Following local search to nowhere

One of the big frustrations I have with local search is that the data is often old. With many sites, the information can be 18 months old. More than once I’ve driven to businesses that were no longer in business.

My favorite ice cream place closed up shop and moved across town recently, but you wouldn’t know it from Switchboard or Google Maps. On SuperPages, you’ll see the new location. But if you knew that there was one in Clarendon, you would be scratching your head.

According to comScore, 52% of those doing a local search were looking for a specific business address or phone numbers. For many of those users, knowing that a business existed and has closed is important information. Of course, you wouldn’t want to show closed businesses in a category search (“ice cream places in Arlington, VA”).

In a Web 2.0 world, local search shouldn’t be relying solely on updates from Acxiom and InfoUSA. Users should be able to easily report closed businesses. If the report is unverified, an indicator would appear saying “reported closed”, signaling to the user to call before venturing out. Verified reports would have a more definitive statement.

The best experience right now is on Yelp. You can see the address of the new location, plus see a discussion (started by me) that talks about the old location being closed. Still, this requires that users scroll down and read discussions.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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