There’s lots of talk, and lots of work in the search engine world about local search, I’m sure the reason is to get more advertisers - there’s only so many people who it’s relevant for to advertise globally, or even nationally, local shops for local people however would pay for local adverts.
I wanted to find a bike shop in Kingston, so I could find one that’s likely to have a tourer as I’m thinking hard of cycling longer distances to get rid of the current fat belly (very old readers may remember me running 20:19 in the club handicap a few years back, 28:05 was my this month fat time).
One of things I knew was there was Evans cycles near the station, and there’s one just down the road from me in surbiton - a few miles from Kingston. Google local was my first choice as they put it on the map which is great. First there’s a search for Bike shop and Kingston. First up, google offers me 2 Kingston’s to disambiguate - good, but I’ve searched for stuff in Kingston before, it really should remember which Kingston I’m near, at least give me the results for upon Thames, and give a link “did you mean Kingston upon Hull” if I’ve just asked 5 minutes ago.
Telling it Kingston upon Thames I get some results. The nearest result is Action Bikes - 3.8 miles away from Kingston in Richmond, the furthest is 13 miles away in Harrow or Lewisham - neither of the two bike shops I actually know about are listed at all - this is the big failure of local search - people know their local area, they know if there’s results missing, with a web search it doesn’t matter, I’ve no idea what resources the search engine hasn’t found, but with local search I know what’s missing and I’ll get annoyed.
Yahoo doesn’t have something called a local search, but it does have a business finder which does the same job. So bike shop in kingston returns no results at all, but a suggestion to try more general words, and bike in kingston turns up a big list mostly linked to motorbikes, however there’s one on the first page and it has a link to a category cycle shops clicking on that I get a list of 4 in Kingston, no way to enlarge the area though, and it doesn’t mention the ones just outside Kingston. It also took 4 pages and thought of my search terms, much too much effort on a smartphone, and too much effort even in the office.
MSN search was just crazy bike shop in kingston tells me that “kingston” was not recognized. Please be more specific changing kingston to anything fromKingston upon Thames to Surrey or London didn’t get me anywhere at all, I always got the same message - I couldn’t find any location that it actually worked for!
The providers of business information to google and yahoo are Yell and ThomsonLocal. Yell performed the search without any problems, both guiding me through the process of narrowing down what I wanted to cycle shops, and returning me a list in Kingston and a wider area. Thomson Local however fail to map bike shop to anything about bikes, somehow suggesting I might want shop fittings, if I deliberately choose cycle shops (what I’ve learnt they want them called) then it finds them no problem.
Local search appears to have a very long way to go, and will always suffer the problem of being different to what the local person knows of their locality - if you know the chip shop has closed, you’ll be annoyed if it appears on the map, if you know the best chip shop is on the high street and there’s nothing there on the search you’ll doubt all the results. I can’t see local search being a useful feature to me, they have a very long way to go, if you have to use one though, yahoo is the way to go, even though they still haven’t bothered with a background colour.