is local search getting better?

I wrote over on afullerview the other day about how, a year ago, it was still much easier to just pick up the Yellow Pages and find local services.. despite the feeling that the paper version was very much an out of date medium.

Today I am in need of someone local to figure out what is wrong with my dishwasher.

Here are some real world results (searching for dishwasher repair london or if possible dishwasher repair my postcode. Lets take a look at how it went and see whether it was any better than last year.

Google:

  • For the London search, it did a pretty good job – displayed a separate box of local results as well as some London-wide companies.
  • For the postcode search, weirdly it displayed furniture shops first but lower down it listed a bunch of possible repair businesses nearby – but mostly for boilers.. changing the search slightly (“dishwasher repairs placed in speech marks”) restricted the results to 2 but nothing nearby.
  • Using Google Maps provided the same localised results from the post code search.

Yahoo:

  • For the London search, Yahoo also did a pretty good job – some possibilities though not a local enough search to provide anything nearby
  • For the post code search – nothing
  • Yahoo Maps – I could not get it to find anything.

Live.com:

  • For the London search, it found some London/nationwide companies but nothing truly local, and not as relevant as Google’s or Yahoo’s.
  • For the postcode seach it found nothing.
  • Using Live Maps, with the postcode it found one possibility the other side of Essex (that’s quite far outside London!)

Yell.com

  • Looks like a quick win. It found a whole bunch of suppliers. On closer look though, they are all the same company (they all link to the same website!). What happened to all the suppliers that are listed in the Yellow Pages (paper version)?

Conclusion
Well the major search engines are starting to catch up with the dedicated local search engines. Yell.com is theoretically still one of the best places to start but it failed miserably here. I expected Google to do better, but with most of the info entered into its local search results being a manual process done by the businesses themselves we are really waiting for the local businesses to catchup. Yahoo and Live was a complete waste of time.

Yell has the advantage of its age old paper version which contains a huge number of businesses but it really doesnt feel like they are taking advantage of it online.

In the long term though, Google was able to recognise that the search results I required needed local businesses in the results and not just companies with websites. Once they get more information about these businesses into their servers, more and more people will surely just search from Google?

With the addition of mobile search, location is also going to become an important factor. Guess who is the default provider on my iPhone.. yup Google. I did a quick search and unsurprisingly it gave me the same results as the desktop version. It is not perfect by any means though.

There is still a long way to go to get local search right.

By the way, I eventually found someone using Google website search, as I cannot find my copy of Yellow Pages – I think I recycled it .

6 thoughts on “is local search getting better?”

  1. This local question is brewing nicely – there's a Mashup event this Friday talking about just this question.It seems to me that from both a content and an advertising model perspective, there's something of a hole that really needs to be filled. Question is, who's going to do it? Is this the next stage in Google's world domination, or can the likes of the directories and local press, who've traditionally filled this gap, rise at long last to the challenge.I think I know where my money is today… but I'd love to be proved wrong!

  2. This local question is brewing nicely – there's a Mashup event this Friday talking about just this question.
    It seems to me that from both a content and an advertising model perspective, there's something of a hole that really needs to be filled. Question is, who's going to do it? Is this the next stage in Google's world domination, or can the likes of the directories and local press, who've traditionally filled this gap, rise at long last to the challenge.
    I think I know where my money is today… but I'd love to be proved wrong!

  3. Hi thereMy name's Emma and I work at Yell. I'm sorry to read about your difficulties with our site. If we only found one dishwasher repair company in your exact postcode, that would have been the only result we returned. However, there should have been a button at the top which said “Expand Location” which will give you results slightly further away, but still relevant for you.We do have over 2 million businesses across the UK listed on the site… so I would hope there would be a dishwasher repair man near to you!Hope this helps.RegardsEmma

  4. Hi there

    My name's Emma and I work at Yell. I'm sorry to read about your difficulties with our site. If we only found one dishwasher repair company in your exact postcode, that would have been the only result we returned. However, there should have been a button at the top which said “Expand Location” which will give you results slightly further away, but still relevant for you.

    We do have over 2 million businesses across the UK listed on the site… so I would hope there would be a dishwasher repair man near to you!

    Hope this helps.

    Regards
    Emma

  5. Thanks Emma – yes I did expand the search – in the end I found someone via Google's web search as I could not find my paper Yellow Pages – I noticed also a box on the results page showing me an option for people who “served my area” but unfortunately this only listed one supplier as well. Does the digital version have all the businesses listed in the paper version?

  6. Thanks Emma – yes I did expand the search – in the end I found someone via Google's web search as I could not find my paper Yellow Pages – I noticed also a box on the results page showing me an option for people who “served my area” but unfortunately this only listed one supplier as well.

    Does the digital version have all the businesses listed in the paper version?

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