In case you missed it, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke at SMX West in Santa Clara yesterday, addressing the search marketing industry for the first time (you can watch that at our new site live.webpronews.com). Obviously, much of the conversation was centered around Bing. A little bit later in the day, WebProNews caught up with Mikko Ollila, Senior Product Manager on Bing Local to talk a little bit about Bing's efforts in local search.
As Ballmer noted in his keynote, Google "did search right first," and Ollila mentioned Google as well, but he says Bing's local experience is more natural (almost like being there). He says it's designed to help users make quick decisions, in as little as three clicks.
Ollila says that Bing gathers business info from different providers, making it difficult for Bing to ensure accuracy of unclaimed listings, although he maintains they do a pretty good job of it. The best thing business owners can do, he says, is to find the Bing Local Listing Center, and go and take a hold of their own listing. "Just take ownership and make sure all your information is represented correctly," he says.
He says it's probably already there and correct, but if you own a business and want more traffic, you should make sure and get ownership of the listing. Bing tries to make it as easy as possible, giving the user a "wizard" type of interface.
Ollila mentions that a lot of business owners get fired up about local listings, and upset about bad reviews. Bing crawls the web for reviews and plugs them in to business listings. He says businesses will often get mad at not just the reviewers, but at Bing for listing these reviews. He says, "There's no real magic answer for getting bad reviews other than take care of your customer."
As you know, maps and local go hand in hand, and as we covered last month, Microsoft introduced some new Bing Maps features at TED, including a streetside photos application, world wide telescope integration, indoor panoramas, and video overlay technology.
Microsoft wants to gain any ground in can in search, and the company is showing that this time around (with Bing, I mean) they are taking it very seriously. Still the very dominant Google isn't exactly slowing down in its own efforts. As Ballmer pointed out in his keynote, since Bing launched, efforts from the competition seem to have increased right along with the companies own efforts. Right around the same time Microsoft unveiled these features, Google introduced its Google Maps Labs, which hosts experimental features for Google Maps that users can turn on/off.
Features give customers reasons to use products, which is why it is important for businesses to at least acknowledge the efforts being put forth by the major search players in this area. Even if a specific map-related feature doesn't affect your business directly, it may give a potential customer reason to simply start using local search with a particular provider, which makes it all the more important for a business to make sure it's properly represented in the listings with said provider.
Do you use Bing Local? How would you rate Bing's local experience compared to Google's? Comment here.