Review Sites in the Restaurant World – Dallas vs. Buffalo

Last week I looked at which review sites were considered by Google in the ranking of the Top 10 Restaurants in Buffalo, NY. Here is a similar analysis of the review sites for Dallas compared to Buffalo:

Directory 2008 February Buffalo 2008 February Dallas 1 2
AOL.Com 7 8 2 70 80 4 4 14 9 5 1 1 1 4 7
Google 5 7
InsiderPages 20 2 41 3 1 2 2 1
TripAdvisor 31 19 4 20 11
Zagat 69

Several items of note:

• There were 7 additional review sites referenced in Dallas (those in bold)
• Judy’s Book which shut down last October (although the site is still live) seemed to have much more of a Buffalo presence
•Zagat has a very strong presence in Dallas but little in Buffalo, I wonder why?
•The Dallas Observer, an obviously local site, has a presence
•CitySearch is the obvious leader in both cities

How many Reviews does a Top 10 Restaurant need?

Buffalo, NY has a population of 276, 059. Dallas Texas has 1,232,940 folks and San Francisco has 744,041 people. Yet the number of reviews bears no correlation to their populations in the Google Local 10-Pack results:

Rank Buffalo Rest. Web Site Rev.Totals Buff. Dallas Rest. Web Site Review Totals Dallas S.F. Rest. Web Site Review Totals S.F.
1 Anchor Bar Y 60 Bob’s Steak & Chop House Y 49 Zuni Cafe Y 154
2 Chef’s Restaurant Y 27 Lola the Restaurant Y 18 First Crush Restaurant & Bar Y 145
3 Hutch’s Y 14 Stephan Pyles Y 40 House of Prime Rib Y 142
4 Pearl Street Grill & Brewery Y 13 Old Warsaw Restaurant Y 26 E & O Trading Co Y 28
5 La Nova Pizzeria: Buffalo Location Y 33 Abacus Restaurant Y 43 Restaurant Gary Danko Y 285
6 Duff’s N 35 Capital Grille Y 30 Slanted Door Y 233
7 Pano’s Restaurant Y 24 Campisi’s Restaurant Y 31 Farallon Y 123
8 Mother’s Restaurant N 23 Javier’s Catering Services Y 20 Michael Mina Restaurant Y 126
9 EB Green’s Steakhouse Y 10 Steel Restaurant & Lounge Y 23 Delfina Restaurant Y 138
10 Olivers restaurant Y 13 Nick & Sam’s Catering Division Y 25 Cheesecake Factory Y 84
    Total 252   Total 305   Total 1458

It makes sense that San Francisco has such a large number of reviews; the city has a technically savvy population, has a large amount of tourism and is the home of Yelp. But why would there be such a similar number of reviews in Buffalo, a declining NE city of a quarter million, and Dallas, a much larger and still growing area? Are Texans slower on the uptake?

Some items of note:

•The top review getters in Dallas or Buffalo are in the 50 range vs. SF’s 150

•Only 2 of these 30 restaurants do not yet have websites noted in Google Maps•In Dallas the #1 sites had 2x’s the number of review of the 10th ranked site

•The Anchor Bar has 4x’s the number of reviews of the 10th site.

•Note that while generally the more the reviews the higher the rank that is not always the case. E & O Trading Co in S.F. is a case in point as is Restaurant Gary Danko.

•Several listings appear to have obviously attempted to modify their business name to influence ranking ( La Nova Pizzeria: Buffalo Location, Restaurant Gary Danko).

Google Maps Business Record: A journey in search of accuracy

Earlier today EarlPearl asked the question: Where is the information turning up erroneously? in the comments section of my write-up of the business record in Maps that contained so many errors.

While EarlPearl intended the question in its simplest form it triggered a thought experiment for me. Where could it be wrong? I came up with the following list of possiblities:

•Authoritative OneBox
•Local 10-Pack
•Maps List view
•Maps Expanded View #1
•Maps Expanded View #2 (More Details)
•Organic Search Results w/ Plus Box

The answer was illustrative. For a period this afternoon the record was visible in most of those places with a surpising degree of variability. Unfortunately I didn’t do screen captures of each of them but I have my notes:

Accuracy Details
Authoritative OneBox Accurate
Local 10-Pack wrong phone number (248) 746-0037
Maps List view Accurate
Maps Expaneded View #1 Accurate
Maps Expanded View #2 Many Errors Mostly from Details Section
Organic Search Results w/Plus Box NA No plus box

Much of the information that was showing was information that I had recently entered in the LBC and was accurate: website, business name, accurate phone number, street address, Suite info (added yesterday). These pieces of information had not really been available to Google until last week.

All of the inaccurate information had come from referenced links on the details page. What was surprising was that the Authoritative OneBox had accurate results yet the listing in the Local 10-Pack had an erroneous phone number.

Most of the bad information appears to have come from references in the details section of the business record in Maps. Whatever caused those details to be associated with the record was 1) the source of the bad info and 2)being given precedence over Local Business Center data in the Local 10-Pack (and elsewhere). None of those other references in the details section of the local record had any mention of Dr. Schubiner and most (with the exception of the Carbondale, IL Doctor) were about Providence Hospital.

Curiouser and curioser. I did create a post at the Google Groups Maps for Business titled Local Record of MInd Body Pain Clinic taking on a life of its own. Stay tuned for Goolge’s answer.
Continue reading Google Maps Business Record: A journey in search of accuracy

Google Maps Record Failures – Can they handle my personal medical records?

I have recently noted examples (here & here) of merged business records in Google Maps. It appears that this phenomena and the rogue hospital phone number issues of Duke University and other medical centers are related.

Roughly two weeks ago I edited a record in Google Maps for a new web design customer and as has been my recent experience with the LBC, was posted to Maps immediately and correctly with no verification required. My client, also my best college friend, was impressed. However, he called me early this week and noted problems with his Google Maps record:


He had suddenly acquired additional phone numbers and the medical profile of a Doctor in Carbondale, IL with whom he has no relation. The phone numbers were from regional Detroit sites that had his hospital name, St. John Providence Hospital, but no reference to him.

The signals that I had assumed might be causing the problems: website address, web links, web references on his site seem to have had no impact. Like the Duke Center problem, there are multiple offices, phone numbers and doctors at this street address which might explain the confusion on the phone numbers. But there is no descernable relationship on the doctor with whom he was confused.

Google has his complete business record in the LBC so why should they be adding data from other sources anyways? It is one of those situations where one’s confidence in their ability to handle personal medical records might be called into question.

Review Sites in the Restaurant World – Updated Feb 2008

Updated 2/26/08

In the past I examined which review sites were being used by Google in Maps for Restaurants in Buffalo, NY. While the research is not scientific in the sense that I do not look at the same restaurants each time but look at the top 10, it doesn’t provide a complete list of review sites but it does provide insight to the comings and goings of review sites and the dynamic nature of the ones that Google is using at any given point in time.

Directory 2008 February Listings 2008 January Listings 2006 November Listings 1 11 3   6 8 7 3 70   10 4   1 4 1 4 2 4 9 4
Google 5     3
InsiderPages 20   1 2 41     1     1 1   2   10 7     2   3 5   1 2     3
TripAdvisor 31   17 7 20    

Continue reading Review Sites in the Restaurant World – Updated Feb 2008

Local Links of Interest

Google Local Maps Is Not Yellow Pages – Miriam Ellis, SEO Igloo

An insightful piece on the conflict between SMB expecations and reality in Google Maps and what Google can do to help improve the situation.

In the “not every Map Idea is a Good Map Idea” Category:

My Neighbors are Nucking Futs – Jerrold,

Sometimes truly ill-conceived ideas meet easily-accessed technology and make it to the web. Rotten Neighbors (pardon the American spelling) is one such not-so-bright idea that somehow made it through development and has gone live online.The idea is simple. Using the Google Maps interface, you point to a house or building and tell the world how crazy/sleazy/ugly/horny/etc the occupants are.

Why Google Apps is a Serious Threat to Microsoft Office – Bernard Lunn,

Not only is Google miles ahead of MS on collaboration, they have moved ahead on mobile access. I have long believed that mobile would be a key driver for Web Office. Now I can get access to my Docs from my Blackberry. When I switch to an iPhone with that bigger screen, I will be able to say “sayonara” to my laptop even more. In that world, MS Office looks like a real dinosaur.

The changing nature of Local Search

I ran across this ad for a “Local Search Expert” this morning in the Houston Craig’s List:


This ad intriuged me on a number of levels. One could draw conclusions about the SEM industry, the Local 10-Pack or the need for qualified pros in major markeets.

But the takeaway for me was that Local has arrived. Local is no longer just the province of hotels, restauarants and florists. The percieved value of this type of exposure has reached into the deepest levels of the local business world. For a roofing company to be willing to pay for the service inidcates to me the changing perception and reality that is local.

Google Maps User Survey

Google Maps does seem to be on the Self Improvement Plan of late. Today I noticed a survey to take:


Here is a link to an HTML file of a copy the survey: google-maps-user-happiness-survey.html

I guess Google wasn’t happy with my one person assessment of the situation. So here is your chance to have some input. Head over to Maps, login and let Google know what you are thinking. The survey is quite short with only 13 questions and is very focused on user satisfaction and experience.

Here is the one question that might motivate you to head over:


Local Links of Interest

Nokia and Google battle for the mobile web – Jack Ewing, businessweek

With the cell phone fast becoming an Internet entry point of choice, the handset maker is grappling with Google over the wireless Web

Geo-blogging with Google Maps – Scott Gilbertson, Wired

Tony Hirst, who also created the amazing Google Calendar-on-a-map mashup we told you about last month, is back with a new Yahoo Pipe that makes it dead simple to blog from within Google Maps.Taking advantage of Google’s MyMaps feature, which allows you to create and customize your own maps, Hirst has created a Yahoo Pipe that can parse the output of your map and turn it into a geo-aware RSS feed — perfect for adding a location context to your posts.

Google Earth Founder promises rural images in Google Earth to improve – Desmoines Register

Ohazama also said that Google Earth technicians are trying to update data in more rural areas, such as Iowa…. Imagery they receive for these areas tends to be washed out, so they’re currently cleaning it up so it doesn’t look like big “gray blobs,” he said, although he wasn’t sure when Iowa’s data would be refreshed.

Google Static Map api – Google Blogoscoped

I didn’t realize how valuable this could be until Google Blogoscoped showed the simple code required to make it happen. Lots of SMB websites need nothing more

...The Static Maps API seems like a nice alternative to the full-blown JavaScript API – it’s not interactive, but a little more accessible.

Google Map’s Carter Maslan: Categories upgrade coming soon

Is a Google Categories fix is on the way?

After recently completing a number of posts on the problems, background and possible work arounds to the Google Maps category issues, I was able to interview Google’s Carter Maslan, Maps Product Management Director. It appears that a fix to the category issues is on the way.

He noted that he and Google were painfully aware of the categorization issues that had been identified here and in the Google Groups postings, that he shared the small business user’s dissatisfaction and he assured me that they have been working on the fixes. Some of those may be ready is as few as a couple of weeks.

I am anxious to see the solution to this problem. I am not sure whether it is relief at finally being able to stop beating my head against the wall or that I will finally be able to start complaining about something else 🙂 but I am glad that Google will attempt to offer up a solution. Being the skeptic that I am, I need to see to believe but I was encouraged by my conversation with Carter.

You may read the whole interview at SearchEngineLand: Google Maps Categories: Will The Pain End Soon?

Developing Knowledge about Local Search