All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Yahoo! Maps Updated

From the Yahoo Geo Blog:

We’re proud to introduce a new version of Yahoo! Maps, which includes an update to Yahoo! Local Search integration, usability, and Print Page improvements.

These past few months we’ve focused on improving the usability of Yahoo! Maps, and some of the modifications we encourage you to try include:

  • Improved Local Search integration that utilizes the Search/Direct Display Index
  • More user-friendly Driving Directions – a more user-friendly left rail that’s both wider and more legible (larger text), for easier reading of driving directions
  • A redesigned Print Page
  • The ability to minimize multiple driving direction instructions to save vertical space
  • The ability to display inline turn-by-turn images for each driving direction segment
  • An Interactive Print Page Map
  • Users can now select from a variety map views (full route, full route + finish, full route + start + finish)
  • Drag/Pan/zoom functionality for print page maps
  • Interactivity between Points of Interest (POIs) and Map view; minimized POIs are removed from the map view
  • Improved POIs – with ability to minimize/collapse multiple POIS to maximize viewing area

Looks like they are taking a play out of the Google play book. If it increases visibility of Yahoo Local, 3 cheers! Perhaps the announcement of Click and drag to adjust your route is in response to the many complaints that Google is experiencing over their Maps Update and the lack of direction reordering in the new interface.

By the way, the standard 2 field, 3 tab interface with classic directions and reordering can still be access via the Text View Option.

Local Links of Interest

Yahoo! Local adds Web References and Imports Reviews – Stephen Espinosa,

Yahoo! Local seems to be taking a step in a direction that will indirectly help SEO’s by adding web references and importing reviews into their local listings.

Google on One Boxes and Grouping Result Types to Fill Informational Needs– William Slawski,

A preview of “Google on One Boxes and Grouping Result Types to Fill Informational Needs”.

IDC: Smartphones Continue to Outpace Industry – Greg Sterling,

IDC, which tracks global shipments of mobile handsets, said that smartphone growth was 40% YoY compared with 10% growth for so-called feature phones. But even feature phones are getting better and becoming more viable as mobile Internet access devices.

Google Now Notifies Of “Search Customization” & Gives Searchers Control – Danny Sullivan,

Google is now showing “search customization” messages to inform searchers when their search results have been modified from “normal” due to a searcher’s geographic location,

Google Maps and the wrong URL

There has been a large uptick in reports in the Google Maps for Business Groups of wrong URL’s being assigned to a business listing in Google Maps and the Local Ten Packs. These reports often speak of nefarious competitors, hijacked listings or lost business.

I have written about this problem in the “archeological” past (here and here) and noted that this assignment of URL’s was an artifact of an over aggressive Google algorithm.

However, the posts in the group and inquiries from peers had become so numerous that I inquired of a Google whether there had been a recent change in the algo or whether just more people were noticing. The response was, that more folks are noticing.

We are experiencing a new wave of newly (and poorly) educated business owners who are taking note of the value of Maps but are clueless as to how to handle this and other “features” of Google Maps. So this post is directed to them (if they make it this far in their quest).

1-Take control of your listing in the Local Business Center

2- DO NOT  leave the URL field blank even if you do not have a web site

3- Either enter the URL for your business profile from another local site that has good details or create a profile page at one of the free web site sites and use its URL.

4- If you feel uncomfortable doing the above then put into the Local Business Center until you have either created a new website or taken step 3 above

Allowing Google to automatically assign a URL to your business listing is roughly akin to the oxymoron of allowing the Commander in Chief to be in charge of Military Intelligence. A we have learned, neither has worked very well.

Google LBC Communications Options Explained

Earlier in the month, Google upgraded the Local Business Center with additional communication options:

A number of readers expressed some confusion about the feature. Maps Guide Jen was kind enough to elucidate its limited function in an email exchange that we had recently.

Mike: Could you give us any insight into the new Business Communications feature in the LBC…when will it be functional, what sorts of things we might expect to get from it and what “Receive notifications when changes are made to your business listings” means?

Maps Guide Jen: The new communications feature in the LBC is functional already; the way it works is that if we make any major changes to the LBC (for example, this latest UI change) or if we have any news that we think Local Business Center owners should know about, people who have selected the choice to receive notifications will hear about them directly.

Mike: Has it been used by Google yet?

Maps Guide Jen: We haven’t sent anything out yet! But we will 🙂

From what I can gather the “Account Updates Receive notifications” feature is likely to include notifications for system wide updates such as the recent UI refresh and is not intended to provide any additional granularity at this point.

Google Maps LBC Word filter bars XXX business name?

Our formal business name is but the Local Business Center does not allow the use of a web url in the business name field. I didn’t worry too much about it other than to be slightly annoyed. It has forced me to address what a business name should look like in the age of Local search.

However this business poster in the Maps for Business Group definitely has an issue:

TOPIC: Google won’t accept our business name, which is a pet store called
Pussy & Pooch

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Tues, Jul 29 2008 11:41 am
From: “P&P”

Our downtown Los Angeles pet store is called “Pussy & Pooch”. Unfortunately Google Maps isn’t allowing us to use the word ‘Pussy’. Our business is not adult oriented in any way. There doesn’t seem to be a way to contact Google Maps directly about this.

Does anyone know a way to contact Google Maps directly? Thanks!

This might be one of those situation where an internet DBA would be appropriate. And just what exactly is a Pooch? I am anxiously waiting to see Map Guide Jen’s response.

Google Maps Update Moves to single box search field

Google has rolled out a UI upgrade to the map side view of Google Maps. The new interface provides a simplified single search box to businesses & places of interest and a new cleaner interface to directions.
Google Single search box upgrade (blue line) to Maps

Unfortunately, the Text View that is the default view when Maps is entered via the Onebox, still retains to the older, tabbed, multi-field interface. I look forward to similar update in this area as well.

Google Maps: New User Content Tab

Having been engaged in research on local, prepping my talk for SMXLocal & traveling, I haven’t paid that much attention to the bowels of Google Maps of late, so this could have been present for quite a while. But Google has added a new tab to the More Info display for a business record in Maps:

This content is taken from maps that I created  for this client in MyMaps. Historically, the content in these tabbed areas of Maps have correlated well with ranking.  Whether this is the case or not remains to be tested but obviously this indicates that Google thinks that User Generated Content from MyMaps is important enough to elevate to this level of visibility and reinforces my standing recommendation to create these sorts of  geo-referenced signals for Google to key in on.

Local SMX – Search Trends in Local

I have recently returned from LocalSMX and hope to blog on the event, incredible people and our research relating to Maps over the next week. But I wanted to touch on one of the keynotes delivered Frazier Miller of Yahoo (summarized here by Greg Sterling).

Frazier noted that growth in local queries at Yahoo experienced 76% year over year growth compared to a roughly 35% Y/Y growth in the previous year. He noted that the average user was querying 12 times per month vs 8 and that the query strings were moving heavily towards 3 and 4 word local queries from 1 and 2 (plus locale).

What struck me as so significant was that this growth appears to be occurring despite a flattening or downtrend in the long standing leaders of short tail queries in the local space like hotels, restaurants and real estate. Here is a Google Trends screenshot for real estate + locale:

This downward or flat trend is apparent in many of the queries that are dominant in local search: restaurants + locale, hotel + locale, lawyers + locale.

My sense of this conflicting trends is that this is actually a positive trend for a number of reasons….

Continue reading Local SMX – Search Trends in Local