Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


Google Local in Canada: So what?

As you have likely heard, Google Local is now available in Canada, allowing you to search for things "local" to your physical location.

The example given is coffee shops in Vancouver BC. And indeed, that's what is shows...sort of. It defaults to 75km. Switch it to 2km, and it certainly doesn't show much of Vancouver, and it doesn't refresh the search when you re-center the map. Now what about coffee shops in Surrey? One result? Not very good.

So what's wrong with this picture?

Looking a little closer, you see at the bottom of the page "Business listings distributed by™". OK, so only businesses in the YellowPages are going to show up.

Aside: And by the way, check out the URL for a search for coffee shops in Vancouver on the site:

No wonder they are partnered with Google -- there is no way any of their content is ever going to rank highly in search engines -- it's hidden behind bad URLs and a private database that doesn't participate in the web ecology of linking organically. And of course I can't link to individual entries. End Aside.

So how do I add information to this? How do I comment on an entry? How do I add the details for the 6 coffee shops I know are within a block or two of me that aren't listed? You can't, because robots in California are running the show.

This is one area where locally run, directory-style websites will trump local search, likely for quite some time. Even better, make them community run: allow anyone to submit content, filling in details for their favourite corner store or best takeout Mongolian. And add trackback, comments, pictures. Give every physical location and street address a permanent URL.

For extra bonus points, local directories can follow best practices and optimize their pages and listings to gain high search engine rankings. Heck, they can even encode GeoURL information, making it easier for tools like Google Local to actually work right.