June 3rd, 2008


Yahoo vs. Google interactive geosearch

I wanted to find the trendy-but-good shop I stopped by yesterday: it's not really a cafe or a coffehouse or a restaurant. They sell sandwiches and savory chicken pie and strawberry shortcake, with cartons of strawberries stacked high in the front. I knew where it was, but not the name, so I compared Yahoo Maps and Google Maps, to learn a little about geosearch.

Yahoo maps knew where I live, so it started there, and then just scrolled and zoomed until I found the corner of 51st and Telegraph. (It would have been easier if I'd used the hybrid map & satellite photo, much better for me than plain maps). Then I used the "Find a Business" and typed "pie". Instantly, Bakesale Betty's came up, with the word "pie" harvested from a Yahoo user review (5 stars!) in which a customer praised their "pot-pies". That was about 5 scrolls and 4 clicks and one short search, and success

Google doesn't know where I live, so typed in "51st and telegraph, oakland, ca" -- and there I was. A couple of clicks to get to the closest street level. Then I clicked on the "Find businesses" link and typed in "pie" and got a display of... 20 results out of 5,645 hits and a much higher view, so they could show me all the other pie matches. Oops. I tried "pies" and that didn't work, and I couldn't think of anything else to search on as there area a million sandwich and cookie places. 2 searches (one long), 1 scroll and 4 clicks, but that got me stuck.

Then I typed "betty" and of course it was right there, with links to reviews.

Just to check, I clicked the Explore this area link, no luck, all about garbage pickup. I tried using the "Street View" and looking at that corner, but in one view the storefront is too dark to see, and in the other there's a big truck in front of the shop.

Why did Google not find me the store when I searched for pie? You may ask, and I have an answer. Because their index and/or their query parsing did not match "pie" with "pot-pies" in one of the customer reviews that Google automatically connected to the business. If they'd used even lightweight pluralization, it would have worked. And zipping me up to the whole Bay Area view was really annoying.

Yahoo did a stemmed match and showed it right there, without changing my map level. It wins this comparison.

New Robot Exclusion Protocol!

Supported by webwide search engines Yahoo, Google and Microsoft, this adds directives to robots.txt:
  • "Allow" directives
  • wildcards in URLs
  • Sitemap Location
There are also HTML meta tags and document properties directives for
  • NOODP (don't use ODP information for this page).
Yahoo has a nice long blog entry on this, as does Google and MS Live Search. Great news for web developers, who've been waiting for this for a very long time.

But there's nothing from the robots mailing list or the RobotsTxt.org which is a shame.

This is also a test for all site and intranet search crawlers -- any abandoned software will not recognize these new directives.

I'll dig further into this in the next week and provide more analysis and details.