When Local Search Isn’t Really Local

Filed in Local Search by Matt McGee on March 27, 2007 6 Comments

It’s ironic that the floral industry — purveyors of bright, smile-inducing flower arrangements and heartfelt gift items — might be using cut-throat marketing tactics to hurt local flower shops. And they might be getting help from major yellow pages providers to do it, while Yahoo seems to be turning a blind eye to what’s going on.

What am I talking about?

Cathy of Avante Gardens, a florist in Anaheim, wrote today about national flower suppliers using underhanded techniques to own local search queries. Cathy’s example is a Yahoo Local search for florists in Chicago:

“…the rest of the page is front-loaded with out-of-state call centers posing as Chicago florists. The listings including local phone exchanges forwarding calls thousands of miles away, phony map points and fake local addresses – all added to fool consumers.”

What’s more, Cathy points out that Yahoo’s “Edit This Listing” feature is disabled on these listings*, and she alleges that some user reviews which pointed out the non-local data have been deleted.

There’s a lot going on here, so start by reading Cathy’s post, and be sure to follow the link near the end to FloristDetective.com that adds more fuel to the fire about the relationship between not-so-local florists and yellow pages providers.

(Hat tip: Cathy, via comment on Rae’s blog)

* To be fair, I’m seeing some other, non-florist local listings which also have the “Edit This Listing” feature disabled.

[tags]local search[/tags]

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  1. Flowers from Minneapolis/St. Paul... or Somewhere « LocalMN Blog | March 29, 2007
  1. Cathy says:

    Hey Matt –

    Thanks for picking up on this story. Unfortunately, publishing phony local flower shops isn’t new: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/flwralrt.htm The web has only increased the opportunities for these types of ‘order gatherers’ to dupe consumers.

    Yahoo Local’s featured listing plan is pitched as being available only to real local businesses. Yet apparently for the right price, a company can insert local remote call forwarded numbers and list themselves as being ‘in’ cities across the US: http://www.google.com/search?as_q=&hl=en&num=10&btnG=Google+Search&as_epq=Exceptional+Flowers+%26+Gifts&as_oq=&as_eq=&lr=&as_ft=i&as_filetype=&as_qdr=all&as_nlo=&as_nhi=&as_occt=any&as_dt=i&as_sitesearch=local.yahoo.com&as_rights=&safe=images This particular company’s site is hosted by FTD, who also makes a cut on each sale.

    Consumers trust publishers not to intentionally deceive them. They also trust national floral wire services, but as you can see, that trust is misplaced, too.

    Local florists are not inclined to give these publishers ad dollars when they’re so willing to promote phony local competitors.

  2. Miriam says:

    Good catch on this one, Matt.

    This is similar to the frustration of finding top 10 results filled with price comparison results rather than actual websites. Grrrr. I believe I recently read that Google may start filtering out these types of results…however, that’s not of much help in this local issue.

    Monopolies are no fun. Bad for all of us.

  3. Matt McGee says:

    Thanks for the comments and links, Cathy and Miriam. I’m glad to see this got some exposure on other sites, too.

  4. copywriter39 says:

    One of my clients is a local florist and much of her business comes from local search. Ironically those purchasing flowers online are primarily customers from out of town looking to have flowers delivered in her locale. We are constantly monitoring the competition and have found that many aren’t local florist shops. Instead they are florist who have no connection to the community. This article highlights something that may impact a number of local businesses, not just florist.

  5. Matt McGee says:

    It is a problem, copywriter, and I suspect it may only get worse as the big, national advertisers begin to move in to the local search space — both on the paid and the natural side.

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