Local/Review sites – time for consolidation?

Filed in Local Search, Word of Mouth by Matt McGee on October 16, 2006 1 Comment

On ClickZ today, Kate Kaye takes a look at two new services that fit loosely into the ever-changing “local-search-but-with-a-twist” niche — a niche that’s pretty much outgrown the term “niche” now, hasn’t it?

One that Kate looks at is LinkedIn’s recent addition of user recommendations for service/small businesses, which gives me mixed feelings. On one hand, I think of LinkedIn very narrowly as a personal networking tool, and while I might like to keep up with various individuals in my industry, or people I went to college with, etc. … I’m not sure I’d be swayed at all by their local likes and dislikes.

The other Kate checks is Grayboxx, which doesn’t rely on reviews or ratings. Instead, if I’m reading this right, it ranks local businesses according to mentions in various online databases such as address books, calendars, and even tagged photos. For real? So … the fact that I took a photo 7 months ago of the Tri-City Hoedown Center as a joke is now counting as a personal recommendation I’ve made about the business?

I’d like to learn more about this one, and thankfully Greg Sterling is on the case.

But what strikes me is that we seem to be getting closer and closer to an inevitable consolidation. This space is a lot wider than it is deep, and if you’re advising small business clients, where do you tell them to focus what little time they often have for this kind of marketing?

Yahoo! has its own local directory complete with a ratings system and recent additions such as photos and tags, which give it more end-user value than most competitors. Still, as aggressive as Yahoo! has been in the past about buying communities (think del.icio.us and Flickr), you’d think they might also be interested in buying some of the communities that are developing around Local Search.

Google is far behind on the reviews/ratings train, but last week’s purchase of YouTube proves that Google has found that “web community” religion. A smart buy or two could make Google Maps/Local an infinitely more compelling service for both searchers and small business owners almost overnight — or at least as quickly as G could integrate what it buys.

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for MSN to do anything, as they seem much more inclined to build it themselves rather than buy it.

[tags]local search, user reviews, ratings, linkedin, linked in, grayboxx, yahoo, google, msn, microsoft, alternative sem[/tags]

Comments (1)

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  1. bobchandra says:

    Matt,

    It turns out that the exception you referred to (storing information as a joke) is rare compared to the cases where people keep information (ie: address book contact) on businesses they want to maintain an ongoing relationship with. Any popularity algorithm, PageRank included, has noise to the signal. If Site A said “Site B is the worst designed site” yet linked to it, Site B would increase in rank on Google. However, since people generally link for the right reasons, PageRank works. Similarly, grayboxx’s PreferenceScoring, which works on various kinds of user data (tagged photos are actually a small fraction of our engine data), generally correlates with both critic’s picks and user rankings in the few categories that users and critics get around to ranking. We then provide ranked results to about 2,500 categories uniquely. Our beta will be available in the winter, for all to try.

    Best,
    Bob Chandra
    grayboxx

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