All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Google Maps now displaying business category

Google Maps with Category descriptionGoogle Maps has recently added a new piece of information with a business: their category. Whether this is a test or a permanent addition is unclear.

What is clear is that it is not done with consistency with a given search. The reasons for this are not obvious. For example on the search (inside of Google Maps) “web design Olean NY” some businesses have no category listed, some have the one category description and others have a different category (obviously provided by different 3rd party providers). Google has acknowledged that these categories are from other data providers.

I have noted in a previous post how this can play out in unusual ways and the likely source for the data. Another outcome of the use of categories from other sources is that it leads to small business frustration.

With this new change that shows the 3rd party category, there is more transparency as to why a listing is where it is but there is still no option to include your specific business in this category.

As sophisticated as Google’s local algorithm is one would think that they could come up with a single comprehensive list of categories that would be transparently available to every business in their local database.

Eyetracking Heatmap: How Searchers View the Google One Box

Eye Tracking Heatmap

From the Marketing Sherpa report excerpt: a heatmap…revealing how actual consumers’ eyes view listings. As you may be aware, the red blob is where most searchers looked directly; as colors change, the level of attention goes down. The “X” indicates where searchers clicked, and the red horizontal bar shows how far down folks scrolled to view listings.

User behavior upon viewing a search results page has always fascinated me although I have never attempted to actually test this behavior or track the physiology behind it. The folks at Marketing Sherpa annually do that and the results are both instructive and beautiful.

Among their key findings: … is the attention to which search users pay what we call the “bullet points” within top listings… these eyetracking results indicate you can’t afford to wait for a time when Google stops changing the One Box (if indeed they ever stop changing.)… In addition, as our past eyetracking tests (also included in the appendix of this Guide) have
revealed:
– There’s a “red triangle” of attention in the upper-left corner, beyond which eyes don’t
stray.
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Google Maps Multiple Destination Command Line

I noted last month that Google Maps now supports Multiple Destinations.

On Safari on my old Powerbook 12″ 1 ghz, the “Add Destination” feature is very slooooowww and thus I didn’t use it much. Today I realized that the destination point allowed a simple command to enter all of your travel points at once. In the destination field simply enter “City, St. to:City, St to:Next City, St.” etc. and the complete route may be entered very quickly.
directions1.jpg

The category exists at Google Maps; Sort of….

Reuben Yau (of reubenyau.com) points out an interesting annomoly that occurs from time to time with categories in Google Maps where a business can achieve onebox or authoritative onebox listing in a category that doesn’t exist in the Google Local Business Center. He wrote: The other thing I noticed is that the category for that site is Gazebo Builder which is taken from Acxiom’s database, but that category is not present within GLBC. FYI Acxiom is the database behind yellowpages etc.

Here is what Google has to say in the Google Maps for Business Owners Forum: Because our listings come from different sources, not all categories
available on Maps are in the Local Business Center – you may want to use to
category suggestion page to submit Services – Resume. That’ll help us
improve our category options in the future.

One wonders why Google would want to limit the categories and what process they use to decide whether to accept a category. It would be interesting to have a list of those categories that Google uses but that they don’t make available through the Google Local Business Center.

The prodigal son of a search engine comes home

How is Google integrating Google Maps data and what does the future hold?

Over the past 14 months, Google has been integrating ever more local data into its main search results page. This use of Maps data on the main results page indicates how important Google thinks that local is.

The first major change of many this calendar year was the renaming of Google Local to Google Maps (April 20, 2006). Here is a list of integration since the last quarter of 2005:

Google Feature ~Date of Introduction
Plus Box December 9, 2006
OneBox Business Listing Map July, 2006
Onebox Authoritative Listing Map July, 2006
Google Local renamed to Google Maps April, 2006
Top 3 local listings Onebox November, 2005
Integration of Google Local & Google Maps October 6, 2005

Obviously Google Maps gets many fewer visits than the Google search page (in fact only 1/100 of the visits, about 25 million searches a month). For now local data is also being pushed out to cell phones (via directory assistance, SMS, Mobile Maps) but that too is not having a very significant impact.

Most users only find information that Google presents on its main search page. It seems too that most users when they do find a phone number on a search engine still end up picking up the phone to call (see Greg Sterling’s analysis).

Given this usage, local data only has impact today when Google presents it on the front page. It is, however, not easily tracked at this point. If a business is called from a front page local Onebox listing, there is nothing comparable to web analytics to automatically register the behavior.

There has been a steady and rapid integration of local data into the main Google page. More will be coming along. Perhaps it will be presented within the existing user interface or perhaps in some new presentation model.

I would like to hear your thoughts on which of these introductions to date has most increased the use and value of Local Data when found through the main search results? Was it the Plus Box (Loren Baker seems to think so) or do you think it was some other feature?

What would you like to see integrated in the main Google search results page in the first few months of 2007?

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Google to Add map data correction capability?

From: “Maps Guide Jen“  (Google-Maps-For-Business-Owners@googlegroups.com)
… it sounds like your addresses aren’t being recognized within our map data, all of which comes from NAVTEQ and TeleAtlas. We don’t currently have a way for you to submit your map data to Google Maps, although we’re working on it.

“Maps Guide Jen” the Google staffer at the Google-Maps-For-Business-Owners Group, provided the above answer when a business reporting that Google Maps was locating their business incorrectly. There is nothing more frustrating than when the underlying data to which a business owner has no access is wrong. It looks like Google will soon offer a solution that allows the business owner to correct that map data more easily themselves.

Google Maps data updated

The restaurant listings (and probably all listings) when through a major data update this past Thursday (12/21) which reordered results within the restaurant listings in Google Maps.

In mid November (11/15/06) I updated a restaurant listing at Yelp to standardize the business name and added a review. This was a test to see how long it took to show up in the reviews section on a restaurant in a small market. At the time the restaurant was listed at 22 in Maps. With this recent update, the Yelp review did not make it into the review section but did show up as a “web page” reference. No other changes were made and reviews that were made at Citysearch in May had still not been integrated.

Interestingly the restaurant moved from position 22 to position 2 in Maps but has not yet made it on to the front page “Onebox”.

In looking at the Buffalo listings that I wrote about earlier there was a fair bit of change as well. Here are the comparisons… Continue reading

Improving Local Standings via Relevancy (my hat is off to Bill Slawski)

I see that Understanding Google Maps has been nominated by the Search Engine Journal in the category of Best Local Search Blog. It is an honor that I really appreciate.

However, more importantly, it demonstrates Bill Slawski‘s idea of gaining prominence through providing relevancy in your local search marketing. While I am writing this blog to others in the Search Engine field there is every reason to use this nomination as an opportunity to achieve some local news coverage and “street cred” with my local clients. So while I won’t shamelessly ask for your vote in the Search Engine Journal Election, I will shamelessly flog the information to my local news media and my client base.

The next step will be to parlay my writings and findings into a bang up seminar to evangelize more local businesses on these ideas.

Google “Plusbox” now available to all browsers

Google Plusbox

On December 9th Matt Cutts announced a new standard interface feature on the main Google results page for locally oriented searches: the Plusbox. (Just a note, this is not my jargon. I suppose though that since Google invents it they can name it.)

At the time it was only available for IE users but is now available to Macintosh Firefox and Safari users (and I assume Opera users as well).

What does a link campaign look like for Local?

In my previous post about the sources and weightings of local information it was clear that reviews and web references played a key role in your Google Maps ranking and hopefully a business’s appearance in the top 3 One Box.

However if you execute the link command (link:www.anchorbar.com ) for the number 1 ranked restaurant, The Anchor Bar, in the search “Restaurant Buffalo NY” you will see “Results 1 – 10 of about 40 linking to anchorbar.com”. When you drill into the Google Map local detail for “web pages” for the Anchor Bar you see that Google finds 335 “web page” references. Clearly Google looks at “links” differently in local than in organic.

In fact one of the first things you notice is that your “links” don’t require a link at all just an actual street address and a business name that matches what Google thinks it should be. At this point in time Google obviously notes these references more liberally in Maps than on the organic side.

What types of sites and references should you be looking for?

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