That’s a direct (if slightly cleaned up quote) from my lovely wife lamenting her inability to find anything useful in local search. We were out and about looking for things for our new house. The goal was to equip our poolroom. The first search result for “pool table store” was a shop that had closed a few months ago, the next was for a local billiards hall, the next was for an installation service, the next was for a shop with a local phone number with no address, but when I called them they turned out to be in a town 40 miles away. The next five results were for various directory sites, most of which took a second search or multiple clicks to generate any results at all. After the directories came listings from Yelp for the Billiards hall and another to a repair and service company. The one shop we did go to wasn’t listed at all. The ads weren’t especially helpful either … mostly national brands.
The reasons why search is so horrible are legion; companies start, change location and fail, they frequently have little or no information available online which makes discovery by search engines more difficult. Siri on my iPhone wasn’t much help, either. In fact, it feels to me like Siri is getting more stupid over time. My instincts are that local search will remain lame until the search engines get down at least one more layer of detail and consolidate that data into one presentation. The problem isn’t necessarily that the data isn’t available. In most cases it is, however, to get to all the data the end user frequently has to leave the results and dig down into other directory sites or business websites. The directories can be hard to navigate and the vast majority of local business websites (where they have them) are brochure sites that are typically horrible to navigate.
If the search engines could do the work to drill down and discover all the data from multiple data sources (as opposed to just presenting the sources to the end user and abandoning them) then consolidate that data into a single presentation layer, I think we’d make a large step forwards. The presentation layer itself should be the map. It’s already the weapon of choice on most mobile devices and in the same way that the Yelp Monocle tried to augment reality to allow users to see data as an overlay. The much touted Google glasses are certainly a step in the right direction, but I already have a mobile device complete with a camera and screen, and that just seems to be the best fit for this kind of data delivery.