All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Comparing the Local Onebox with the Maps business directory: an architectural view

This guest article is written by Erek Dyskant, a database analyst, who has written a number of apps that interface with Google Maps and Yahoo Local. It provides an interesting look at the inner workings of the Google Maps database.

As I’ve been reading about some of the discrepancies between the Google Maps business directory and the Local Onebox, I thought that I’d shed some light on the likely architectural differences between the two approaches.

Google’s main search is highly distributed, based on the approach that search results need to be both quick and impervious to natural disaster. However, it’s not important that the main search results be identical across all their datacenters. If a specific site is 5th in one datacenter, but 9th in another, or one has a more recently updated version of a site than another, that’s not a major concern to Google.

However, the Google Maps Business Directory has different priorities. Data consistency is much more important as they’re dealing with structured data submitted by trusted data sources, and general purpose databases are more suited to the task at hand. While I don’t have any information to back this up, I expect that they’re using Oracle or MySQL as the datastore for the Business Directory. Continue reading Comparing the Local Onebox with the Maps business directory: an architectural view

Google Mapspam – a violated Public Trust?

Update 8:00 am EDT 8/24/08: As of this morning Google seems to have pulled the main page OneBox results noted below but the deceptive listings still appear in Maps. The search phrase local STD testing, Tulsa is still returning a Local Onebox.

Update 8/25/08 10:00 am EDT: Google has stopped showing local results on the search phrase local STD testing, Tulsa but the bogus listings are still in Maps.

Google Mapspam has been an ongoing problem for Google. In attempting to allow easy listing of large numbers of locations via bulk upload, Google Maps has allowed a large number of exploitive listings to appear. These listings are annoying when they unfairly compete with legitimate local business. They are down right troublesome when they exploit folks in need of help.

To Google’s credit, they recently started a public forum for reporting of Mapspam. On August 19th, a posting to that forum caught my eye as it demonstrated all that is problematic with Mapspam in its use to exploit vulnerable populations with less than forthright information. To Google’s shame, they have not acted on these reports in a timely fashion.

This particular mapspam shows up on the phrase “local HIV testing + Locale” throughout the west, midwest and south often dominating the Local OneBoxes. Here is the Mapspam in question on the search local Hiv Testing Tulsa:

I asked Charles Loosen, an HIV educator in Washington State what his ethical concerns were with these types of listings. His answer ranged the gamut of concerns from selling a needed public service that is usually free/low cost to privacy issues. Here is his repsonse:

Continue reading Google Mapspam – a violated Public Trust?

Local Links of Interest

IYP Reach in the US (according to Google) – Amed Farooq,

A quick, but informative, look at the relative importance of stand alone IYP domains using Google’s Ad Planner. 

TomTom’s Mobile Network Strategy – Mike Dobson,

Last time we were speculating on how TomTom (and TeleAtlas) might deploy technology that would allow them to collect real-time routes. We described the potential advantages of capturing these types of data and indicated that this was the “end-game” of interest to both TomTom and Nokia.

Developing the infrastructure to collect these “path” data is a critical, limiting issue for the future of the industry. Today, we will describe possible strategies that would allow TomTom to accomplish this development. We will look at Nokia’s situation in a future blog.

Ten Things I Want On My Mobile Phone – Fred Wilson,

Top 10 Gaining Categories of web properties show strong local direction

Comscore recently announced the Top 10 Gaining Categories of web properties. I have noted those that were explicitly local in bold and those that are likely to entail a significant local component in italics:

comScore Top 10 Gaining Categories by Percentage Change in Unique Visitors (U.S.)

July 2008 vs. June 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Source: comScore Media Metrix



Total Unique Visitors (000)



% Change

Total Internet : Total Audience




Travel – Ground/Cruise




Retail – Consumer Goods




Retail – Mall




Retail – Movies




Travel – Information




Travel – Hotels/Resorts




Online Gambling




Retail – Tickets




Entertainment – News




Career Services and Development





Vincent Cert: Mobile is where its at

In a Sunday comment piece in the Guardian UK/ the Observer, Vincent Cerf highlighted his belief that most of the world will access the internet via their cell phones and that will lead to an explosion of online information:

There are more than three billion mobiles in use today and more than 80 per cent of the world’s population live within range of a network. In areas where wireline or WiFi access barely exists, many new users will first experience the internet through a mobile phone. In developing economies, people are already finding innovative ways to use mobile technology. Grameen’s micro-finance and village phone programmes in Bangladesh and elsewhere are known and respected around the world, but there are many less famous examples. During the Kenyan elections, Mobile Planet provided its subscribers with up-to-the-minute results by text message. As the cost of mobile technologies fall, the opportunities for such innovation will continue to grow.

We’re nearing the tipping point for mobile computing to deliver timely, geographically and socially relevant information. Researchers in Japan recently proposed using data from vehicles’ windscreen wipers and embedded GPS receivers to track the movement of weather systems through towns and cities with a precision never before possible. It may seem academic, but understanding the way severe weather, such as a typhoon, moves through a city could save lives. Further exploration can shed light on demographic, intellectual and epidemiological phenomena, to name just a few areas.

It’s amazing how quickly those of us with internet access have come to take for granted the remarkable amounts of information we have at our disposal, but we’re only seeing the beginnings. The bulk of human knowledge remains offline. As more of us get access to the internet, more of the world’s information will find its way online.

Both the medium (cell phones) and the message (the increased amount of human knowledge) speak directly to the growing role that local will play in the ecosystem of information retrieval.

Blumenthal & Mihm video shows us being faster than a speeding bullet

David and I have been immortalized in Brian Carter’s newest video: Local Search Rock Stars Mihm & Blumenthal Doing Some Local Parkouring. According to Brian:

In my opinion the biggest two rock stars in the “local search” space are David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal, exemplified in their separate analyses of local search ranking factors. Check them out in this video teaming up to do some local buildering and building-jumping.

Big vacab day for me…My daughter noted that I looked “good” in a wife beater and I even learned what Parkour is…

Local Links of Interest

Polo Ralph Lauren to Launch Shopping by Cellphone – Reuters News Service
Polo is the first luxury retailer to launch a mobile commerce site, hoping to stay ahead of a trend that is making its way from Asia to the United States, said David Lauren, senior vice president of advertising and son of designer and Chief Executive Ralph Lauren.

5 Steps for 5 Stars: Reputation Management for Small Businesses
– David Mihm,

A great summary and “a list of truly exceptional posts related to this topic written in the last couple of months, and summarizing their findings”.

Hyperlocal Blogging Sonoma County, CA – More SEO Copywriting Tips – Miriam Ellis,

The second part of a two part series on copywriting tips for hyperlocal blogging.

Smartphone Is Expected via Google NY Times

T-Mobile will be the first carrier to offer a mobile phone powered by Google’s Android software, according to people briefed on the company’s plans.

How Image-to-Text Could Be Used in Google Street View – Phillip Lenssen,

Google could be able to make the streets searchable through a normal text input box. If a club is called “Foobar” and you enter “foobar”, you may find the location even if it’s not available from any existing yellow pages overview service.

An Internet Change of Address Guide

I recently read and responded to this post in the Google Maps for Business Group:

TOPIC: Fix our phone number – repetitive problem.
== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Wed, Aug 13 2008 11:26 am
From: rihard2000

Sorry to butt into this discussion, but I am having the same problem with my updated listing.

We recently moved our offices and switched our phone number. After updating the information in our Google Local Business center account, the new phone number isn’t showing on Google Maps or Local 10 pack (the new address is showing though). It has been about 1 week since we first updated our information.

Local 10 URL for North Coast Events
Google Maps URL for North Coast Events –

Please advise. Thank-you.

Dear rihard2000,

It generally takes 8 weeks or so for all of the information to filter through Google’s system so I wouldn’t worry until October sometime. It is unfortunate but it is the reality of the Google Local Business Center. It takes time for all of the pieces and parts of the database to realign themselves after a change like this. If after 8 weeks the discrepancy has not cleared up you should return to the group and plead with one of the Google Maps Guides to look into it. I would note, however that this is a small part of your concern.

I would strongly suggest that you scour the internet for your old address and phone number and start the Internet Change of Address Niggle Trauma (ICANT). Your old address/phone is embedded in the ether in a way that makes permanently changing it a task for the Gods and not mere mortals.
Continue reading An Internet Change of Address Guide