Yellow Pages Sites Beat Google In Local Data Accuracy Test

In the brave new world of “SoLoMo” there are an increasing number of sites and mobile apps competing to help you choose a local business or lead you there. In addition to Google Maps, Yelp and Foursquare there are the venerable yellow pages’ sites and many others. They all get their local data from generally the same several sources; so one might expect all these sites to have comparably accurate information, right?

Apparently not.

Roughly a month ago I spoke with Marc Brombert, the CEO of Implied Intelligence. His company provides a range of data-related services (e.g., enhancement, cleansing, de-duplication) to marketers and publishers. At the conclusion of our call I suggested that Implied Intelligence test the accuracy and completeness of the business listings data on several of the leading local search sites.

Surprise: Yellow pages beat Google for local search

Several weeks later Implied Intelligence sent me the results of its test. They’re a bit unexpected and illuminating. Google, which has probably devoted more effort and resources to local search than any of its competitors, did not come out on top in the test. Overall it placed third. Two yellow pages sites beat it.

Implied Intelligence crawled and hand checked 1,000 independent local business websites in the US (no chains or franchises were included in the test) and compared the information it captured to the data contained on the following sites:

  • Bing Maps
  • Citysearch
  • Dexknows
  • Foursquare
  • Google Maps
  • Mapquest
  • Superpages
  • Yellowpages.com (YP.com)
  • Yelp

The criteria and results

Implied Intelligence evaluated and scored the local search competitors on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Coverage (was the listing present)
  • Number of duplicates
  • Accuracy of information
  • Richness of information (presence of additional information beyond business name, address and phone)

The first table below offers a comparison among these sites in terms of basic listings coverage and accuracy. The yellow highlighting indicates the winner in each category.

The table reflects that Google Maps had the most complete coverage: 80 percent of the 1,000 local listings were present. No site had 100 percent of the 1,000 listings. Foursquare had the worst coverage at only 16.7 percent.

In terms of error percentages, yellow pages site Superpages outperformed the others. YP.com had the fewest duplicate listings in the test.

In terms of enhanced information, YP.com was the winner. Reviews and check-in data were not considered because Implied Intelligence felt this didn’t allow for an “apples to apples” comparison across sites. However, had reviews content been included Yelp, Google and Foursquare would likely have fared better.

Superpages the overall winner

Overall Superpages was the winner, followed by YP.com with Google Maps coming in third. Foursquare was the overall loser. However Yelp also didn’t fare that well either.

To many people these results will be a surprise. (They were to me to some degree.) And some people may charge bias. While I didn’t supervise the test and was not involved in its design I can report that Implied Intelligence has no agenda here. I would and do take the results at face value.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Google: Maps & Local | Search Engines: Maps & Local Search Engines | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

    It’s worth mentioning that the overall search traffic that Google receives dwarfs that of the Yellow Pages and Super Pages. Even if their results were not as accurate, if we’re talking about actual opportunities (clicks and impressions) than Google wins hands down!

  • http://marketing-blog.catalystemarketing.com/ Linda Buquet

    Good point Marc!

    Since I fight with Google Places duplicate listings constantly and ALL my clients have problems with duplicates, I’m surprised the number is not higher. I do realize my numbers are skewed because I specialize in professionals that are more prone to dupes than say Plumbers are, but still.

    Also interesting to see Places has the highest percentage of address errors. 12.5%. I work in the Places forum helping folks with problems daily so see lots of errors, but still 12% seems pretty high.

  • pplant59

    What’s your point Marc? Are you arguing for quantity ahead of quality? Consumers are fickle creatures, and particularly with location-dependent search. Clicks and impressions to inaccurate data will eventually hurt Google if it doesn’t sort its accuracy issues. Big doesn’t always mean best, especially if it sends you somewhere miles away from where you wanted to be!

  • Dennis Brennan

    I’m not really surprised at the results of YP & SP. Reason being is they employed many Sales Advertising Professionals over the years and made sure they crossed their “T’s” & dotted their “i’s”, that was their job! 

    The errors in Google Places/Maps are user errors, small business owners making an attempt to  add their information and get interrupted (phone rings, etc) and forget to go back and complete, I’ve seen it many times when I’m asked to assist in their local marketing efforts. 

    Garbage in, garbage out…
    –Dennis

  • http://www.michaelmerritt.org/ Michael Merritt

    I wonder what the criteria was for selecting sites to be included in this study.  Merchant Circle wasn’t included and they’re one of the more popular “find this business in city” sites (at least according to Alexa, however big a grain of salt you want to give those stats).  Albeit, Yelp is bigger, but they’re still up there.

    I don’t expect that MC would have fared very well, but I wonder if some sites were missed that would have scored better than some of the ones included.

  • http://twitter.com/TxLocalSEM Tim Evans

    That Superpages and YP are more accurate doesn’t surprise me at all.  They have more feet on the street and more opportunities for their sales staff to correct their listings.  

    What does surprise me is that Google Places-Maps has the most complete coverage at 80%.   I would have thought that Superpages and YP would be even higher.   

    Google has done a good job of making sure that there are local listings so that they can provide the most relevant search results from a local user standpoint.   I just searched yp.com for carpet cleaning in Keller, tx and the results showed 3 to 4 mostly non-local companies and one local plus one 800 # serving Keller.  AND that was just the paid ads (you can’t even see the free ads below the fold on the site)  
    http://www.yellowpages.com/keller-tx/carpet-cleaning?g=keller%2C+tx&q=carpet+cleaning 

    Do the same search on Google and you get a 7 pack of 5 local and 2 near local.

    Google still delivers the best local search results accurate or not!

  • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

    Not at all…obviously having 10 people show up at your site with their credit card in hand is more valuable than 100 that are there by accident while looking for a different product or service. However, you also need to go where the people are. I don’t know very many people that search the Yellow Pages or Super Pages when looking for anything. Their first stop is usually Google. Like it or not. The Yellow/Super pages are a fraction of a percent. Now, that may very well change some day in the future in which case I would change my strategy if that day ever came, but as it stands right now, it’s not hurting Google to be a few percentage points down. Besides, it’s not as if Google were just sitting back and doing nothing about it. They are constantly adjusting their algorithms in order to improve their results so it’s going to be tough to sneak up and pull the rug out from under them.

  • http://twitter.com/Mikewilliams199 Mike Williams

    Im still a Google fan thru and thru!

  • George Johnson

    This isn’t about businesses and where they spend marketing dollars.  Its about user experience.  Your posts dont jive with the article.

  • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

    I know you are but what am I? :) Just trying to have a conversation sparked by the article…was not out to offend anyone or rub anyone the wrong way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chillycreek David Williams

    Greg, in analyzing the phone number accuracy, were call tracking numbers considered?  In many instances sites offering these numbers to advertisers to track their call metrics may publish numbers that visually do not appear to be the same as the actual business number but they are “forwarded” for tracking purposes to the underlying number. Not sure if your methodology required that Implied Intelligence call each number to verify that it rang the right business owner’s phone?

  • gregsterling

    @David . . . I can’t answer the question re call tracking. I didn’t design the study or monitor the process. I can introduce you to Marc Brombert and you can discuss it with him directly if you’re interested.

  • http://www.empiricalintegratedmarketing.com/ Empirical CEO

    I would like to see how Merchant Circle would compare.  I think it would be very interesting to see just how well they would have performed in numbers found and % of errors.  I think they might have outperformed some of those that were reviewed, particularly in errors.

  • http://twitter.com/JsonCulverhouse Jason Culverhouse

    I was the Chief Architect at MerchantCircle from day one until late 2010.  My gut says they would have at worst come in between the Yelp and CitySearch numbers, there is a possibility they would perform better depending on the distribution of business type.  You can see this in the foursquare results so I’m guessing that ~20% of the sample was food and dining.
    This is really a data provider function and the best data provides only have ~80% accuracy.  Duplicates are a big problem because data sources have to be correlated and sometime people register their business wrong (even with their local City/County) and make incremental changes that cause these duplicates.   

  • Catalysts SEO

    Other local business directories have beaten Google in many ways. Specially with the criteria of duplication. Google is still struggling to fix this.

    - Search engine marketing – http://www.seocatalysts.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.wallack Steve Wallack

    One of the most important criteria was not looked at in this report. That is the number of businesses that are no longer open for business but still listed. I am in the hyper-local small business field and am amazed at the number of listings that all of the mentioned resources show that have closed their doors and/or another business has moved in but the resource still shows that they exist. Very frustrating for a user when they drive someplace expecting the business to be there and they are not. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joel-Martinek/100002290206642 Joel Martinek

    Marc, you make good points, people will go to Google when looking for information.  But of the last 100 times you’ve been to Google, how many times have you actually bought something?  Google Maps have come a long way, but they’re still often a 7 pack or a 10 pack surrounded by 4 million natural results.  The online yellow pages are still around because they show only local relevant results.  They’re not trying to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.  Their entire sites are built with the sole purpose of facilitating local purchases.
        
    You’re right, no one else has the traffic Google does.  But according to compete.com, the yp sites listed in the article had over 45 million unique visitors in March.  Why would someone go to these sites unless they wanted to make a purchase?  So if you’re talking customer strategy, why would you not make sure you’re in both places?

  • Chad Williams

    I couldn’t agree more because it seems that the majority of businesses are listed with outdated information ranging from address to phone numbers and like you mentioned, whether or not they are still in business. Would have been nice to see this in the report.

  • http://twitter.com/dub3media dub3media

    I completely agree with @google-9b0a3f97a009c40a5ce4d0f10d35e787:disqus and @twitter-247522883:disqus ; YPs win because 1) historical data, 2) active sales force and 3) local biz owners are motivated to get accurate info in listings they pay for. No surprise to me. I bet YPs have more errors with non-paid listings with data from the big three aggregators.

    @facebook-650192428:disqus , you’re right. Call Tracking numbers are the herpes of listings management. Try as you might to kill them, once you’ve got’em they’ll keep popping up.

  • webforjason

    What can’t be lost in the argument either is how the inaccurate data will affect a business’s search ranking.

  • telrific

    This only goes to show why an effort like Yellow Search ® global directory has more value in the end than all the other efforts.  Even a transition to Telpages ® that verifies data on an annual basis with the Yellow Search ® .tel verification service becomes an easy sell when you take into consideration the trouble with accuracy, updates, and credibility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christopher.vanderhorst Christopher Vanderhorst

    Well said. I know that effort is just beginning, but it is very promising.  Having a Yellow Names master address is a no-brainer today, and .tel and Telpages along with the Yellow Search service is the way of the future. User control, verified data, Yellow trusted association.

  • Jozef Foerch

    people get soooo angry over the Google vs. IYP discussion since it means that they will inevitably need a new job once the IYP market crashes.

  • Dan Truax

    I am 44. When I am at home and I need a service around my house, say for example, pest control, I look in the Yellow Pages. Real story, did it the other day without even reflecting on it until I read this article. It is much faster than turning on my computer and going to Google. As for my Droid – the screen is too small and there is too much scrolling and clicking to make it useful for this purpose. I love Google and I use Google+ at work for networking, email, etc. However, I do not use it for my local needs. The people who are using Google and not Yellow Pages are probable college kids or 20-30 somethings who don’t have as much disposable income and don’t own a home.

  • Matt McGee

    I’m 43. I’m not in college. I own a home. I haven’t owned a yellow pages book in probably 3-4 years now.

    Coincidentally, just yesterday at work, my wife and a colleague were arguing over this topic and they decided to see who could find a certain phone number faster. My wife found it in about 10 seconds online. The other person was still fumbling with the book. :-)

  • Joy Hawkins

    I’m surprised CitySearch didn’t score worse.  Most times when I find wrong addresses and phone numbers it seems to originate from them.  I recently did a check on 11 of the businesses I work with and 3 of them had two listings on CitySearch, the rest had three or more (a lot had 4-6). Yahoo Local also drives me nuts.  They have all these services that feed to them and so most of my clients have 3+ listings on Yahoo Local (1 from Yext, 1 from their Yellowpages.com ad, 1 from CitySearch etc).  I wonder how Yahoo would’ve done on this test.

  • Dan Truax

     I can see that happening, if the computer is available and turned on. At home, mine is either off or the kids or on it. Regarding that story about the pest control, I could see 5-6 ads and make side by side comparisons in a moment. Perhaps this is not an entertaining or gaming experience, but very useful and practical. I would recommend keeping a yellow pages somewhere handy, just in case your computer crashes or is unavailable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-Fagundes/1652832303 Eric Fagundes

    I agree Joel, It seems to me that there are two great search engines at play here… Google and the YP sites. Each has their own nitch and should not be mutually exclusive.

  • art yon

    Small bits of content which are explained in details, helps me understand the topic, thank you!
    Geoklix

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