Local SEO Blocking and Tackling for Siri & Apple Maps

With the announcement of iOS6 and Apple Maps at the WWDC today, the shape of Apple’s local search strategy started to become clearer. Greg Sterling pointed out this list of Apple’s copyright attribution for their mapping product. From the list it is clear that Siri/Apple Maps basic listing data will be coming from Localeze, Axciom and, with additional review & ranking infomation, Yelp. And the mapping base layer from TeleAtlas/TomTom

Greg noted that he thought that TomTom was also a source for business data but a careful read of Apple’s attribution page seems to indicate that Apple is just getting their mapping data from TomTom and its MultiNet system but not business data.

Obviously showing up correctly in Apple Local search is the first step and the first step to that is no different in practice than what you should have been doing right along… listing at all of the primary data suppliers for the local ecosystem; Localeze, Acxiom (& of course InfoUSA) as well as Yelp. If your listing process has only included one or the other of those sources you should expand your claiming process to include them all.

Axciom has a free front end tool as does Localeze & InfoUSA. UBL.org, as you probably know, also submits to Axciom and InfoUSA (& TomTom) although these primary data sources are both important enough that even if I submitted via UBL I would also consider submitting directly to them.

Localeze also has a free listing capability. If you have a traditional Ma Bell landline, the free listing option is probably adequate with Localeze. However be forewarned that if you or your client is using a VOIP or cell phone number, due to the technology that Localeze uses to verify a listing, the free option is not viable. In those cases you really need to submit a paid listing to Localeze to be sure that the listing is in fact verified.

In addition to providing basic NAP to the primary data suppliers, it makes sense to check TeleAtlas maps to be sure that your business addresses resolve correctly. Obviously a great deal of the use of Apple Maps will be for directions and making sure that your address is where you think it should be is critical. Historically their mapping data in the US has been less complete than either Google’s or Navteq’s.

Thus the basics of blocking and tackling of local search for Siri is the same as the desktop: NAP consistency at the primary data suppliers and checking the underlying map geometry and accuracy.

Ranking, at least so far, has taken on a very Yelpish color.  Matt Siltala did an excellent presentation at the recent Getlisted Local University Advanced on his observations vis a vis Siri and Yelp and some things that seemed to correlate well with rank. Here are some factors that seem to come into play in Siri ranking based on my observations and conversations with Matt:

Distance from the searcher
Yelp review totals
Keywords in review content
Yelp Premium partner status
Yelp Elite reviews

It will be September before iOS6 and Apple Maps hits the streets and another few months before it is widely used on all iOS devices. But unlike Siri, it will not be limited to the most recent phone only and should start to play a significant role in the local search arena. In addition given that it is a default app and includes turn by turn driving instructions its uptake should be very swift.

Time to get ready is now. Here are URLs Data submission forms noted above:

Localeze
Acxiom Manage Your Business Online
InfoUSA Express Update Service
UBL.org

TeleAtlas Map Insight 

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Local SEO Blocking and Tackling for Siri & Apple Maps by

13 thoughts on “Local SEO Blocking and Tackling for Siri & Apple Maps”

  1. It’s been fairly clear that ever since Google departed from the Apple roadmap to develop Android (and their mobile strategy) on their own that Apple has been keen on removing Google’s presence from all its products.

    What I find most interesting is that Apple has managed to largely rebrand and repackage content from third party information providers and label it as its own, while at the same time any criticism of their product’s failings will be met with a chorus of angry shouts from their legions of fanboys, silence from Apple, and the sense that it will get ‘better’ or that it’s magical or something (such is the marketing power of Apple, that it’s largely immune to that kind of criticism).

    That being said, Google will really need to step up its game, because this is a core threat to their business model–no search, no ads, no money. I’ve made a series of suggestions to Google:
    -‘freezing’ data on the Place (now Google+) page instead of trying to ‘improve’ it algorithmically;
    – stepping up bug killing and focusing on the stability of their product rather than new ‘wow’ features that usually don’t work;
    – adding in customer support (of the paid, telephone variety) to take some of the heat off the forums and out of the public eye;
    – disabling some of the functionality of what is called the Dupe bot in MM land and the merge algo in Places,
    – and instead of automatically merging listings send them into human-sighted moderation prior to approval (rather than the usual, separate the businesses six weeks later approach);
    – better integration between the disparate Maps products: Places/Google+, Map Maker, etc. so that the data smoothly syncs from one database to another, and is consistent, with no visible disruption on the Place page;
    – actively cleaning out the spam from their search indexes;
    – and improving Report a problem’s responsiveness to issues.

    Not sure they’ll listen (they have other problems, like trying to get the albatross of Google+ off the ground), but they’re going to have to work harder to make their products better, because they’re about to become less visible.

    The latest misstep isn’t even their own doing, it’s what their enemies are doing and both their reactionary attempts to keep the ad dollar spigot flowing and the sclerotic bureaucracy impeding communication between teams that really surprises me.

    I do, however, expect they’ll be releasing their own Maps product for the iOS system come Fall, possibly prior to the release of iOS6, but hopefully they’ll take Apple’s innovation as a sign they need to step up their game.

  2. @David

    Yes, if you think about it, Apple is the first competitor to put together a whole stack to compete against Google in a significant segment in a very long time.

    Interestingly re our conversation from last month, it makes Acxiom totally relevant once again. It shows why it is necessary to do the basics correctly.

  3. @Dan
    I think your list is spot on and similar to conversations that I had with Google over the past 4 or 5 years.

    I think you will see that that when they finish their current upgrade cycle they will have knocked some but not all the items off your list.

    But Google is a formidable competitor and you can never count them out. They have the lion’s share of the desktop and the lion’s share of mobile search. They will leverage those strengths to try to stay ahead and dominate in mobile.

    In Apps for the iPhone they have been lame with their recent Google search app finally, finally offering enough juice that I might consider it rather than a Safari/Siri/Google combo… but unlodging Apple from the iPhone desktop will not be an easy task. They will have their competetive and quality work cut out for them

  4. Hey Mike,

    Very interesting news about the sources Apple will be using for Apple Maps. As we both know, the data in those “mothership” data providers are pretty much impossible to keep up with in terms of where they’re getting THEIR data from, aside from businesses adding their listing manually.

    With all of these offline data providers shoveling mass amounts of business information to the online data providers (Axciom, Localeze, etc), is there any concern with possible amount of incorrect business information that can/will be in Apple Maps? It seems as though creating and sustaining consistent NAP is a constant uphill battle, since the offline data providers are constantly “dropping” information into these motherships on a regular basis. Was this something that was addressed in the WWDC?

  5. @Justin

    As far as I know, the details of business listing quality were not addressed at WWDC. I think we might need to wait to for the product to assess quality.

    But a lot has changed since Google developed Maps and a lot depends on how Apple structures the process of assembling listings and what their ambitions are for pre and post transactions with merchants.

    Google started Google Local long before their were comprehensive 3rd party lists and has always felt that they could “do better” than the lists if they aggressively triangulated data from as many sources as they could find. Their process involved reconstituting the list from scratch every 6 weeks or so and reconciling the differences. This frequent reconciliation process led to dupes and merges and lost reviews as the CID might change or it might not. Google also took data from much dodgier sources from across the web with the (over?) confidence that they could reconcile it with their other lists.

    So in some ways, in an effort to improve over any single list Google amplified the errors so that they were more noticable. They exhibited normal list decay (ie a store closing) but then generated their own decay (ie merges). These types of errors are much more problematic than a closed store in that a real store is losing business.

    As Dan points out above the other realty is that people look much harder at Google’s list because they send so many customers or not when it is broken. It is much more painful and likely to blow up in Google’s face if a real business thinks their calls are going to a competitor.

    Apple is likely to take a much simpler approach and thus is unlikely to introduce as many of their own assembly and deduping errors to the list. The list quality is more likely to depend on the initial quality of the combined Localeze & Axciom lists and the types of errors that those lists have.

    Also at least for quite some time, Apple will not be sending the amounts of traffic that Google does and thus people will look less hard at the results.

    Apple has chosen a nontrivial task in which to compete with Google. How successful they are could define the future of local for the next 10 years. Either it will force Google to get their act together or we will once again have significant competition in the market. Or perhaps both.

    Time will tell as to the quality of Apple’s efforts, how well they handle the problems that crop up, the spam they see (I can imagine that locksmiths are licking their chops), how hard it is for a business to get a listing fixed and how many customers they actually send to local businesses.

    For now, we our job as marketers is to make sure that our clients NAP is correct.

  6. Just on pure market share for the mobile market, which drives a significantly higher percentage of local searches this is a significant announcement. I reviewed a couple of reports on I Phone market share and saw stats from 22-28% now. analysts predicted its market share to grow to possibly 1/3 by 2015 or so.

    BIG BIG NUMBERS making the announcement very important.

    After basically 6 or 7 years of the very cranky google maps product with its highly unstable local records….it is time for a formidable competitor.

    I did smb data collection on a micro level years ago. Its difficult to get accurate info. But you can improve processes to get better results. But the big problem w/ google is not the collection of data…..its the algo that seemingly simply allows different data to easily change the critical NAP info or alternatively wipe out a record altogether.

    Hopefully Apple provides a different process that is far less unstable. Frankly with a different algo model I don’t care who their providers are.

    I pretty much agree with Dan above as to his synopsis of issues with the google places algo. I so hope Apples efforts improve on the google product. If Apples results are more stable it will be the competiive push to get google to do the same.

    Frankly the commentary and usage of searchers is far more critical than are the comments and complaints of smbs ….but if there is a more reliable source of local info than google’s cranky unstable places data that might further push still more users into the Apple environment.

    In either case ads play a big role in this. I wonder how Apple is going to showcase web ads with its new proprietary local interface. That is another serious issue.

    In any case it all starts with market share. Today the Iphone share of teh mobile market is higher than the combined Bing/Yahoo share of overall search. Add the tablet market on top of it.

    BAM!!!! Now there is competition for the Google Local environment.

    WOW!!! Let the games begin!!!!

  7. I echo most of the comments here in applauding the move by Apple. That company is really the only tech giant out there that can effectively challenge Google. If the competitive landscape stays the way it is then the company that will end up winning will be the one that can complete the cycle and provide reliable and unlimited data to their devices.

    What do I mean by data? Go check out the new pricing plans being introduced by Verizon and ATT. It is really up to a third party to come in, take these companies (or their spectrum) over and un-throttle the data to the devices. Google and Apple can continue to evolve their product offerings to users but the users will be forced to minimize their usage due to monthly data caps and throttling.

    As for the Apple maps product their downfall will be the reliance upon third party data vendors. I agree with Google’s goal of gathering and disseminating their own derived data, it eliminates gate keepers. The idea that I have to pay Localeeze just to get my data into the Apple world is ridiculous.

  8. Up until now, Google has never HAD TO get their act together in Local. I can’t wait to see what Apple has in store for us. My hope is that Apple will do what they’ve always done – make a product that makes sense to the user. (and without Google’s stupid re-branding all their products every 6 months).

    Bummer I could not make it to the Local U in Seattle. This is the craziest time in Local Search ever! I also agree that SEO’s are now more vital than ever for SMBs to have a powerful online presence.

  9. Localeze
    Acxiom Manage Your Business Online
    InfoUSA Express Update Service
    UBL.org

    All USA (for the most part) companies. Will it be YPG for Canada?

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