Exploring Local
Mike Dobson of TeleMapics on Local Search and All Things Geospatial

Business Classification Errors in Local Search

June 19th, 2007 by MDob

Let me be clear, in the blog that follows I am interested in exploring the problem of data mismatches. I’m not interested (today) in discussing the problems of contextual search, although I do have an example to share with you that is just too good to ignore.

I am fixing up my home and have a couple of sealed windows that needed repair. I wanted to see if I could do it myself so I went to AskTheBuilder. Besides being a good source for home repair, this guy is a rock star of search! His site earns him over $1,500 a day in Google AdSense revenues. Anyway, early this morning I entered the phrase “repairing windows” using the custom Google search box on the site. Two of the responses (see below) were howlers, but I wasn’t looking for software and this is not the type of error, I want to focus on today.

No, real glass windows, not Microsoft Windows

Later this morning I was using local search to find where I could buy a garbage disposal. Guess it wasn’t meant to be. First, I tried the query below. The result was an error of commission, as the results were not about an appliance, but about garbage removal.

Just trying to find a garbage disposal to buy is hard to do

I remembered that the appliance I was replacing had a tag identifying it as a “Food Waste Disposer”, so I used this term for the search below, which resulted in an error of omission.

Or is it a

I can’t be the only one that this happens to, so let’s take a look at why classification errors happen so frequently. It may take several blogs to get our arms around the topic.

Although errors in local search results are often confounded by errors related to natural language processing, poor input structure and a host of other problems, there are numerous errors that I believe are simple mismatches due to improper classification or narrow categorization of businesses types.

So exactly what do I mean by “classification of business types”? Well, reading through a list of business names often tells you little about the actual business involved, since business names often have minimal expository value in describing the economic activity of the business (e.g. Intuit, Crown Castle International or BearingPoint). From the perspective of local search, what’s needed is metadata that can be used to organize or manage the list of businesses so that they can be matched up against the query of a user who is looking for a specific type of business or service in their local area.

The compilers of business listings/POI databases classify each business they discover as a specific type of business, somehow placing it in a specific category of a classification scheme that they feel reflects the relevant service offered. Most often, the businesses are classified based on one or more of three common schemes. Let’s talk about those next time.

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Posted in Data Sources, Geospatial, Geotargeting, Local Search

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