One of the critical goals we’ve started with at Closely is to drive maximum exposure for every live offer published by a small business. At the proverbial end of the day, every SMB wants to maximize their local reach. Our aim is to take the complexity and friction out of this – creating a rich single point of entry for a continually expanding network of distribution.
Several development building blocks that have to come together to make this happen. Today, we’ll briefly talk about just one – the business place directory.
Much has been written lately about the lack of an “open database of places“, and how critical this component is to the future of location based services. I strongly advocate this need, but I’ve also worked in and around this problem for over a decade and see no near-term solution that is truly open and universal.
The most interesting (and only!) place-based global directory is Google’s Place Pages. Nobody can ever accuse Google of aiming low – creating a page of rich aggregated local reference content for every place in the world seems to be the mission of Place Pages.
Up until the recent Google IO conference, the Place Pages asset has been unavailable to developers. The announcement to open up this asset as a live web dev service in July is a very promising move. However, much still remains TBD and the set of use restrictions suggest a less-than-open starting point move by Google. And, it’s no secret that many location-based developers have grown increasingly skeptical of developing too much reliance on Google tools.
So, what’s a guy to do – today?
Aside from monitoring and experimenting with the Place Pages API, and actively supporting the industry development initiatives like Open Street Map, there are practical options for developers in the US market.
Some of our best assets remain behind the scene
From day one, we designed US business registration into our application service to be synchronized with a local business directory. In the US, we’re fortunate that a small number of competitive vendors have invested substantially in the collection and maintenance of a national business directory. We’ve chosen to build Closely in a way that is synchronized with the directory from our partner, Localeze. Obviously, we feel it’s the best for our application. To us, it offered the best combination of maximum distribution and deepest descriptive content in key business categories.
So, why is this important?
Here’s what we get out of building our application synched with a directory database.
- Random Content vs. Synchronized Content. If you use Foursquare and try to check in at an airport, you see the challenges of free form user-generated data models – users have entered dozens of places, and content that may be valuable to one user is tagged randomly to different instances of the same general place. [not trying to knock 4SQ here - it's simply a case-in-point, and I know they are innovating around this model]. Synchronizing a business as a single unique entity with an authoritative business name and address serves to intuitively align user applications cleanly into one logical place, easily shared and synchronized.
- Increased Usability. Getting SMB’s to enter content into any application is a major usability challenge. By designing our application to allow the business to rapidly “find themselves” speeds up the process, removes SMB content entry and generally improve accuracy. We’ve designed our application to automatically use location and category information as well as value-added content such as Hours of Operation. In small business applications, ease-of-use is mission critical. EVERY step you can remove will materially impact your success.
- Integration Foundation. By having a business “claimed” in a widely distributed directory, we improve the scope of opportunity for syndication of offer content created via our service. As we’ve said, maximum distribution is critical to our future, and having a foundation that is used by hundreds of other search, mobile and social web services gives us a real edge.
This is just one of our key building blocks, but having fully completed directory integration just now, we felt it was worth a little explanatory bragging