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Is Local Search Replacing Word of Mouth?

Alex Christie

3 November 2008

“I must join a gym this week”, this is one of my favourite daily sayings and has been for quite some time, today is no different, or is it? Ok so I may not be moving at the speed of a thousand gazelles to actually join however I have begun my pre-gym-joining research – human’s vs. search.

Like most people I immediately turned to colleagues and friends that know the local area, surely they’re the best source of information – apparently not.
Friends, colleagues and a random man in the street came up with the names of two gyms, their approximate location and a wild stab in the dark regarding pricing. Compare this to the results of local search and we have a different story entirely.

First up Yell.com provided me with eight results for the local area, their exact location with map, summary of the facilities they provide and a profile page for each result with contact numbers, images and website details.

Yell

Google Maps provided me with a similar set of results however with a greater range of listings.

Googlemaps

It’s fairly obvious to see the immediate benefits of using local search over word of mouth, however, the die-hard word of mouth fans amongst us will argue that human’s can offer insight that a set of results can’t. What is the service like? Are the staff knowledgeable? Are there any hidden costs? It’s quite true, human’s can provide information that might be a deal breaker.

Google however is quick to recognise this and its search results provide user reviews. While this may not be taking off rapidly it will only be a matter of time before it becomes a real useful resource.

Googlemapreview

My point is this, word of mouth will always remain but to what degree? I myself see the benefit of it over a set of results but in this MTV-watching low-attention-span-having modern day society, do we have the time? To collate the same amount of information via word of mouth that local search provided me would take what would seem a lifetime – and trust me, I don’t want to go to a gym that much!

So, is word of mouth dying a death or is it here to stay?

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