Which On-line Directories provide details to Google Maps

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
10best.com 3
ChefMoz.org 3
Citysearch.com 10
DiningGuide.com 4
Frommers.com 2
Gayot.com 4
Hotelguide.net 3
JiWire.com 2
Marriott.com 1
MobilTravelGuide.com 1
Mytravelguide.com 2
Provided by the business owner 1
RestaurantRow.com 7
Sidestep.com 2
SuperPages.com 5
Talkingphonebook.com 2
Travelocity.com 3
Wcities.com 7

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?

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Which On-line Directories provide details to Google Maps by

13 thoughts on “Which On-line Directories provide details to Google Maps”

  1. Nice post.

    I’d definitely recommend to someone interested in appearing in local results to imitate your efforts here to see which sources the search engine is using for a particular niche in a particular region.

    The listings definitely include a mix of information paid for from telecoms, as well as crawled from directories and web sites. Many review sites are also included. Here’s a patent that describes some of Google’s efforts to collect and aggregate review information:

    Method and system for finding and aggregating reviews for a product

    The title says “products” but they also include services, and I believe that they may be using this to collect reviews of businesses for their local search.

    Where reviews for more than one location appear on the same page, they also came out with this patent application which describes a process that they may be using (I haven’t done the research to see if it’s actually in effect – something worth doing, which I think I’m going to try now.):

    Document segmentation based on visual gaps

    I’ve seen regional directories, as well as international.

  2. Good point. I was next going to try to do a summary of the reviews and see how much overlap there is. Thanks for pointing to the patent on reviews, I will take a look.

  3. Good stuff, Mike. I think there would also be value in listing/analyzing the sources used for the “Reviews” tab — though, in both cases, I think more data/analysis would present a better overall snapshot. Maybe I’ll do some digging if time allows, unless you beat me to it.

    I’m not surprised to see you mention only one business is controlling its listing. This gets back to why I’m not optimistic about the adoption/impact of Click-to-Call. Small businesses (and many larger ones) don’t have the time or knowledge to deal with this stuff. We’re are still very much in Local Search 0.5 phase, where education has to happen before there’s a chance for adoption.

    Anyway, I digress. You ask if there’s any remuneration involved. I would be surprised, given that Yahoo Local is one of the sources Google uses in the “Reviews” section. Perhaps there are different arrangements for “Reviews” compared to “Details”, but I kinda doubt it. I think it’s all crawler-based.

  4. Yes I agreee, Matt.A bigger sample would be great. I am on vacation in NC so you willprobably beat me to it. :)

    Certainly the Google’s Business Listing tool is not yet widely adopted. I am not sure that small bussiness will ever be better at that than they are at optimizing their site for organic…some will do it them seselves but I suspect most will outsource.

    I have read about “agreements” between Google and some directories…never have I read what that meant…perhaps a trade for Adwords?

  5. Matt-

    It would seem that the copyright issues here are distinct. If Google is going to use a Star Rating from a directory they must have permission to do so.

    I just read this from the BBB in Texas:
    Another major change for the bureau will be to use its hundreds of thousands of reliability reports in partnerships with other government and nonprofit agencies and businesses, Cole said.

    “We’re working with Google Local on a deal right now,” he said. “If you’re looking for a business through them, you could get a link to our reliability report about them.”

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