Local search has moved to the forefront in reviews and social applications. Google has begun rolling out a free local search dashboard that gives small businesses the ability to enhance listings in Google Maps. The dashboard provides statistics on the most frequently searched keywords to stats on local search traffic and ZIP codes.
Similar to the way that Google Analytics provides Web site owners with information about site visitors, the dashboard serves up data on how visitors landed at the company's local listing. Bringing a deeper level of personalization to social local search are companies such as Click2Connect, which also unveiled a social local search Web site and Facebook application. The tool provides access to ratings and reviews of local businesses from friends in the network, relying on Google Maps to pinpoint and advertise the business listing. Reviews publish in the Facebook feed.
Russell Gain, founder and CEO at Click2Connect, couldn't find reliable reviews from friends after researching a hotel in Europe. "I was reading a review where the guy was going on and on about the great hotel, but complained about the expensive drinks," he says. "It's clear these people should not have wandered into the hotel. They were more a Holiday Inn crowd."
People have different perspectives, agreed Gain, but he says if one of his frugal friends wrote the review he would have understood his view better than reading advice from a stranger. After all, now living in London, Gain knows Europe is more expensive than the United States -- especially at this time of year.
The plan to enhance search capabilities through the Web site and connecting applications will deliver search on the BlackBerry and the iPhone within 60 to 70 days. Today, the search feature available in Facebook ranks reviews based on the person's social network of friends. One searches on keywords such as "cavity" to return listings for local dentists from friends.
Users can view three business ratings by stars: "Person," "Friends" and "General Public." The site assigns between one and five stars. Reviews only appear from people in the friend's network. The "friends" rating system is intended to rid anonymous comments and negative feedback from competitors. Gain says Yelp has dealt with several lawsuits since January because prior policy had not allowed merchants to comment back, even on negative posts.
The advertising model focuses on viral campaigns and word-of-mouth marketing, along with an option to have the site write a review on the merchant's business, similar to Citysearch. In about 45 days, companies could have an option to sign up accounts to add profiles and videos.
Consumers also have access to online content manager Localeze's business info on more than 16 million local businesses. Click2Connect is one of the first local search companies to use Localeze's new Confidence Score as part of its overall relevancy algorithm to validate the accuracy of name, phone number and address.