YellowBot – Local Search that Works

Over the years I have been thoroughly unimpressed with for local search, yet in a display of cognitive dissonance I keep using them when I need to find a local business. Almost every time I give up and Google, which itself is okay but not great for local search. The categories are confusing, their notion of local doesn’t map to mine (they returned South El Monte for something… that’s LA), the reviews are practically non-existent, and the interface is confusing.

So yesterday I need to find an appliance parts store and after yet another frustrating experience with, I ended up googling and by chance found local search engine What a pleasant surprise.

The interface is smart, using tags and skipping categorization altogether while instead relying on good search. I searched on a couple of different business types and in each case the list of returned items was pretty damn good. The review data is spotty but that’s not surprising, it looks early stage, but in some categories it’s not bad. I have two standard searches that I use to test local search, “pizza” and “car wash” and in each case I was impressed with the results.

I haven’t tried the mobile version yet but suspect it will be similarly useful.


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Cakes and Local Search

Need a cake for a special occasion? Want a one-of-a-kind cake that really stands out? Here in the Bay Area you can go to Studio Cake with nothing more than an idea and you will get something really unique and tasty in return.

The picture below is the birthday cake we had yesterday, my wife gave BethAnn a picture she printed from the Web and a stuffed toy to use as a model, and BethAnn delivered it to our house yesterday morning. Not only is it visually impressive, it tasted fantastic as well. It’s all edible, even the “dirt and rocks” which were of course a big hit with the boys. BethAnn Goldberg applies her unique mix of creative ability and structural engineer training to make anything possible.

Why am I posting this? I like to support people and small businesses in my community and this is one way I can do it in addition to giving them my business. Small business success is critically dependent on word-of-mouth advertising and for local consumers it is not a matter of intention but rather knowledge of local businesses that leads to a transaction.

For all of the advances we have made with online technologies, the fact remains that local context is incredibly lacking. Local search engines from Yahoo and Google are really poor as a consequence of their business model (advertising based) and natural language processing limitations. Search on any category or keyword and I can guarantee you that the most interesting businesses are not listed. Try it yourself, Yahoo Local for “custom cakes” doesn’t list Studio Cake, and neither does Google local.

Review sites like Yelp do marginally better but the weakness in their model has always been a dependency on a small number of people who actually write reviews outside of big categories like travel, hospitality, and restaurants. Again, the search granularity comes into play for categories that are not well defined, such as “one of those jumper things for kids birthday parties.”

We have a long way to go before anyone declares a winner against the venerable yellow pages, but if you live on the Peninsula and need a cake, I got you covered.


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