The online yellow pages sucks (not a surprise)

Just now I was trying to find a printing company near my house whose name I didn’t remember. So I did a search with the information I had and got a Pages Jaunes (i.e., Yellow Pages in French) listing: impression Montreal. It’s pretty obvious that these people are fighting like mad against the very nature of the web. First problem: though it was the only listing that in any way matched my search, what came up in Google was a terrible listing page, not their direct company page. So I searched the page for the street and finally found the listing and clicked through to it. And then it got worse.

The second problem? No web link. The company HAS a website (about which more later), but you’d never know that by looking at the Yellow Pages online listing. Third? They’ve disabled select-and-copy of text on the listing. Of course it was trivial to view source (though not via right-click) and get around this limitation, but c’mon, it’s 2008 isn’t it? Using silly javascript tricks to try and stay sticky is so 1997!

Unfortunately it got even worse once I had the name of the company and did another search in Google. The site only came up in the first page of listings when I searched for “Ipso-Facto Impression Numerique” rather than just the company name – and then when I finally got through to the link I found out why – their site is a craptastic flash-based site with background music and everything. Eek.

Rumours of Mapquest’s demise were greatly exaggerated

I subscribe to a feed from Hitwise Intelligence, an “online competitive intelligence” firm that publishes traffic analysis on various topics on a blog. Today I found this post by Heather Hopkins: US: Google Maps Making Inroads Against Leader, Mapquest. I was very surprised to learn that not only is Mapquest still a viable site, but it remains the market leader by quite a big (though shrinking) margin over Google Maps and Yahoo! Maps.

It’s surprising because I assumed that Google’s site had long since become the market leader – which it is with pretty much everyone I know. I haven’t heard of anyone using Mapquest in years – and if you go to the site, all you find is the same barely-usable interface and sketchy, jaggedy maps as always, not to mention almost useless search results and a decided lack of actual mapping features.

There are two pretty clear reminders in this case for anyone who works in online marketing: a) the market leader isn’t necessarily who you (as a specialist) assume it is, and b) a site’s market/traffic leadership doesn’t mean that it is the one to emulate. I guess incumbency status really is important, even on the net.

New Today:

Google Blog Search. “Google Blog Search is Google search technology focused on blogs. Google is a strong believer in the self-publishing phenomenon represented by blogging, and we hope Blog Search will help our users to explore the blogging universe more effectively, and perhaps inspire many to join the revolution themselves.” Of course they state explicitly that they are NOT just searching Blogger sites.

There’s a new

beta version of Technorati up this morning. Looks pretty good I guess, though it’s not entirely obvious what each section of the page is doing. Dave Sifry has posted more information on the Technorati weblog.

Speaking of Technorati,

I note tonight that a Technorati: search for http://maps.google.com still only yields 17 links from 11 sources, the same as it did a month ago. How can that be?
technorati result for a search of maps.google.com

I’ve long loved Technorati,

but lately it has been confusing me. Typical problem: I use a favelet to do a search, but the results I get are far from what I would expect. Take for example a Technorati search for maps.google.com – an apropos search considering it was launched yesterday.

Well, the results I got just now for that search indicate that there are only 17 links from 11 sources – clearly incorrect. Furthermore, I have asked and otherwise verified, and there are many people who I know ping Technorati AND who posted about Google maps over 12 hours ago but who don’t appear in the results anywhere.

The confusing thing is that it’s a crapshoot. Sometimes – I’m not sure under which conditions – you get a partial list with a link to get a full list of results. Other times you get a long list of results the first time, with no such link. Yet other times you get very very short lists of results – but also with no prompt to get a more complete set of search results. And then when you do look at the results, there are multiple identical links listed, one after the other, and the count at the top doesn’t add up.

I really enjoy the service in theory, and love the direction they’re heading, and it’s obvious that there are some very smart folks over there who really care about the web. But I wonder if Technorati isn’t much more promise than delivery at this point, way more so than most people – commentators – seem to admit.

MSN Search Update

I re-checked the search I put the Beta MSN through yesterday and interestingly – expectedly – it included more returns than before – though the total was still just 10% of Google’s number and no more relevent. But I think it’s important to guage how MSN and a couple of the others change over time. I think people have an instinctive feel for Google by now, but a new entrant like MSN Search should be given the opportunity to improve over time, to get up to speed, so to speak. Anyhow – over the weekend I’m going to write up 3 or 4 queries and develop a schedule to see how each responds and compare the results. I’ll include Google, MSN Search Beta, and Yahoo! Search. Any suggestions anyone can offer will be more than welcome.

It looks like MSN Search

is on now, so a comparison is possible. I thought I’d compare using a very relevant search using the terms “alberto gonzales” at the senate.gov site. The results from MSN were shocking in their sparseness – it only returned 6 hits. The results from Google turned up 112 hits. Just in case, I used the graphical tuners to make sure MSN wasn’t just presenting me with a subset based on my initial (default) settings, but that didn’t change anything. From where I sit, turning up but 5% of the results is quite a failure for the Microsoft search.

Public Beta:

the new MSN Search. Doesn’t seem to be working at the moment, but this is supposed to be a big improvement. I’m not holding my breath though.

The big news of the day

is from Google, which has announced the Google Desktop Search application. John Battelle has the story.