounter bad or defunct listings.

  7. MiriamEllis Says:

    Gosh, Greg, I hadn’t even thought of this. Last time I looked, Google was still listing a hotel which burned down 2 years ago as being the top place to say in a nearby town. Imagine the index full of closed businesses that still appear open in Google. A new and somewhat alarming thought.


  8. Rich Rosen Says:

    Hi Greg – I recently did a small test and called each listing for *auto parts* in my zip code. I used the mobile apps from Yahoo, Google and MSN. The results were poor, but varied. I wrote about the experience for iMedia.

  9. Greg Sterling Says:

    Nice article Richard. I hope you’re well. The databases being used in the mobile products are identical or generally the same as those online. So the “bad data” problem straddles both online and mobile.

  10. Jennifer Persson Says:

    Hi Greg – we follow your blog closely. Jabbertise! is all about helping these types of retailers. We ask local businesses to provide incentives (“JabberDeals”) to local consumers and then bring consumers to the site to download or print the great deals. We’re utilizing members of local communities to both sell and market the Jabbertise! service and held our first “JabberMob” this week at Main Street Burgers in Los Gatos where $1 burgers/fries were offered to the community and we drove 230 customers to Main Street Burgers (who normally serves 15-30 people/night) many of whom had never tried their burgers and now promise to be return customers. We’re also about minimizing paper waste, so encourage users to download their JabberDeals to their phones, which is convenient too!

  11. Todd Leiser Says:

    Our favorite restaurant in Clearwater Florida moved over 2 years ago. Both the new and old location are listed on Google.

    Yahoo has just the old location and a third location that went completely out of business a couple of years ago.

    User reviews on both sites at least indicates the old location has moved.

    Live Search has it right organically although the photo of the restaurant is of the previous restaurant that occupied that address – DOAH!

    Lastly, the sponsored listings on Live Search, powered by and above the organic, mirror Yahoo’s stale and incorrect data.

    Enough experiences like this and consumers will seek a new and more reliable source that has updated trusted feed data.


  12. Greg Sterling Says:

    Most of the major data vendors are trying various strategies to address the problem. But yes there’s definitely an opportunity.

  13. Eric Fredine Says:

    It would be interesting for some enterprising organization to collect empirical data on the relative quality of different data sets (by sampling in some sort of principled and systematic way).

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