Local Search: Is It Really Ready For The Red Carpet?
A rainy Friday afternoon and I’m in the mood for a movie. I can’t easily recall any recent movie previews and I am not really sure what’s out there. So, I decide to grab the laptop and search for the local movie theater listings. Sounds simple enough, especially since we only have two local cinemas, but what I think will take all of three minutes to find the local movie listings online turns into a major production of trying 3 different Search Engines’ local search functions. I was surprised by what I discovered.
My first instinct is to turn to Google Local search. Google’s Local Search page is definitely more cluttered than Google’s Web Search page as it provides example searches, a very large map of the US and Canada and the familiar search bar at the top.
My local search is simple enough; I am looking for movie theater listings in Traverse City, which happens to be my first search query. The results on Google range from a listing for one of the two movie theaters in town, a local bar and several sponsored links (one for eBay that looks to be selling theater times.)
I click on the first result for the local cinema expecting to find show time listings at this particular theater, Grand Traverse Cinema. Instead, after clicking the link, the location of the cinema pops up on the map with the address and phone number. I’m not interested in calling as I want to find the listings online. So, I click the back button and try the second result which is the Grand Traverse Mall Movie Line Yes, just what I am looking for. I click on the link and am pleased to discover the listings for the day in question. Nice.
It was relatively easy to find the listings on Google Local for one of the theaters, but I could not find the second theater represented anywhere in Google. Also, the abundance of clutter on the Google results page as well as the potential to get lost navigating through irrelevant links and sponsored ads was distracting and really took away from the user/searcher experience.
Yahoo’s Local Search page is identical to its web search page with the exception of the search bar. On Yahoo Local I type in the same query, movie theater listings, Traverse City. I get a results page telling me that no movie theater listings were found in or nearby Traverse City, MI. My first instinct is to ditch Yahoo and try Ask, but I give Yahoo one more chance and add the zip code to my search query.
Ten results appear on the first page. The first result Moviefone: Closest Theaters sends me to a forbidden page. Frustrated and almost ready to give up I click the back button and try the second link which appears to be more promising and thus gives me false hope. MovieTickets.com GKC Grand Travers Cinemas. Movies,showtimes and tickets.Unfortunately this link does not have the show times available for this theater. My search for movie listings on Yahoo Local proved useless.
My last attempt to find quick and easy local movie listings ends with Ask Local Search. Ask’s Local Search page is clean and concise. I like the simplicity of it.
Optimistically, I type in my query and Ask provides me with one result and a map. GKC Grand Traverse Cinema 9 Very nice, I like the fact that I don’t get the clutter that I saw on Google with sponsored ads and other irrelevant links. The only down side is that like Google, the second movie theater is not listed anywhere.
After clicking on the link, I arrive at the local movie listings provided by CitySearch. The page gives me the theater information and show times for specific days, again, very nice. The page even has a spot at the bottom where I can get driving directions. All I need to do is enter my starting address; the destination address is already filled in, very convenient.
For fun, I try it out and type in my home address and click “calculate directions.” The directions are clear and accurate as is the map, but it does take me to the theater on a slightly longer route than I would choose myself. However, the extra drive time is of little consequence especially considering the ease of using Ask Local and the time I could potentially save using Ask Local when compared to the time I could potentially waste using Yahoo and navigating around Google.
Next time I’m in the mood for a movie, I’ll save myself the frustration of using Yahoo and the time of using Google by using only Ask.