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Google Inc. is tapping into Web reviews to provide a snapshot of the online ratings and comments about restaurants, shops and other local business.
Google has switched the maps within local results to its recently released Google Maps instead of external providers.
Because that my cause a few problems if they are just "scraping", I mean indexing, review sites.
It would be ironic if google starts using scraping to pull reviews from the same site I rely on their Google Adwords for.
The Mountain View, Calif. company also is investigating ways to allow businesses to update some data, such as addresses or phone numbers, Mayer said.
"It's something we should do, and we're doing a limited test [of it]," Mayer said.
That will be very interesting to see. Tell's me that they are creating profiles and storing them rather than just using an algo to pull back relevant info from other sources. I'll be curious to know how far they take this and how they deal with potential spamming issues.
Google has switched the maps within local results to its recently released Google Maps instead of external providers
I think that was a forgone conclusion when when launched G Maps. I'm surprised how fast the switched it out though.
Mayer said the demand for Google's local search product was surprisingly high. In fact, it drew more traffic in December than Google's shopping search product, Froogle, during the holiday shopping season, and without local search being linked from Google's home page.
That's an impressive testament to the growth of Local Search and its position against standard ecommerce for product and service.
One sort of odd thing to me - Google doesn't attempt to show an overall rating for the merchant. IMHO, this detracts substantially from the value of this feature. As is, it sort of reads like a subjective set of random reviews from the Web. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a rating system that doesn't at least attempt to answer the question, "so overall, is this a good or a bad place?" Isn't that what the user is looking for?
Also interesting to me is that with all the talk of G looking to get more involved with content (with the rumors of their interest in About.com for example), this move indicates that they are not ready to play in content yet. Cause if they were, allowing folks to review local search results would have been a perfect place to start.
Only time will tell if Yahoo's approach of collecting and owning their own local review content is wiser than Google's approach of scraping others' content and referencing the source.
But it seems that the reference site is simply the first result as would appear for a standard search for the term, as opposed to specifically being a review site.
Take, for example, San Francisco Hotels [local.google.com], the first hotel listed is Edwardian San Francisco Hotel and the first reference for it is san-francisco-hotel-directory which isn't a review site.
If I enter "Edwardian San Francisco Hotel" into the little Google search box I EXPECT to have returned the official hotel website as THE VERY FIRST result and not on the second page with 17 creepy websites before it who are trying to make a buck!
Remember "I feel lucky"?
#*$!H? Once I am in local search mode I do not have a chance to find the official hotel website because NONE of those "helpful" review/directory sites link out.
This is actually misleading/misguiding the surfer/searcher and certainly not "giving the best possible search experience".
Oh, stupid me, The Edwardian should not be evil and start using adwords, right?
As for result defaults... not reviews, but geography... those San Francisco hotels that come up first definitely aren't in a part of town a lot of people would like to stay in, but many folks might not know that.
I continue to think that the distance from the center of the zip code default has got to be changed. Not sure to what, but alphabetical would almost be preferable because at least users understand that alphabetical sequence is artificial. Wouldn't plug in well to a map, though.
Maybe, for something like hotels, they could ask you to choose budget locations, downtown, tourist locations, etc... build a bit of guide book type sorting into the interface.
On various city hotel searches, it's fascinating to see some link pages that I know created cross-linking problems in Google's web algo are now serving as "references" to bring various hotel groups up to the top in local. Definitely a very different kind of algo.
What I'm seeing in Google Local looks like amazing progress on the surface, and I don't mean to minimize it... but deep down it may not yet really be that useful. The results aren't to the point yet where I'd be willing to depend on them.
I'm wondering whether local is likely to go through a long phase of basically superficial sortings until a critical mass of reviews and other local sorting criteria evolves... possibly eventually entailing XML type identifiers built into a wide range of sources.
Frankly, if the reviews from gayot and citysearch are so great - why do I need Google Local? I'll go direct to the source myself and cut out the middle man, er clicks.
I can't decide if it's a smart move (because they now have a ton of reviews without any massive work to get them on their own) or if it's a dumb move (because they are basically sending traffic to sites that offer the same thing as Google Local - only complete with on site reviews). Guess we'll see.