Anaheim CA Flowers  Blog by Avante Gardens Florist
27 March 2007

Local Search: Users First?

Bravo to Rae Hoffman for taking Merchant Circle to task for "doing their best to rank in the search engines with the sole goal being to charge businesses to control their listings." I blogged about Merchant Circle's fright calls to florists last fall and it's dismaying to see them at it again.

We claimed our business name there last October and I can attest they "haven’t really targeted to the consumer community to come to us as a search portal for businesses” since we've had but a single referrer link in five months. ;-)

Unfortunately, MerchantCircle.com isn't the only local search source willing to put profits ahead of the user experience. Rae uses Yahoo Local as an example of a "*true* consumer portal" but I doubt she'd feel that way if she were a florist.  Take Chicago, for example: Chicago Florists?

The first natural result is a real flowers shop (and a darn good one at that), Ashland Addison, but the rest of the page is front-loaded with out-of-state call centers posing as Chicago florists. The listings including local phone exchanges forwarding calls thousands of miles away, phony map points and fake local addresses - all added to fool consumers. The net effect for Yahoo Local users is that about 40% of their dollars will be removed from their purchases when these flower orders get sent FTD or Teleflora back to real Chicago florists for fulfillment.

Unknown is whether the placements are being purchased through data provider YellowPages.com or if Yahoo Local is directly overseeing the bogus listings themselves. What's clear is this phony data is protected since none of the info on these fakes can be corrected by users.

Reviews calling out some of the fake data have been deleted. In this aspect, how is that different than Merchant Circle?

Yahoo's solution to real local florists to help them be found? Buy an ad slot on Local for $300 a month, of course. 

A recent story about the Kelsey Group's downward revision of their local ad sales forecast mentioned part of a very real problem: 

"The small guy can't get in there, and as a consequence, if you do florists, everything is 1-800-Flowers," he said. "You don't get any local retailers there. What we think has happened is these local guys have been shoved out of the way."

Uh-huh. It's not just 1-800-Flowers and includes all the national flower brands and their 'online' only' order gatherer affiliates. Why should local mom and pop florists pour dollars into honest ads when publishers are so willing to place phony local florists so highly in their results? 

Kinda makes me wonder if paid placements influenced Bill Slawski's New York pizza results in his Yahoo Local vs Google Maps Beatdown . Using Yahoo Local's user recommended link yields rave reviews for real local pizzerias like Presidental Pizza and Lombardi's, but neither company is even listed in the first five pages of regular results. (At least Yahoo Local has a 'user recommended' link but I wonder how many people actually use it?)

Rae nailed it when she said consumers should shun and shame a site when it "doesn't give me what I want or expect and doesn’t state what I feel is their complete bias." In the local space, sadly Merchant Circle isn't the only one.   

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# When Local Search Isn’t Really Local » Small Business SEM said:

PingBack from http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/2007/03/27/when-local-search-isnt-really-local/

27 March 07 at 11:03 PM
# Kevin L. said:

Hi Catherine, I commented on Rae's blog post because she got it wrong when she said we charge businesses to control their business listing. We do not charge. AND we point merchants in the right direction to all the online directory sites they should be listed on. This is all free.

When I say, not consumer facing, I clarified, meaning that we didn't target consumers to come straight to MerchantCircle.com to find a business. Think of it as us building 15 million individual websites that show up high when customers go to Google and Yahoo to search for business. People can come to us at MerchantCircle.com, but the vast majority go to Google or Yahoo to look for their services.

You are obviously a web savvy business owner, but there are many business owners that don't know how to write a blog or where to start. We have all the tools built into a business' MerchantCircle listing, as well as easy to use options to upload pictures, video, and build coupons. I really don't understand how you feel our service does NOT benefit a business owner. I can put you in touch with a number of business owners who thank us for bringing them new customers and providing a website when they normally couldn't afford to build one.

I respect your opinion and I think you do make some excellent points in your blogs.

28 March 07 at 12:12 AM
# admin said:

Cathy...great article!! And in Rae's blog post, what an odd comment from Merchant Circle...building a search site for business, that does not serve businesses...how odd.

Keep up the "Good Fight"...and I love the new skin on your blog!

BOSS

28 March 07 at 4:29 AM
# anton said:

Welcome to the Club.

I have noticed the strange local advertising strategy already for quite some time and I'm not in the flower market.

Tried to shed some light in the so called SEO Forums to question the strategies, but there was never an answer. Probably everyone is afraid to rock the boat and speak out.

It's all about Money, what else. When qestioning the results for the local area, there is always the big wall or so called silent response.

28 March 07 at 5:08 AM
# centralsquare said:

Cathy thank you for your continued commentary on the flower industry, it’s a real shame that well respected companies can’t  provide honest results for consumers that place so much trust with them.

28 March 07 at 6:34 AM
# admin said:

Thank you Cathy for continuing to expose the truth!  I wonder how many other industies have to compete with companies who list fake names and locations in cities everywhere. Consumers don't like to be fooled!  We have tons of fake "Local Minnesota Florist" listings, they represent themselves as local florists in every state, yet pay no taxes in that state.  What a sweet deal!

Chez Bloom

28 March 07 at 7:59 AM
# Manorville Florist said:

Thank you Cathy.

Deceptive listing and advertising must be stopped as we all know.

Consumers are victimized as well as Real Florists.

Letters, emails and phone calls to elected officials, State Attorney Generals, the U.S. Attorney General, FCC, Better Business Bureau's , Newspapers and News Stations will help bring the matter to the attention of everyone.

Eventually our elected officials will realize that this issue can no longer be avoided and that by ignoring it is enabling the deception to continue.

No elected official or person in public office will want to be on the receiving end of a media blitz criticizing them for misrepresentation of the publics interest/s.

28 March 07 at 9:20 AM
# avantegardens said:

A big thanks to Matt McGee for writing about this story on his blog - http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/  I've dropped a number of links to his articles at http://www.flowerchat.com because Matt directly addresses the issues effecting flower shops on both small business and local search levels.

We need to hire him to do a florist seminar. :-)

Sometimes we florists think we're the only ones who find the placement of fictional local flower shops with us 'real deals' to be a disservice to consumers.  Nice to hear someone else finds the practice dicey.

Kevin - Until Merchant Circle brings value to consumers and business owners and stops using fear as their #1 marketing tool, you'll never gain anything more than the begrudging claiming of listings.  I wouldn't call that a sustainable business model.

28 March 07 at 6:49 PM
# bloomery said:

It seems they've grown from 110,000 customers (see comment at http://www.rmay.ca/a-search-for-las-vegas-restaurants-on-merchantcircle-leaves-rmay-feeling-unlucky/) to 15 million websites.  That's about 150 websites per customer?

28 March 07 at 7:46 PM
# Flowers from Minneapolis/St. Paul... or Somewhere « LocalMN Blog said:

PingBack from http://localmn.wordpress.com/2007/03/29/flowers-from-minneapolisst-paul-or-somewhere/

29 March 07 at 3:59 PM
# Real Florist Blog » Who Sent Flowers? said:

PingBack from http://realflorists.flowerchat.com/2007/06/15/who-sent-flowers/

15 June 07 at 6:46 AM
# Avante Gardens - florals unique, Anaheim, CA - Orange County Florist Since 1984 : GrayWolf Florist? said:

PingBack from http://floristblogs.com/blogs/avant_gardens/archive/2007/07/02/graywolf-florist.aspx

02 July 07 at 4:26 PM
# Mike Champion said:

As a recent buyer(11/1/07) of a flower shop in Asheville NC, this site has been most enlightening as I try to figure out why advertising and marketing is so expensive. Just another example of the big boys being able to outspend me. Trying to figure out the best approach to where I should spend advertising money has been troublesome. I feel we spend too much on yellow pages, superpages and in Teleflora fees. I am in the process of using Yodle.com to help with our position in the online lookup arena. Does anyone have experience with them? I'm trying to avoid yet another big expense, with small results.

Thanks, Mike- Rose Petals Floral Creations    

10 January 08 at 10:10 AM
# SEMMYS said:

PingBack from http://oggin.net/work/semmys/

15 January 08 at 9:46 AM
# Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local Search » Nominees in Local Search category: 2008 SEMMY Awards | Developing Knowledge about Local Search said:

PingBack from http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/01/15/nominees-in-local-search-category-2008-semmy-awards/

15 January 08 at 10:20 AM
# Avante Gardens - florals unique, Anaheim, CA - Orange County Florist Since 1984 said:

Well, knock me over with a heliconia . One of my blog posts got nominated for a SEMMY in the category

18 January 08 at 7:30 AM
# Search Engine Land: News About Search Engines & Search Marketing said:

There's a battle going on in the floral industry, and many small, independent florists are losing. Like other small businesses, they don't have the time or knowledge to keep up with the latest marketing trends and tactics. But there are other challenges,

08 May 08 at 4:30 AM
# Local Search - All 2008 Nominees » SEMMYS.org said:

PingBack from http://www.semmys.org/2008/local-search-all-2008-nominees/

19 May 08 at 12:47 PM
# March ???07: Best Search/Marketing Posts said:

PingBack from http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/march-%e2%80%9807-best-searchmarketing-posts/560/

01 February 10 at 11:20 AM

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