Just thinking out loud here…
Bill Slawski just wrote about a new patent application from Google which deals with the local search space, and specifically with how to use “category synonyms” to refine a local search. As Bill explains:
The way that a search engine classifies a business into a category may affect how it is listed in a local search, or in Google’s universal search interface, so a question like this is important. A Cafe that isn’t listed amongst Coffee Houses may not be shown to searchers looking for coffee houses, even though it might be exactly what the searcher wanted to find.
This gets back to a problem we’ve talked about a lot around here: poor business data at the local level. Only a small percentage of business owners have taken ownership of their online business data, and even the ones who have may not be doing a great job of handling their business data. So the patent, as Bill describes it, is an automated way of trying to say, “Hey, you’ve told us you own a bar. We think you might also be a candidate when someone is searching for a tavern.”
Well, when I saw Bill’s post, I immediately thought about a post a couple days earlier that Brian Smith wrote: Google Base Learning.
It seems that Google Base is playing a game of 20 Questions to try to understand more about the products being uploaded into its database. See the image at right, which I’ve lifted from Brian’s post. It’s just one of several screenshots, so if you’re curious what this 20 Questions game looks like, use that link above for more.
Now it’s pretty obvious how this Q&A “game” could be applied to Local Search, isn’t it?
You’ve told us you own a bar.
Is your business a “sports bar”?
Does your business also serve food off a menu?
Should we classify your business as a restaurant, too?
And so forth. Something like that, added into the system when a listing is added or edited in the Local Business Center might really help improve the quality of data in local search.
Like I said, just thinking out loud is all….