Does Local need to be held to a higher standard? Matt McGee Responds

I have put the following to a number of folks whose opinion I respect.

Premise:
The internet is coming face to face with the communities we live in. Local is at the nexus of this juncture. With the iPhone we now listen to our music, answer our phones, read our email, look at our maps and browse the yellow pages. In the near future we will likely be using our iPhroid (or whatever the device will be called) to replace our wallet, the ATM machine and who knows what else. In the past we have been satisfied with search providing relevant results but we are now in a time when we expect the map and business listings to be not just relevant but correct as well.

Question:
As we move forward to what I call the age of the iPhroid with who knows what transactional and social capabilities, does Local need to be held to a higher standard to “truly” succeed and play a trusted role in our lives?

What is your opinion?

Here are the previous answers:
•Danny Sullivan & Chris Silver Smith
•Ahmed Farooq
•Miriam Ellis
•Bill Slawski

Matt McGee of SmallbusinessSEM now has the floor:

Matt: It would be great of Local could reach a higher standard, but no, I don’t believe Local needs to be held to a higher standard. It should be held to a high standard, of course, but I don’t believe it deserves special treatment; it doesn’t demand any higher standard than we expect from traditional search, e-mail, social networking, and the other tasks we do online each day.

Local, like any of those things, probably has to meet two standards:

1.) It has to be good enough most of the time.
2.) It has to maintain an appearance of relevancy (accuracy).

Look at Google: It’s not perfect, but the searching public has obviously decided it’s good enough most of the time. I don’t always find what I want via Google, but I succeed there often enough that I always start at Google. I’m guessing that’s a common experience among online searchers.

Look at another vertical, like travel search: Among Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, and others, which one offers the best fares? Which one offers the best options? The best tools? I have no clue. But I use Orbitz as my starting point because it’s always been good enough. It gives me the info. I need to choose an airport and/or an airline when multiple options are available. Then I go to the airline web site to make my reservation because I believe it’ll be less expensive that way. But sometimes the process isn’t clean; it breaks down, and what I find on the airline site doesn’t match what Orbitz told me. Still, I don’t hold the Travel vertical to any higher standard; I use it the same way I would any other online tool.

I would assume Local to develop in the same way, particularly where mobile search is concerned. Am I going to stop performing local searches on my iPhone just because every once in a while the directions are off, or the business’s phone number has changed? I can’t imagine I would stop, and I can’t imagine anyone else would, either.

Spam hasn’t stopped me from using and relying on e-mail. We accept spam as part of the convenience of e-mail. Likewise, I bet we’ll accept the occasional wrong left turn, the occasional wrong address, the occasional product that is not really in stock, and whatever other flaws will exist as Local continues to develop over time. We tend to be very forgiving, us humans.

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? Matt McGee Responds by

13 thoughts on “Does Local need to be held to a higher standard? Matt McGee Responds”

  1. I like Matt’s response to this because it seems so representative to me of the attitude we’ve all adopted about so many of life’s options. We go for good enough rather than practically perfect.

    We go for what’s cheap, because we figure almost any appliance we buy these days will break soon. By contrast, I’ve got a stove in my home from the 1960s that had its first technical problem last month…after decades of useful service. They don’t make ‘em like they used to and this type of transaction has, I believe, created a lowered set of expectations in all of us.

    How does this apply to Google local? I’m not sure, but it’s what Matt’s reply made me think of. Perhaps it’s more humane not to expect perfect products and services…but I continue to feel annoyed when I suspect that a lack of investment in quality on the provider’s part is the cause of a poor user experience. Good enough shouldn’t be good enough for a company as vast and powerful as Google. They should set the bar higher and not rely on public apathy as a metric. They should retrain us all to expect the best.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. I enjoyed Matt’s comments.
    Miriam

  2. Thanks for the interview with Matt, Mike, and for your thoughts, Matt. :)

    I think what we expect from Web search and Local search HAS to be different because we use Local Search in such a REAL LIFE way. Web search affects what we read, our product purchases, our perception on brands/people/products, etc. Local search, however, affects our daily life.

    Like I discussed in a recent post on my CityMarketer.com blog about Local Search Data Inaccuracy, it affected my whole morning (and my wife’s) being late to a doctor’s appointment because of a way out of date office address. A Web search almost never has that kind of effect on our minute by minute lives.

    With great power comes great responsibility, right?

  3. Hi Michael,
    I had a like experience with a doctor who had moved to a new place of business. Google was still bringing up his old address. The only thing that saved me was that the office had put a message on the old phone number stating that they have moved. Left to the care of Google, we would have arrived at an empty building. Not so good!
    Miriam

  4. The question I have is will the great responsibilty be readily accepted or will it need to be forced upon the users of the power?

    The first time someone dies because they used a mapping product and ended up at a shoe store instead of a hospital will be very interesting indeed.

    Mike

  5. If a pizza shop’s map point is incorrect, then the hungry person driving around looking for a pie on their I-Phone will probably not find them. Instead, they will likely use the internet to locate another restaurant nearby.

    If the phone number that’s published online for them is incorrect, then another pizza place will get the call. And if their listing doesn’t give their business hours and another shop’s listing boasts late night hours, then it’s fairly obvious which business is mostly likely to get an order from late night party-ers.

    I think the responsibility for the accuracy of local data has to default to the business owner. They’re getting free advertising in the form of business listings all across the web. It’s up to them to claim and verify those listings, rather than expecting someone else to do it for them. The business owners who get that have already gained an advantage over their competitors.

    Small business owners are empowered to take control of the information that appears about them online. If they don’t, it’s certainly no one’s fault but their own.

  6. Mary

    Certainly I believe that most users expect some bad info. They have a certain tolerance for it.

    But I have been working with a number of small busnesses that have attempted to do just that but have been thwarted by Google’s non existant customer response.

    The business owner can do all of the work but if Google doesn’t implement or if they don’t repsond when problems result or send customers to the wrong location even WHEN the business owner did everything right, the business owner has no recourse.

    Mike

  7. Yes, Mike, I agree wholeheartedly. I work for an agency that tries to update listings for many clients and the process is certainly not user-friendly.

    But remember, this is free advertising that can reach anywhere in the world where there’s an internet connection. Right now, you get what you get.

    I have to assume Google Maps will improve. In the meantime, early-ish adopters who are willing to persist against obstacles and navigate through imperfect systems can reap disproportionate rewards. This is what is currently happening in the world of Local Search.

  8. I agree that it is the reality. I agree that the smb is not paying directly. But it isn’t free. All Google has done has shifted the costs elsewhere so that they could profit.

    They are not making any less than the Yellow page used to, they are just making it differently.

    For Google, from a profit perspective, they need to shift as many costs as they can. They have done so in a number of ways. Either the businesses accept them willingly or not.

    I would posit that now is the time to everybody to define which of those costs that have been shifted are acceptable and which are not.

    Mike

  9. And when businesses are making sure that all is well with their listings and Google is responding to them appropriately, who makes sure that the end user is being properly serverd?

    Mike

  10. Gosh Mike. We definitely have some differing views, but in my opinion Google is a business, not a public utility. They should operate it in the way that’s best for them. We all vote with our dollars and our feet and it’ll all shake out in the marketplace.

  11. Ah the market. I am not a free marketer that’s for sure. The free market often ends up like Bear Stearns with public bailout.

    But I do believe that Google’s/Yahoo’s/Superpages best interest are served by establishing a set of standards that protect the various parties and that they do so prior to intervention.

    Mike

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