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Local Search: Where Are We Today?

Published: Aug 20, 2009

Moderator:
Steve Espinosa, Local Search News

Speakers:
Kevin Hagwell, Bing, Senior Product Manager
Sarah Smith, Facebook
Ari Bezman, Google Local Business Center Product Manager
Atif Rafiq, Head Yahoo! Local – Yahoo!
Andrew Shotland, Local SEO Guide



Future of Local – Questionnaire

  1. I have multiple business listing. It is really tedious task to verify all these listings one by one. How can I solve this issue?

    Google Local Maps: Google wants to avoid spam, This is the only reason why local has this kind of verification process. Now for multiple listing, google has come up with a feed submission process. Webmaster can submit an excel sheet with all the data for multiple location. The excel sheet has to follow the format google has set.

  2. What is the future of the local five years from now (excluding mobile)?

    Facebook: Five years is a little bit hard to predict. Two years is a little more manageable. Technology will play a major role, new innovations will happen more rapidly. We should be able to access data on fingertips and Being able to connect with local businesses right away.

    Yahoo: There are two ways to look at it, User perspective and Advertisers perspective. For users, we have plans to include more information to the local search. User can expect to search for things to do, local events etc. Advertisers can expect to track user locations, geo targeting content.
    (Look for local things to do on yahoo)

  3. Can we expect community building to drive location driven and build a local community with the local business center and extending it thorough facebooks to the fans?

    Facebook: Local is going to help in social in a better way. If a user wants an interface like this facebook is going to have to look into this. For facebook its all about user experience and what they’re looking to have in terms of community.

  4. Is there ad network out there? Is google, yahoo and bing behind the ads to defragment these searches.

    Google, yahoo and bing has the larger chunk of local search volumes. But in few years there is going to someone to fight with google, yahoo and bing. I’m seeing that the big advertiser are starting to think about how to cut the amount of paid spending. I also think there will be a huge increase of advertisers on smaller sites such as Flicker, a site that no one would think of advertising on. In a sense, I think it will be even more fragmented than it is now, but there will always be a few big players who are powering it like what Ad Sense is doing now for these local searches.

    Bing: I would agree a little bit with Andrew. I think the explosions of APIs is going to happen. It’s interesting today that we call it local, but its really feels IPY centric. In reality, local is anything that is in proximity and so that expands far beyond the business. We’re going to see greater depth in business and more online/offline transactions. No one is going to know more about the area or neighborhood than someone who has actually lived in that area. There remains a collective knowledge that to some degree that is still untapped. You’re going to see far more places where local information will be displayed. These next five years will be exciting but people will have unconstrained views of local.

  5. What is the core problem & the future of local search?
    Google: I think it’s more data, more kinds of information, more sources of information and of course about more places. People search for points of interest, more sources of information, architectural landmarks, hiking trails, and how to show all this kind of information is really the hard problem.

    Bing: I also think with reviews, when there’s over 300 hundred reviews, how do you know which one is the right one. So it’s also about search experience and it’s not cannibalistic, it’s complimentary.

    Yahoo: Breakthrough technology and move things forward. A part of it is more about presentation innovation, which is what we do with our direct displays. A lot of the products that yahoo and google have such as search assist, which tell us what are related searches and related concepts. So just exposing that and helping with user interface makes it a more logical way to flow through information and sort it. Another breakthrough step would be making logical connections between data that are ‘ah hah’ moments for users where they say, “oh now I don’t have to do another search” or “I would’ve had to visit another site, but you connected the dots for me.” So there a lot of small examples from the panel up here, but nothing major thus far.

    Google: Another thing is how to show local results in different ways and what the users are looking for. Using this hotel as an example, all of us came here today because we’re attending a conference. We’re not in San Jose to be on vacation, we’re not here to visit the Tech Museum across the street so when we search for the Marriot San Jose, what we want is something quite different than someone planning a trip and I think that’s important to recognize.

  6. Do you guys keep track of how businesses have “fan” pages or how many business have made fan pages for themselves. If you guys had business pages and opened them up to Yahoo, Google, and Bing, and then a user realized that the business also had a Facebook page, how would you guys track that? Do you guys have distinctions of exactly who’s becoming a fan of a distinct business location?

    Facebook: We are working a lot on authenticity and certainly a lot with the launch of fan URLs where you could visit the business page with facebook.com/business name. Authenticity is becoming more of an important unit and Facebook has always been all about it. When you create a page, you can self select what type of business, company or what it is you are representing so we track it accordingly. As far as searches for many businesses, I can get back to you on that because I don’t know the exact number. If I had to estimate, it would probably be around 1 million.

  7. What do you think we should do about a business that serves all of Colorado? You tell us we can’t get fake addresses so we’re forced to think outside the box. How or when are you going to solve that problem? For example, if someone does Plumbing in Denver, but can’t afford to live in Denver, what is he suppose to do?

    Google: We are definitely well aware of that problem and we recognize that there are businesses out there. I think the best way to think of it is that their location doesn’t matter because they come to you or they come to some site where you want to do some service for them. But they are local because they won’t come anywhere, they will come somewhere in Denver. As you know, we don’t have a great answer for that right now. Local Business Center right now takes physical local businesses, which you can pinpoint it on the map. Getting fake addresses isn’t something that complies with our quality guidelines, but we are aware of the problem and we would like to improve.

These are some of the question and answer specifically on local listings.

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Contributed by: Katherine Lor, Milestone Internet Marketing

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