In October of 2011 I posted a three-part series on the subject of using Google for local search of hotels in Las Vegas. Local search results have continued to evolve since late 2011 and there’s been plenty of changes in how Google displays those results. The transition from Google place pages to Google+ Local Pages to Google+ for business pages kept the folks working in the world of local search very busy, and more importantly, numerous changes have been observed affecting nearly every businesses search results on a local level.
With all these changes surely things have gotten better, right?
To determine that answer, I set my browser location to Las Vegas, searched “Hotels” (just like I did in 2011), and took a screenshot of the 7 local results.
You may look at the above screen grab and think Google is doing a great job providing local hotel search results. There are addresses, phone numbers, reviews, photographs, and a selection of 7 hotel locations. But how do we know that the information provided is accurate and not of low-quality? I chose to dissect the top result (position A, which says Wynn-Encore) since by many it could be considered the best result.
It’s been suggested to me that search results are supposed to be about providing a great user experience with information that is of high quality, so I highlighted 8 elements for our case study dissection. Those 8 elements are the address, phone number, location on map, keywords, prices, hours, transit, and photographs. In similar posts from the past I’ve dissected other elements and shared my thoughts on why some hotels don’t appear in search results like these.
Are you wearing your dissection gloves?
Imagine the delight of a first-time tourist visiting Las Vegas and asking a cab driver at McCarron International Airport to take them to 3950 South Las Vegas Boulevard (the address in Element 1) thinking their destination is the Wynn or Encore hotel. That silly tourist may be better off walking to the Las Vegas strip, and not because the taxi companies might long haul to rip you off, but because the address is incorrect.
3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd. is not the correct address for the Wynn or Encore hotels, it’s the address for the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino (one of the major strip hotels located near the airport). It’s easily a 2 1/2 mile walk along the Las Vegas strip to get from the Mandalay Bay to the Wynn.
Now that our first-time tourist is lost they could call the phone number shown in Element 2. The good news is it’s a toll-free number but the bad news is that dialing (877) 603-4390 will get you a cheerful yet automated “thank you for calling Bally’s Las Vegas” greeting.
So far we have an incorrect address and an incorrect phone number, let’s take a closer look at the location provided on the Google map, which is Element 3. That’s the correct centroid (position A) if you’re visiting Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino but it’s still at least a mile away from the Wynn/Encore. I’d say this isn’t looking good.
There are 5 key phrases seen in Element 4. Google’s “At a glance” lists fashion show mall (which is located across the street on Las Vegas Blvd. and is short walk from the Wynn/Encore), high speed internet access (likely a daily charge but possibly not), Steve Wynn (developer of the casinos/hotels), tower suites ( both hotels have them), le reve (Wynn hotel aquatic show). Keywords get a pass.
One could argue that elements 5 and 6 have little to do with search results but I prefer to focus on the user experience. Quality content that people would want to share is what I’m told makes a great website. Element 5 shows 2 dollar signs ($$) out of a potential 4. Personally, I’d rate the Wynn and/or Encore as $$$$ or at least $$$, especially since the Wynn is a AAA five diamond and Forbes five-star hotel. Las Vegas strip hotels like Circus Circus, the Stratosphere, and Imperial Palace are better examples (in my opinion) of a $$ rating. For visitors to a Las Vegas hotel, Element 6 (hours) is pretty much useless as far as I’m concerned. For the city that never sleeps it should simply say… Hours: 24/7.
I had initially considered not including information regarding Element 7 (Transit) but I happen to be a regular user of the Las Vegas Monorail and I noticed that what Google provided, Bally’s & Paris Las Vegas Station, is incorrect for transit to the Wynn. Again, we’re thinking user experience, and the thousands of people potentially relying on this information while in Las Vegas (or planning to visit) for perhaps their first time. If you’ve ridden the LV Monorail from the Las Vegas Convention Center towards the MGM Grand, chances are you’ve heard the automated attendant mention that Wynn has discontinued monorail service (a long time ago) and the Harrah’s Imperial Palace Station was now the closest stop to the Wynn and Encore properties. While closer than Bally’s, those hotels are too long of a walk (in my experience) to the Wynn. Better off using one of the bus services on the Las Vegas strip, or taking a cab.
We’ve covered 7 elements, leaving us with Element 8, the five photographs provided in our search results. The 5 photos shown may look pretty and be representative of Las Vegas but would you be shocked if I told you none of those photos were of the Wynn or Encore Hotel properties?
You may not be aware that all 5 of the photos are provided via Panoramio (a Google owned photo sharing site) and none of them represent the Wynn/Encore Casinos/Hotels. Shocking.
I highlighted each photo with arrows so you can see the thumbnails are of the Bellagio Fountain, Bellagio, Caesars Palace Las Vegas, Bellagio Fountains, and ARIA (hotel). What’s crazy is that all these photos are geotagged with location information and include accurate descriptions. Wouldn’t you agree that this Encore photo (also on Panoramio), or this Las Vegas Fashion Mall photo (I took both while in Las Vegas) would be better than what Google is providing?
To summarize; the top listing returned by Google when searching for a hotel in Las Vegas features an incorrect address, incorrect phone number, incorrect map placement, incorrect hours, incorrect transit information, and incorrect photos. It appears Google has taken elements of Mandalay Bay (address), Bally’s (phone), Paris Hotel (map), Bellagio (photos), Caesars (photos), ARIA (photos) and whipped together a listing for Wynn/Encore Hotel. Maybe it’s a multi-casino property conspiracy against Steve Wynn? Maybe it’s a sign that we have long way to go in improving local search for users.