Google Maps attempts to gather authoritative details of a local business by crawling & parsing the semi-structured data of on-line directories (see also Bill Slawski’s patent summary). I was curious which directories they actively use to fill in the details section.
To start answering that question I analyzed the directories listed Google Maps in the restaurant industry, one of the industries that clearly benefits from local search. I analyzed the local listings of the first 16 restaurants listed in the Buffalo, NY market and summarized which on-line directories Google is using.
Here is the summary in alphabetical order:
|Directory||# of Listings|
|Provided by the business owner||1|
Some observations and notes:
Of the listings 11 were locally owned, non-chain restaurants, 3 were hotel chains with restuarants and 2 were national food chains.
The top 3 listings were Hotels
Only one national chain (the Marriott) appeared to provide an XML feed
Only one business (Days Inn) had edited their own business listing
The listing with the most detail from on-line directories listed had 8 references and was the number one listing.
Some conclusions and questions:
Obviously some of these on-line directories are not available to all restaurants such as Hotelguides.net but most are and restaurants should be listed in as many as is feasible.
It is clear that Hotels have an advantage in this game in that they have been doing on-line marketing longer with services like Travelocity that seem to confer authority. But the spread is not that great and could be overcome with moderate effort.
It appears that national food chains were under-represented which seemed odd.
Given that only one business owner (or their proxy) availed themselves of controlling their own listing, there is a lot of opportunity for that to happen either by SEM professionals or sophisticated business owners.
There was a number 11 listing that had 7 detail references, as many as the second and third listings and it was not clear why they were that far down the list. Their reviews were not starred perhaps because there were too few and perhaps their on-line directories did not provide as much authority.
The varied nature of these sources and the fact that so few business owners had modified their own record, dictated that things like hours & pricing etc. was very erratic.
There are some questions:
Are any of these on-line directories regional in nature and are there others?
Which ones allow free listings and which ones charge?
What relationship does Google have with these directories? Are they remunerated and if so how?