All posts by Mike Blumenthal

The Cat that almost stole Christmas

In my never ending quest to ferret out interesting tidbits about Local Search, I receive a number of Google alerts. Their news algo is pretty good and turns up a number of things that I would otherwise miss and my life would be the poorer for. Occasionally it will turn up news stories that are outside my specific query but have some interest none the less. Here is one recent example: 
Google News Alert for: free 411

Owner: Bobcat that clawed Santa Claus rabies-free
Newsday – Long Island,NY,USA
AP An exotic cat that drew blood after biting a volunteer Santa Claus at a charity event in
Atlantic County has been vaccinated.
See all stories on this topic


It noted in the story that “the man playing the jolly elf said the cat named “Benny” appeared terrified because dogs were nearby at the Santa Paws photo event for an animal-rescue group in Hamilton Township.”

I am happy to report that Santa Claus IS NOT going to die due to Rabies and he will be making his appointed rounds albeit with a bandage on his arm and he may need some extra help.

Now what was that bobcat doing at a charity event? And why are rescued dogs being used in a publicity stunt? Weird times.

Google Business Group Survey – Not from Google

Update 12/11/08: Cathy has pointed out, and I believe correctly, that this survey is NOT from Google. 

If you were the “Lord Ruler of Google” what would you do to improve the local search results? In the Google Maps for Business Owners, Someone Google (NOT…this is my error …) has invited users for feedback on their Local business listing efforts. The survey, which is very short, is available here:

The survey had some interesting questions pertaining to the importance of business listing accuracy and spam. There were several questions that stood out (notice in the last one the question about paying for local):

Continue reading Google Business Group Survey – Not from Google

SMB PPC Ad Spend Drop

Noa Gertin of Palore has recently completed some interesting research on SMB PPC ad spends. They looked at over 3000 SMBs who advertise online, on different websites, out of which they focused on 300 businesses who also advertised on search engines in the past 5 months. They filtered out nationwide chains and all SMBs with more than one office location and only looked at PPC advertising, not longer term advertising commitments. That not withstanding, the drop is significant.

Average Monthly Search Engine Ad spend

Their methodology does not allow one to extrapolate all SMB spending in all internet mediums but gives an idea of the rapid contraction in a certain sector of the advertising economy amongst a clientele (the one store operation) that can make these quick decisions. I would love to see a plot comparing these 300 with the other 2700 businesses that were surveyed to see the difference.

Google Maps: MyMaps Missing In Action – Google remains Quiet

Updated 12/10/2008 7:00 AM:Last night, Lior of the My Maps Team posted below that the problem has been fixed. Maps Guide Adam noted it as well yesterday mid afternoon. There was a sigh of relief in the groups that was audible even in western New York.

Today in the Google Maps Troubleshooting Group there were numerous complaints about serious problems with lost MyMaps.

Here is a sampling from today’s topics:

* Map missing ?? – 2 messages, 2 authors
* Problem Updating and Editing in My Maps – 2 messages, 2 authors
* My map has disappeared. HELP! – 3 messages, 3 authors
* PLEASE HELP – MANY MONTHS OF WORK SEEM LOST – 2 messages, 2 authors
* Saved map gone! – 5 messages, 5 authors
* My Maps – Data Missing From My Custom Map – 1 messages, 1 author
* Google maps I created have disappeared – help! – 1 messages, 1 author
* My push pins went missing and I cannot save new ones! – 3 messages, 2 authors
* Sorry, we’re having technical difficulties. (Error code 22) – 1 messages, 1 author
* Any update on lost work?! – 1 messages, 1 author
* My Map data has disappeared – 1 messages, 1 author
* HELP! My custom Map Won’t Load – 1 messages, 1 author

Lots of folks have committed a great deal of work to Google MyMaps and now their work seems to be missing. The lack of communication from Google is leading to a strong sense of despair amongst MyMaps users. For a large, smart company, Google can act awfully dumb sometimes, particularly when confronted with this sort of PR problem. The problem was best summed up in this plaintive post:

Continue reading Google Maps: MyMaps Missing In Action – Google remains Quiet

Local Links of Interest

Google Maps Doubles Streetview Coverage – Google Lat Long Blog

we’re doubling the amount of coverage in the United States. This will bring Street View to some new cities, like Memphis, Birmingham, and Charleston (SC), and also to a few states for the first time, like Maine, West Virginia, North Dakota, and South Dakota. 

Google Local Business Referrals is Shutting Down – Matt McGee, Small Business Search Marketing

16 months after its launch, the Google Local Business Referralsprogram is shutting down. Google will close the program at the end of this month.

Google Profile Information and Partner Content Providers: Should there be Disclosure? -Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea

A recently published patent application from Google explores how location information, and other information associated with a mobile device, or a desktop computer could be collected as “profile information” about a searcher, and could be used to present a searcher with search results specifically tailored for them.

MIT Mobile Web – MIT

Take a look at mobile done right. The MIT Mobile Web offers up-to-date information, optimized for different types of mobile devices. Find people, places, events, course news, shuttle schedules, and more. 

AT&T Hopes for Single Smartphone OS (PC World) –
PC World

This was reported quite widely last week and the implications are interesting. This doesn’t affect devices like the iPhone or the Blackberry using AT&T’s network. It applies to which OS is on AT&T’s branded phones and essentially pits Microsoft Mobile against Google Android and the now free Symbian OS from Nokia. It makes sense that they would want to support just one OS internally for both design and customer support issues. Since ATT has such large market share in the US, a decision could significantly impact the long term efforts of each of these three to be a significant force in US handset sales. Which do you think they will pick and why?

Local Search: How not to succeed in business without really trying

Update 12/10/08 10:00 am: Google has apparently removed 7098 of these bogus listings. But for reasons beyond my comprehension there are still a few left in the index.

Update 12/10/08 7:00 pm: Google has apparently removed all of these listings. appears to be a local search firm like many others. They offer a Google Maps listing service for $49.95/mo with a one time setup charge of $249.95. Unlike some local search firms, PromoteLocal is so confident of their skills that they proclaim: “Don’t Just Get Listed, Dominate Your Competition With: First page placement in the Google Local Listings every time!, New SEO technology used only by PromoterLocal“. Elsewhere on their site they guarantee first place listings.

Their website doesn’t happen to list their address. Whois indicates that they are located in Orem, UT. In today’s Google Maps for Business Owner Group they were reported to be spamming in Sunnyvale and in Fairfax.

Google Maps seems to think that they possess somewhere on the order of 7,107 locations across the United States with over 400 in the NYC area alone and with business names like “Always On Top Marketing Houston” and “Advertise Real Estate” in Bowling Green.

Perhaps it is a generational thing or a lack of vision on my part, but why would a company predicate a business strategy on such a thin “advantage? I can understand getting laid off by a large corporation. I can’t understand laying off yourself when your lame business idea is found out. Why put any effort into such a short term process? Is the cash really that good?

Putting the Google back in Christmas

Google has decided to, well… put Google back into Christmas. Maps Guide Jade posted in the Google Maps support groups announcing Google Map’s “collection of Google Maps Holiday Solutions to help get you through the holidays with ease”.

After having just returned from a visit with my in-laws I got a particular chuckle from the idea I might want to “find the best restaurant in town to impress your in-laws”.

In our neck of the woods, Christians take out billboards suggesting that Christ be put back in Christmas (despite the historical irony that Christians didn’t actually start this particular seasonal holiday). Given Google’s new financial realities, perhaps Google should target them and suggest an adwords campaign instead of the billboard?

Local Links of Interest

Adwords Appearing for Competitors in Embedded Maps – Martijn Beijk,

Martijn points out that embedded Google Maps on your website could very well now include Adword ads to your competitor’s website. I presume that this is part of Google effort to push more ads out of late but their appearance on embedded Maps seems inappropriate.

In Lean Times, Online Coupons Are Catching On – Claire Miller, NY Times

Have on-line coupons finally caught on? The NY Times seems to think so. I wonder if Google ever will.

Write a Bad Review … Get Sued – Matt McGee,

Consumerist today tells the story of Chris Norberg, a guy who left a negative review on Yelp about Dr. Steven Biegel, a chiropractor in San Francisco.

It looks like Norberg deleted his negative review from Yelp after getting some kind of cease and desist letter from Biegel’s attorney, but Norberg did leave this review/comment on Biegel’s business listing summarizing some of his complaints and explaining why the original review is gone.

Google Maps Redesign allows easier reporting of inappropriate Streetviews

The recent StreetView upgrade to Google Maps to more closely resemble the functionality of Streetview on the iPhone, has also improved the ability to report inappropriate Streetview scenes. In the Google Support Groups for Maps, the invasive StreetView scenes were a common complaint.

The link from StreetView takes the user to an interactive form that allows for a detailed complaint to be filed and a precise location in StreetView to be identified:

Privacy concerns with StreetView have been common and at least one German city has claimed that they will deny Google permission to take StreetView images. I wonder if this improved complaint capability is a (minimal) response to these concerns?

The form expands and allows selection of a number of specific concerns related to the above categories:
Continue reading Google Maps Redesign allows easier reporting of inappropriate Streetviews