In early September, Bill Slawski wrote a great review/summary/analysis of Google’s Local Search Patent Application. I reread it over the weekend* and felt the surge of epiphany flow over me as I recognized the theoretical underpinnings of Google Local search results.
As Bill noted, Google Local is a “structure generation engine” that collects information from a wide range of structured and unstructured data sources, “normalizes” this information and presents that which is trusted to the user in its local directory, the Google organic search results and “responses to others requests for information” (see 520-find and Google SMS).
This Google local engine retrieves structured and unstructured data information about your business from various online and off-line sources & assigns trust factors to this data:
Trusted Structured Data via feeds, comes (via, XML, readable media, web sites) from:
-Commercial Data Providers like InfoUSA, D & B, Better Business Bureau, Mobil Guides
-the phone book companies
-a data feed from a large business with many outlets like Dominoes Pizza
-Google’s own Local Business Center(which was not mentioned in this patent because I am sure that it has its own patent to deal with stuff like its cool automated phone verification system)
Somewhat Less Trusted Structured, Semi-Structured and Unstructured Data comes (via assorted crawlers) from:
-On-Line Directories with known structured data (ie Superpages)
-On-line Directories with unknown structures and unstructured data (ie Restaurant guides & reviews like CitySearch)
Less Trusted Unstructured data from the Web (via crawlers) from:
-Your business web site
-Other sites that mention your business with geographic information
The Google local “structure generation engine” then standardizes all the fields, parses all of the information received via the above methods and then standardizes the information in those fields (with various tests), and presents it in its structured form via Google Maps, Google Organic and other “responses to …requests for information”.
To me the implications to the business owner or search optimization professional are clear:
1. Go to the Google Local Business Center and control your record with correct information, remove all incorrect records and keep it updated. This will override, take precedence over and be more trusted than the default data from a commercial data provider.
2. Buy into as many “trusted” sources that Google uses that make business sense i.e. BBB, Mobil Guide, SuperPages. (A comprehensive list of these needs to be developed),
3. Monitor your entries and reviews in the relevant web based guides like CitySearch (a list of the ones that Google uses needs to be assembled). Make sure that they are factually correct and if possible be sure that the reviews are positive as that will affect your rankings.
4. Make sure that your business web site has your basic business information readily available. I do not think that you need to be too concerned with its specific format as Google’s parsing and normalization algorithms seem pretty good.
5. Make sure to have as many references on other web sites to your business as possible and be sure that they include accurate business data: business name, address, phone etc.
Google takes a very intractable problem of data accuracy in large scale databases and seems to manage (using the labor of others and some impressive technology) to keep it as accurate and comprehensive as possible.
That being said you need to be the one ultimately responsible to be sure that the information is accurate and does truly reflect the nature of your business. Google has put the technology in place in Google Local Business Center for that to happen and they have done it in a way that gives businesses small and large an equal opportunity.
*Like all of Bill’s “blog entries”, this one is best read off line, in a quiet environment where the details can sink in.