Does Local need to be held to a higher standard? Miriam Ellis Responds

Miriam Ellis and her husband are a web development team in California with extensive practical experience in Local Search. She is always a voice for reason and ethical behavior and writes frequently about local search in her blog.

Miriam understands the frustration of running a small business and often speaks of the needs of small business people. Here is her answer to my question, does local need to be held to a higher standard:

Miriam: I agree with your premise of greater need for accountability. We have already witnessed too many bothersome/worrisome situations in local and have felt the dead air silence in attempting to get help or answers to these issues. Your extreme 5 step workaround for fixing an address is a good example of a system that is failing to be truly accessible/usable.

Your prediction that we’ll be using our phones for monetary transactions is especially thought-provoking. I know some people who still refuse to make ecommerce or banking transactions online because they simply don’t trust the Internet.

I can understand their reasoning, because when ripoffs happen on the Internet, laws governing such activity are vague, poorly understood and poorly enforced. “Tough luck,” seems to be the attitude when bad things happen on-line and, as in many things in life, we tend to carry on with a “it couldn’t happen to me” attitude. The more of our lives are lived online, the greater chance there is for a lack of laws and lack of personal accountability to cause problems.

My hope with local has been that the end result of searches would be dealings with neighbors. It may be a bit of a caveman mentality, but because we know where neighbors live (do business) they may be less inclined to rip us off, right? Their business rep depends on good service. But when it’s the interface that has the problem (Maps, Local, etc.) the good service is hinging on a third party, making Local less local.

I’ve felt especially bad for the Maps/Local users who are coming to the game with a YP mindset. My father worked for a traditional YP company for some years, and I know first hand the efforts he went to to take care of each and every one on of his clients to make sure that their information was accurate and that he was consistently available to them for any help they might need.

Neither Google nor Yahoo has stepped up to the plate with that kind of service. Yahoo is doing a better job, in my opinion, simply because they are providing a phone number you can call. Google’s local program feels like it’s taking place on a misty mountaintop somewhere in space. Feels like no one is minding the store.

Basically, my answer is yes. They aren’t doing what they need to to win legitimate trust, but then, so many people give their trust without a lot of discernment, so my guess is that there aren’t too many of us who are concerned about this, at this point.

I love Local. I use it almost daily. I would like to see the major players make the efforts to man the ship in a more personal, transparent and accessible way. I believe that in order to become truly Local, Google and Yahoo need to move beyond the remote, world-wide-web mentality and step out from behind the curtain to start dealing with business owners and users in a new way that is appropriate to this new medium.
Tomorrow Bill Slawski will present his ideas on the question.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Does Local need to be held to a higher standard? Miriam Ellis Responds by

5 thoughts on “Does Local need to be held to a higher standard? Miriam Ellis Responds”

  1. I see so much Local spamming it’s untrue. Not just local to me (Charlotte NC) but old “friends” in the SF Bay Area that have suddenly got addresses all over the State and what seems to be a gazillion cellphone #s

    I really believe that Local SEO’s of repute should be out there pushing adWords to local businesses whilst taking legit storefront pictures and adding the listings.

    I was hoping, personally, that Google would go this route or are going this route with Local trustworthy people.


  2. This is an excellent topic, Mike. I agree entirely with your theme. The Internet should level the playing field: it has the potential. If the monster search engines don’t put in the effort to make sure the little people (most of us) don’t get lost in the flood, then I can’t believe in empty slogans such as ‘Do No Evil’.

  3. In the world of freewheeling capitalism, the only leveling influence is capital ($)…if the “little people” leave these machinations solely to the market, we will as you say “be lost in the flood” as the market has but one imperative…profit.

    Maybe that is as it should be and maybe not.


  4. Hi Mike,
    So sorry I was out of town when you printed this!

    Your point about the ‘little people’ is well taken. In the end, they outnumber the ones at the top by millions and that collective voice ought to be worth something, right?

    Barry’s sentiment is one I’m increasingly hearing – particularly in reference to Google. I think everyone with tech tendencies has had a sort of honeymoon love of Google. The apps they’ve given us, the power they put in our hands, all of the good stuff has made us incredibly loyal to them. But now we’re in the Web 2.0 world, the basic building block of which is communication. We’re discovering that we’re able to communicate our wishes and needs well…but are finding that Google is socially backward in some things and they need to acquire some new skills to deal with the world they have basically created.

    I’m really enjoying this series of posts and thank you for the kind words.

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