The Google Geolocation Nightmare

  • 1
  • November 1, 2010
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Google Places is big news this week but it is exposing a massive flaw in the methods Google uses to find out where searchers are physically located.

The main problem Google has is that they use IP geolocation which is woefully inaccurate in the UK. The second issue they have is that they use two separate systems – one for Adwords and one for the normal Google Places results.

This brings up the ridiculous situation that when I search for “pizza” from my IP address in Harrogate Google shows Adwords ads for pizza restaurants near Manchester and Google Places results for pizza restaurants near Great Yarmouth. I use Sky Broadband and Google guesses my location differently every day, sometimes they get within 50 miles but most of the time it shows results hundreds of miles away. The same applies to our office connection on BT – the results are always inaccurate.

The image above (click for full size version) shows just how bad this situation is. I can understand they might get the location wrong but surely they can use the same system for both Adwords & Places.

Google needs to accept that geolocation in it’s current form simply doesn’t work for the UK and then they should stop showing geotargeted results for generic queries that have no specific local intent. Either that or partner with the big broadband suppliers to get more accurate data.

Google should take this post as constructive criticism because if they can figure out how to geolocate people to their actual location as accurately as Twitter seems to be able to then they will be hard to beat in this sector.