Mar 22 2007
People often complain about the results when they search on an online directory. When I say online directory, I am referring of course to a business directory, such as Yellow Pages, or dLook (a site which I co-founded). Not to be confused with a search engine like Google. I make this distinction because, whilst we are becoming more specific with our search engine searches, and the results are rewarding, we are often being frustrated by the results returned to us in local searches.
Sometimes it’s because the directory is flawed, other times because the search is ill defined. This is, to an extent, the fault of the searcher. Searchers are often too general with search terms, for example if a user searches for a “car”, does that mean that they want to buy a car, rent a car, or service a car. We can throw results back at the user, but chances are they won’t be the right one. Hence the opportunity to refine search results.
Another common complaint with directory searches is what happens if the user is a bad speller? You would honestly be surprised at the number of misspelling there are for the word “restaurant”. Try searching for “restrant” or “doktor” in some online directories and more often than not you won’t get a result.
A while back Cord at Marketing Hipster had this to say about the customer experience;
I do not believe that any of the online yellow pages nor local search has really hit any critical mass when it comes to giving users a great customer experience. It got me thinking, how many millions of dollars does it cost these companies to create, print and ship all these paper phone books all across the country? If one of these companies took a third of that cost and focused on developing a true experience on the web, how many millions of dollars could they save in the future by not having to print and deliver all these books?
At dLook we don’t print and distribute books, and we have only a small percentage of the budget of some other directories, but we automatically receive feedback about the searches performed on our site, and are continually tweaking the results as a consequence. I don’t think that you can have that level of intimacy on the larger sites.
To this end I have written a tutorial on how to get the best search results for the dLook directory on our news blog. Seems like obvious stuff, but I know it isn’t. (And don’t forget that you can list your Australian business for free).
How about you? What’s your beef with local directories? What frustrates you? What would make a directory search a better experience for you? Where do you go to find a local business, especially in Australia?