Yahoo Local vs Google Maps Beatdown

Many regions are known for different food specialties. I was curious to see where Yahoo Local and Google Maps would send me to try out some of these regional delicacies. This is a purely unscientific look at recommendations from those local searches.

Round One - New York Pizza

I’ve been told by many New Yorkers that you can’t get bad pizza in New York, because there are so many good pizza places. So, where do the search engines recommend that I go?

Google: Lombardi’s Pizza
Yahoo: Domino’s Pizza

I can get Dominos anywhere, and Lombari’s looks pretty interesting.

Score: Google 1, Yahoo 0

Round TwoKansas City, KS Steakhouse

Kansas City seems like the place to go for a good steak. Maybe it isn’t after looking at these results.

Google: Outback Steakhouse
Yahoo: Tyme Out Lounge-Steakhouse (link no longer available)

I don’t have to go to Kansas City to go to an Outback Steakhouse. But, if I were to judge on the basis of web sites, I might rather go to the Outback Steakhouse if I were in Kansas City.

Score: Google 2, Yahoo 0

Round ThreeBaltimore, Maryland Seafood Restaurant

Maryland is the place to get Blue Crabs. Searching for a seafood restaurant should work.

Google: Bertha’s
Yahoo: Kawasaki Japanese Seafood Restaurant

Both destinations look great, and neither look like they might specialize in Blue Crabs. I’m a little surprised that Yahoo would serve me a sushi place, whereas Bertha’s looks like it has a lot of local character.

Score: Google 3, Yahoo 0

Round FourPortland, Maine Lobster

I learned my lesson from my Baltimore search, in which I should have just tried “blue crabs” for my search term. If I’m going to Maine for Lobster, I’m going to search for Lobster.

Google: Lobster Shack
Yahoo: Portland Lobster Company

This one is almost too close to call. I’m leaning towards the Yahoo result since it is actually in Portland, but I’d be tempted to drive a little further to the Lobster Shack based upon the reviews provided. There aren’t any reviews listed for the Yahoo recommendation. Both look like good recommendations, but I’m going to give the nod to Google, even though the Yahoo result is closer.

Score: Google 4, Yahoo 0

Round FiveNew Orleans Creole Restaurant

Ok, if I’m going to New Orleans for a meal, I’d want to chow down on a nice Etouffe or gumbo. Where would Google or Yahoo send me?

Google: Olivier’s Creole Restaurant in the French Quarter
Yahoo: Olivier’s Creole Restaurant in the French Quarter

Tough part about this one is that all of the results I saw from both search engines looked like they were worth a visit, even though they are different. It might be harder to find a bad restaurant than a good one in New Orleans.

Score: Google 4, Yahoo 0, tied 1

Round SixMilwaukee fish fry

I’ve heard that a Wisconsin tradition is the Fish Fry. Someone tell Yahoo.

Google: Historic Turner Restaurant
Yahoo: Sorry, no fish fry found in or nearby Milwaukee, WI

Score: Google 5, Yahoo 0, tied 1

Round SevenPhiladelphia, Pa Cheesesteak

My own personal favorite is a little place in the Philadelphia Terminal Station. Let’s see what the searches say:

Google: Grande Olde Cheesesteak (no longer available)
Yahoo: Sorry, no cheesesteak found in or nearby Philadelphia, PA

Maybe most cheesesteak places don’t have websites, because the pickings were slim on both sides. But at least Google listed three places I could go for a Philly favorite.

Score: Google 6, Yahoo 0, tied 1

Winner: Google

Yahoo is getting beat down pretty good. I’m going to invoke a mercy rule, and stop the competition at this point.

I’m not sure that the problem is due to the search engines or a lack of information about places to go.

If you own a restaurant, or any other business, you might want to list it in a local search engine. You don’t even need to have a Web site for many of them, including Google Maps and Yahoo Local.

Frank Fuchs of locallytype(d) has come up with a great page to help: Guide On How To Get Your Business Listed On Major Local Search Engines, Yellow Pages Sites and Social Local Networks. Great work, Frank.

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29 thoughts on “Yahoo Local vs Google Maps Beatdown”

  1. I’m super-happy that Google came out well in this taste test :), but bear in mind that every search engine will do great on some queries and not-as-great at some queries. I’m sure Yahoo could suggest some queries where they do better.

    As always, trying a bunch of search engines for your different information needs is a good idea, because then you get a feel for which engine does best for your style of searches.

  2. That’s a very interesting comparison (especially since I’m hungry…) I’m pretty surprised how poorly Yahoo! did on some of those tests…

  3. Thanks. I think that hunger inspired the post last night, Joe.

    I’ve been thinking about this since I posted it, and wondering what kinds of queries people actually make in local search. Would they be more likely to search for [restaurant] or [fish fry] when in Wisconsin? Or [Blue Crabs] in Baltimore?

    Its probably more likely that someone will search for [pizza] than [pizzeria] or [italian restaurant]. Do they search for [cars] instead of [car dealerships]?

    I also question my method a little. Was if fair to only look at the top result? Should I have looked at all of the results shown on the first page? Maybe. Should the ability to look at reviews quickly have swayed my opinion, like they did in at least one of those? Maybe. I tried to go about this as an ordinary searcher, and I was really surprised at the last two – no cheesesteak in Philadephia, and no fish fry in Wisconsin.

  4. Bill,

    I think that each of these definitely show the extreme differences in what the algorithms of different engines find to be relevant.

    I would change the outcome in these ways:
    Round Three – Neither
    Round Four – Yahoo

    So, my score would return – Score: Google 4, Yahoo 1, tied 2

    Excellent unique research. Google is definitely the winner.

    Cheers

  5. Thanks, Matt. Those are good points to keep in mind. :)

    I’m a huge fan of Yahoo’s Trip Planner, which is a local search, but in a different context. If you’re spending the time planning ahead, looking at some other folks experiences can be really helpful.

    I performed these searches as I wrote the post, instead of looking at the searches first, and my scores are purely subjective. My mind said look at all of the results that show up, and my stomach said look at the first one.

    I did actually try to figure out if I could make it down to Baltimore for some Mussels at Bertha’s before they closed, but I would have been cutting it too close. :(

    I suspect that if you asked a dozen people to do a similar comparison to mine that they would go about it a little differently and the results would probably vary greatly, with Yahoo winning some, and Google winning others.

    I’d still urge business owners to visit the page that Frank put together, and add some information to a few of the many directories that he listed. Maybe the Philadephia Cheesesteak icons Pats and Genos don’t need to advertise anywhere – there are always long lines for them – but there are lots of places in Philadelphia to get a great cheesesteak, and it was a little disappointing to see only a few results.

  6. Thanks, Stephen.

    So, my score would return – Score: Google 4, Yahoo 1, tied 2

    That could have easily have been my score too. I actually like that the results are different from one to the other, and the next time I do a local search like this, I might use both to broaden my options.

    With the Lobster search, it seemed like the Yahoo result was placing more importance in distance and that the restaurant had “Portland” in its name. The presense of some high scoring reviews gathered by Google made me think that they were focusing upon quality first, showing me a place that was further away, and not seeming to place as much importance on the name. Again, I tried to take an unscientific approach and do this as someone hungry just looking for a place to eat.

    I hadn’t gone back to see what results I would have gotten on [blue crabs Baltimore, md], so I just checked now. Yahoo’s number one was blue crab multimedia, which is a great looking site, but would have left me hungry. Restaurants do follow that. Google starts off with restaurants, but the Maryland Science Center is number three – a great place to probably study blue crabs, but they might be upset if I showed up with some melted butter and Old Bay spices.

  7. Very informative post for to learn about different regional delicacies I didn’t know about but I don’t think I agree with your scoring. If you are going to give the point to google in round 1, I think yahoo deserves the point in 2. You make the same argument for Dominos and Outback.

    And for 3 you would be disappointed if you went to any of these places for blue crabs, so no winner there. Round 4, I guess depends on your preferences. If you are ok with driving a little more to get a better place google wins, but one think I like about yahoo is that you can sort on distance or user reviews depending on which is more important to you at that moment.

    For round 6, I am not sure what you did wrong but I get results for fish fry, google one being #2.
    http://local.yahoo.com/results;_ylt=AuqlYM1DFYqPbUF94326jSOHNcIF?stx=fish+fry&csz=Milwaukee+&fr=zerorp-local-srchweb

    And for round 7, yahoo gives the same result as google.

    http://local.yahoo.com/results;_ylt=AuqlYM1DFYqPbUF94326jSOHNcIF?stx=Cheesesteak&csz=Philadelphia%2C+PA&fr=

  8. Hi Kesiben,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’d much rather have people thinking about, and writing about local search than I am having people agree with me on some subjective opinions about a handful of search results. :)

    As I wrote at the top of the post, it was a completely unscientific look at results.

    For number 2, the reason why I choose Google over Yahoo was inconsistent with my rationale for number 1. But, after visiting the website of the local steakhouse, I was concerned about the quality of the food after looking at their website.

    For number 3, Bertha’s does have crabcakes and Maryland Crab Soup on the menu, so I probably wouldn’t be leaving hungry. I see that Yahoo has the Japanese Seafood Restaurant under a number of categories, including Seafood restaurant, so it might be a matter of preferences there, too.

    Number 4 probably was too close to call. I think I agree with you. And the ability to sort is a nice feature. Do you think a lot of people use it?

    The fish fry and the cheesesteak results weren’t showing up for me last night – I did cut and paste the messages I received above directly from Yahoo’s results, and it looks like I spelled everything correctly.

    As far as I know, I didn’t do anything wrong. I had no problems with the other searches that I was doing. Good to see results for those searches in Yahoo now.

  9. I’m curious as to what kind of results you’d get by placing “good” or “horrible” in front of any of these. We’d then have to visit each restaurant and find out if Google or Yahoo were right!

  10. Hmmm.

    Worth trying. :)

    A search for [good cheesesteaks Philadelphia, Pa] shows snippets from reviews underneath business listings, like this one from a review of what may have been the top result:

    THE BEST PHILLY STEAKS
    … My husband and I have searched for other good cheesesteaks including Delassandro’s in Roxborough – DOES NOT EVEN COMPARE! Jim’s still remains to be the BEST …
    citysearch.com

    Might have to test some of those.

  11. Right now, only about 5% of small and medium-size businesses are using paid search. There is a need to reach out (educate) small businesses (by Yellow Pages — already have a relationship with small businesses).

    Also, location (LBS / GPS) technology is not accurate enough to a block-level to locate a user’s device with respect to the Point-of-Interest (POI). Location-enabled or geo-targeted content (including ads) can be done using Wi-Fi location, which works indoors and in urban centers where GPS fails.

  12. Hi Kris,

    Good point on the percentage of businesses that are using paid search. When Google came out with the ability for businesses to create coupons, I thought that might influence some more small and medium sized businesses to look more carefully into how they could use the Web to help advertise their businesses.

    But the visibility of coupons on the Google is pretty low. I wonder if they were easier to find, if they might spur some growth in Web advertising for these businesses that are more used to print and radio.

  13. I’m curious why you used a state modifier on some of the searches and not others.

    For example, your crappy results for the kansas city, ks steakhouse search are in part because most of KC (and it’s glorious steakhouses) are in Missouri. If you had searched kansas city steakhouse, your results would have been quite different.

    However, it provides a lesson for those of us using local search for this market. Very interesting post.

  14. Hi Katie,

    Thanks for your questions.

    I was trying to approach this comparison as a searcher, and not an internet marketer. What does the average searcher search for and see when they perform searches like these? I tried not to overthink what I was searching for.

    I think I can reconstruct some of my thinking when choosing whether or not to include states. Remember, this was a completely unscientific approach. Here’s my post mortem review of decisions on using state names in those searches.

    Round 1 – Most of the local searches I’ve done for New York City seem to take a “New York” search to mean the City and not the State. If you type just [New York] into Google Maps and Yahoo Local, both of those seem to assume the City, too.

    Round 2 – I included KS because I knew that Kansas City included both states, and I didn’t know that Missouri would yield much better results. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to visit Kansas City yet, so being an armchair tourist, I made a bad choice. If I was planning on visiting Kansas City, and creating an itinerary, I probably would have made a few bad choices. (Thanks, I now know better.)

    Round 3 – I probably included Maryland in this search because I hear the phrase “Maryland Blue Crabs” a lot when people talk about blue crabs. You can get blue crabs off the waters of a lot of states, but Maryland has done a great job of marketing to create that association.

    Round 4 – A search for just [portland] in Google gives me Oregon, and when I search for something with just Portland as a location in Yahoo, it forces me to choose a State. I also know someone who was from near Portland, Maine, and it sounds like a great place to visit.

    Round 5 – Both Google and Yahoo associate a search for New Orleans with the City in Louisiana, and don’t show any alternatives. I pretty much assumed that I wouldn’t have to include a state, and when I just search for [New Orleans] in both Google Maps and Yahoo Local, they make the same assumption. It’s a “dominant” location for the search term.

    Round 6 – Similar reason to that for [New Orleans]. I typed in Milwaukee, and both search engines assume I mean Wisconsin. The search engines make this kind of assumption for a number of places – determining a authoritative location for a City. From what I’ve read, that seems to be based mostly on population mass, but could possibly also be based upon looking at searchers’ queries.

    Round 7 – Chances are good that Google and Yahoo do the same thing with Philadelphia – assuming the one in Pennsylvania. I recall being so disappointed with a search just on [cheesesteak philadelphia] that I tried again with the state name included, which didn’t make a difference. The Yahoo result is now much better than it was a couple of days ago.

    Thanks for asking. :)

  15. Hi Bill,
    Although I think your evaluation method is not rigorous enough, I do really really like to see this kind of head to head query comparison. I hope you’ll do more in the future, particularly with web search.

    Someone should build a Twingine-like tool for local.

  16. Good to see you, Chris.

    A Twingine-like tool for local would be great.

    My evaluation method isn’t rigorous enough, and my sample size was too tiny, but it made for a fun blog post, and some thoughtful comments.

    I have been working on another head-to-head query comparison in Web search, which probably will tell more about a specific group of sites than the search engines. But it might show some interesting information about the search engines, too.

  17. Great post, Bill.

    Entertaining and underneath somewhat illuminating as to how engines rank queries.

    SE Methodologies and people’s tastes are subjective (and I’m a big fan of Bertha’s–I’d bet you’d enjoy it, also).

    Of interest–with regard to methodologies Greg Sterling had an interesting observation on Screenwerk http://gesterling.wordpress.com/2007/03/26/article-on-yelp-text-and-subtext/

    about the prominence of User Generated Text (UGT) that references the popularity and widespread use of reviews.

    These reviews are changing the nature of things like restaurant reviews (and possibly diminishing the importance of newspaper/magazine restaurant critics). In reading the article, and looking at the volume of reviews by some people in Yelp–I sort of side with the established critic perspective (that is subjective).

    In terms of ranking methodologies–and possibly weighing rankings based on volume of reviews and characteristics of the reviews (average number of “stars”) it is clearly possible to game SE methodologies.

    Coincidentally, today I lunched at a nearby restaurant that just opened–and was established by a group w/experience in this market for over 25 years. We referenced a restaurant that they opened about 20 years ago….and got a killer review by the dominant restaurant critic in the market soon after it opened. The restaurant/bar has never stopped doing great ever since that review.

    Anyways…I’m hoping the ranking methodologies gain some sophistication over time so that next time your looking for pizza in NYC they don’t send you to Dominoes! LOL

  18. Bill:

    One other comment about rankings within the local versions of SE’s.

    Of interest, Bertha’s in Baltimore has been in operation for probably over 30 years. More particularly for that entire time they have had a widely distributed bumper sticker that simply says “Eat Bertha’s Mussels”. I’m not kidding on “widely”. Reportedly the bumper stickers have been seen in places like Iceland and Alaska.

    I’ll bet there are more references to Bertha’s on the web than any other seafood restaurant in Baltimore. That bumper sticker has attracted much attention over many years including innumerable newpaper articles from around the world.

    Now having eaten a lot of seafood in Baltimore (and admittedly really liking Bertha’s)–I doubt it would rate that high in terms of the “best seafood in Baltimore” by the natives. On the other hand if it was matched against that Japanese restaurant–I’m sure it beat it hands down–from seafood loving Baltimorians.

    Dave

  19. Hi Dave,

    It does sound like I’m going to have to take a road trip to Baltimore, to visit Bertha’s. Thanks.

    A great review can make a real difference, but I think that newpaper reviews and critics have lost some of the power that they held twenty years ago. At least, that seems like my experience. Maybe the web, and review sites have had an impact, but I’m not so sure.

    The Domino’s result was a surprise.

    I was visiting Florida some years back, and wearing a t-shirt from a local favorite pub that’s been around for years, and had few people walk up to me and tell me that they had been there and really enjoyed it. It’s funny how word of a great place can spread so far. Those are the kind of places that you hope rank well in local searches.

  20. I use both on my smartphone all the time and google maps wins hands down in that area. The best part is that the maps are movable.

    I still have to use yahoo sometimes because google doesn’t always return the best results.

  21. Hi Oral,

    That’s a great point of comparison – how usable the maps are on phones. I don’t know how many people are using those local searches on their phones, but I’m pretty fond of it, too.

  22. Maps often comes in most useful to me when I’ve successfully navigated a long trip and then get have problems finding a place at the last mile.

    And, having a phone number included in results for a location can make asking for those directions a lot easier.

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