Google Local Search is Broken, and It’s Not Their Fault

Takes a look at local searches on Google, and why the quality of results is sorely lacking.

I have found myself becoming increasingly underwhelmed with the quality of search results I encounter while running searches for local businesses and services on Google. For example, try running a search for [Minneapolis plumber] or [Minneapolis electrician] to get a feel for what I’m seeing. When I run searches like this, I’m expecting to find results from local businesses. However, I tend to encounter a search results page dominated by national lead aggregation services who provide little to no information about the local services I’m trying to research.

In my perfect search world, searches like this would bring back links to actual local businesses who will explain their services on their own web sites so I can decide who’s an appropriate fit for me.

I don’t want to see yellow page results at the top of the rankings that provide nothing more than a list of phone numbers. If that’s what I wanted, I’d just grab a YP book, or go directly to a YP site.

I’m not looking for leads aggregator sites like respond.com, servicemagic.com, or findaplumber.com that simply want to sell my name to the highest bidder rather than letting me select the business that’s the best fit for my needs

I don’t want to link to the homepage of national chain companies, only to be asked for my zip code after clicking from a geo-qualified search result.

Should Google be blamed for poor local search?

I’m been giving this some thought, and I think the answer is no. In my opinion, the biggest reason we see poor local results is the poor job local businesses have done marketing themselves online. Because of this, national companies who understand the web – but don’t necessarily know a thing about plumbing or electricity – are becoming gatekeepers for online leads. I’m convinced that Google would love to show more interesting results for local search than they tend to do today, but it’s up to local businesses to provide quality relevant content, and take at least some basic steps needed to make sure their sites can be found.

What do you think?

Are local businesses missing the boat? How satisfied are you with local search results on Google today? Why do you think more local businesses haven’t realized the value of web marketing?

3 thoughts on “Google Local Search is Broken, and It’s Not Their Fault”

  1. The following post from SearchReturn Discussion List just hit my inbox:

    I have a potential client who is a dentist. He keeps heckling me about setting up a website, but he is not convinced it will bring in leads and make sales. Obviously, it is a local market he is after, and I recommended PPC to start and wait on any time intensive natural SEO. Are there any resources which show user stats for his industry? Any hardcore data I can show him that will assuage his trepedation about jumping online?
    Meanwhile he is spending 1000/mo on 1-800-dentist. Its clear to me that a website is his best option, I need some data to prove it.

    The dentist is spending $1000 per month to buyleads from 1-800-dentists. Try searching for [minneapolis dentists] or the same term in your locality. See an add for 1800dentist.com? I do.
    Another example of a poor search result caused by local businesses lagging behind national lead aggregators. Don’t blame Google. The problem is caused by the local businesses who, 1. don’t understand web marketing, and/or 2. still don’t have a web presense worth marketing.
    By the way, you can subscribe to the SearchReturn Discussion List at:
    http://www.searchreturn.com/subscribe.shtml

  2. I think you’re right, Larry. A local business that builds a quality local web site and markets it locally should be able to compete against national lead aggregators. They offer what people are really searching for. The only problem is you can’t find them today.

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