Tuesday, July 26, 2005
In doing a quick search for the San Jose Hilton, I noticed there was a fair bit of info available through Google Local, like how many rooms, whether pets are accepted, parking situation, etc.
It's not clear, though, that the hotel has gone into Google Local Business Center to enter this info. It looks like Google has pulled info from Superpages and MobilTravelGuide.com. Obviously, doing this is easier when there are existing info sources, as is the case in the travel industry.
So the "file" on this hotel through Google Local is getting more extensive, including rates, basic hotel information, and a cross-section of reviews (Google continues to pursue the path of "meta-reviews," pointing users to reviews from other sites like Yahoo and wcities.) That's exactly what users are going to want.
But many other types of businesses will need to be more proactive, since Google wouldn't know where to pull info from, if any is indeed available.
The big gap right now is simply in businesses taking advantage of the opportunity and posting their information. Without it, results are messy and hard to find, even for major businesses. (For example, within 80 miles of Toronto, there are about ten La-Z-Boy furniture galleries. The parent site does a good job of giving you product info, and you can look up physical addresses of dealers. But to find out anything about the hours of operation of the local outlets, you need to call. Argh.)
This is one of those "get ahead of your competitors" opportunities that small businesses should take advantage of now. In two years, everyone will have done it, and the playing field will be more level.
It still looks to me as if there will be two kinds of local listings players here: those who act as feeders of raw information to the portals, and the portals themselves, who will get the lion's share of the visits from users who will not tolerate hunting around various directories to get the info they need. Google and Yahoo are still positioned as premier info aggregators, and as such, they profit disproportionately from information they don't directly gather or own (though they can also gather and own content in their own right).
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