Bill Slawski and I have discussed whether Google Maps & Yahoo Local data would get more accurate over time. Both companies have taken a somewhat different approach to fix inaccuracies: Google relying on large directories with sales organizations, the small business itself and their algorithms while Yahoo relies more on the general public and the small business to improve accuracy. It remains to be seen which, if either system, will ultimately lead to the highest accuracy and most useful data.
Google has created forums for feedback and correction of the data in their Google-Maps-For-Business-Owners Group. The good news is that correction is occurring. The bad news is that for the small business people it is not occurring fast enough. The group is a regular beehive of activity with a surprising amount of input from small business owners. But it is a beehive in which the keeper just stuck his hand into the hive and stirred things up by sticking the bees in the wrong place and the bees are mad!
Here are two posting from yesterday:
TOPIC: Category Options
Date: Wed, Jan 17 2007 12:18 pm
From: “Farmer Karl”
I have been quite satisfied with my Google Adwords campaigns these last
two years and hope Google Maps can eventually become as useful.
As it apears obvious with previous posts, the Google Maps Category
Options situation is not good and seems to show very little
improvement. Has anyone seen a new category suggestion that was
actually implement these last two months? It is understandable that
business owners would resent seeing competitors listed in categories
(which I assume were imported from places like “superpages.com”) that
they themselves can not use.
We’re in the entertainment farm business (pumpkin patch, corn maze, PYO
fruit) and can’t find any category that seems even remotely applicable.
I’d even settle for simply the category FARM which my customers
normally use for google searches.
TOPIC: Incorrect location on Map
Date: Wed, Jan 17 2007 12:25 pm
Same here, not only is my business location wrong on the map, but my
street name on the map is misspelled, and the map shows intersecting
streets that don’t really intersect! This situation tends to make me
distrust all the Google maps.
The comments in the forum, mostly critical, fall into several categories:
1)My listing is wrong, please fix it
2)The category that my competitors are in, is not available to me
3)The map is wrong (one way or another)
As can be imagined small business owners can be quite passionate:
Yes, this seems to be a very serious issue in that my address leads to a map of my competitor’s operation ten miles down the road! I wonder at the coincidence of this! Any search for my location takes customers to my competition! In fact, this seems to a legally actionable situation that needs to be addressed immediately.
To Google’s credit :
-They have the group and are providing support
-They have a person in the group providing answers and taking the feedback (sometimes on the chin)
-They are educating people and these folks are learning how to control their own record
It seems that in the not too distant future Google will be allowing users to submit map corrections and perhaps the purchase of Endoxon will make that capability, and more, available to the users. However, as one of the writer’s in the blog asked: Has anyone seen a new category suggestion that was actually implement these last two months?
Of all the problems with Google Maps, the category issues (which can lead to strange outcomes) should be the easiest to fix.
Certainly from the point of view of these small business people, the rate of change is not fast enough. Google is risking a lot with this strategy in that at some point, failure to improve will affect market share. That being said it does appear that the involvement of the owners is leading to (the slow) improvement of the data set.
As Holmes would say: The game is afoot. Its a bit messy but humanity has a way of lurching forward regardless. In the end, I do believe that the data set which is now useful and “satisfices” for many things will continue to improve. Will it be fast enough to keep the small business owners happy?
Update January 20: You might want to read Google’s response to this issue.Local Data Accuracy- a veritable beehive by Mike Blumenthal