Posts Tagged ‘Local Search’

It’s All In The Timing

Saturday, January 9th, 2010
phone_book
Creative Commons License photo credit: How can I recycle this

I was recently reminded of this little story and thought I’d share.

I was at a “local search” conference and one of the keynote speakers was the owner of an upstart yellow pages publisher that was taking a huge chunk of the market share in a major Metro.

In the Q&A, the guy was asked: How did you erode the incumbent’s market-share so quickly?

His answer went something like this:

“Ma’am, what do you do with your old yellowpages book as soon as the new one shows up?”

Her answer was, predictably, “Get rid of it.”

He continued: “Of course! Which is precisely why we publish our book three months after the other guys.”

Social Meets Local with Praized

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

praized-wordle I started my web career at a little local search engine called TrueLocal which was owned at the time by Geosign. Both are now, as far as I know defunct, though TrueLocal’s site is still seems functional.

About the time that I left TrueLocal, Yelp, Restaurantica and others were tearing up the local search scene with ratings and reviews. As the guy responsible for product development at TrueLocal, I was under considerable pressure from above to add similar recommendation features to the search engine.

I resisted because it just didn’t seem to me that ratings and reviews added any value at all to the local search experience. Random recommendations from “Joey37”, for example, didn’t mean a heckuva lot to me when I was trying to decide which restaurant to take the in-laws to for seafood.

The reason there is no value was that I have no idea who Joey37 is. Is he that guy that always finds something to complain about? Or is he the guy that always thinks the last lace he’s been is the “best place ever!”

So the development team at TrueLocal began exploring the possibilities of avoiding unqualified reviews like Joey37 but allowing ratings and reviews from people we knew. When my real friends rate and review things, I usually know exactly how much salt I’ll need to take with it.  The problem was, ultimately, context – or a lack thereof. Unfortunately, we never had the chance at TrueLocal to follow through on our research.

praized Last week, however, Praized Media, founded by Sebastien Provencher, Harry Wakefield and Sylvain Carle, finally took the wraps off their local search platform that’s been brewing for over a year. Funded by Garage Ventures, the Praized team has been slaving away in Montreal developing a truly social local search platform.

The result? It pretty much rocks! I was lucky enough to be the very first publisher to launch an API implementation of their platform using their own WordPress plugin – and some custom bits. I’ve also been using their Praize’n’raze Facebook application for about a week.

The secret sauce of the Praized recommendation engine is that it is context-sensitive. The Praized ratings made at one site do not appear on other publisher’s Praized sites. While that sounds like it limits the usefulness of the platform, it’s actually genius. Praized explains it this way:

a Praized installation on a vegan blog will have completely different restaurant recommendations than on a meat-lovers’ blog because the two groups have fundamentally different tastes.

The Praized team has been getting lots of attention since unveiling the platform and they deserve it – it’s a brilliant blend of local search and social media.

Congrats! to Seb, Harry, Sylvain and the rest of the Praized team on a job well done!

Random Thoughts in Philly

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

(Details on these to follow)

People are walking around in short sleeves — in Philly — in November!

McGillins Pub is awesome – but you’d never find it if you didn’t know it was there.

I learned something about hockey in America – which led me to realize something about newspapers and local search. No really.

Quality beats volume EVERY TIME.

I love my job. ;)

Google makes a change that just makes sense

Monday, September 18th, 2006

Matt Cutts posted an article this morning about a change in the way Google handles URL queries. The change makes absolute sense – I’d always kinda wondered why Google didn’t do this in the first place.

Beyond explaining the change, Matt makes some very good, and oft-forgotten, points about what he calls N users and M users. N users are the relatively small number of Google power-users who understand and use the myriad of special queries available on Google – info:, inurl: ,site:, etc. The rest are M users – a larger number by several orders of magnitude.

At work, we continually remind ourselves and each other that 98% of the people in our office are N users. Similarly, our friends are likely at least M+ users – somewhere between M and N. Everyone who works on the web in a professional way must maintain a circle of contacts that are clear M users, that they can call on to say “Does this make sense to you?”. The challenge is, of course, that people learn and so M user testers have a shelf life – their usefulness expires as they learn how to “do the web.” My parents’ generation is the best source of M testers, but they are learning too. And, of course, the skill set of the M user is not a constant. A few years ago, profficiency with word processor software was limited to N users – whereas now, these skills (if basic) are ubiquitous at the M level.

The only way to discern the M/N split in skills is to pay close attention to your feedback. Assume that the vast majority of feedback, say 80% or more, is from M users. Those are the users to whom your site/app must make sense. The other 20% of N users will adapt. It is far too tempting to dismiss the feedback that says “I didn’t understand”, or “I’m confused by…” as a minority that didn’t try hard enough.

Congratulations to Google (and Matt) for a) recognizing the problem and b) risking the wrath of their vocal N users in an effort to improve the experience of their M users.