All posts by Mike Blumenthal

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 Google Maps data updated

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 ( ) 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”. 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?

Continue reading What does a link campaign look like for Local?

New Google tools will impact Maps

Philipp Lenssen at Google Blogoscoped (thanks to Barry Schwartz) points out two new Google features that will have some impact on the future of Google Maps.

The first is Google My Reviews whereby a logged in Google user can find all of his or her reviews made on Google properties. Given the role that reviews currently play in Google Maps this will (at some point) will obviously affect local ranking.

The other is that Google Maps now supports Multiple Destinations. This has been something that Yahoo has offered for a while but any map push out will increase the direct use of Google Maps and will at some point move Google Maps into a true destination with more than 1% visitation.

“The most relevant results” sort of…

One of the interesting results that I covered in previous posts ( here and here ) was the occasional and glaring difference (using the same data set) of the results in the Google Onebox Local Listing and the Maps top results.

In a recent NY Times article (reg. req’d) and often in the past a Google spokesman has said “We will continue to innovate our search technology to provide users with the fastest and most relevant search experience on the Web.” Which is the most authoritative? Which is the most relevant?

It is hard to have two “most relevant” results to the same query (Restaurant Buffalo, NY) from the same search engine. It certainly leaves one wondering why Google can’t really decide.

Google Organic Onebox Local Results Google Maps Results
1)Anchor Bar – A.Hyatt Hotels & Resorts: Hyatt Regency Buffalo
2)Kuni’s Sushi Bar B.Adam’s Mark Hotels & Resorts
3)Hyatt Hotels & Resorts: Hyatt Regency Buffalo C.Buffalo Marriott Niagara
D.Anchor Bar
I. Kuni’s Sushi Bar

Continue reading “The most relevant results” sort of…

Sources for Google Map’s Restaurant Local Listing data

AllMapDetailsA-P1-10LineIn Part 1 of this series I reviewed which directories Google is using in creating their Local Listing for Restaurants. In Part 2 I looked at their sources for reviews and ratings and its impact on ranking. In this third installment I will review the aggregate results of all data Google uses in providing information for the Local Listing in the restaurant industry and some of the implications for optimization.

Google Map’s ranking algorithm is complicated. This summary reviews Map’s sources and from that one can glean some ideas about what influences ranking. Clearly though the underlying rules rely on different weighting and factors that have yet to be determined (although we can make some good guesses).

In fact it is clear that Google Maps and the Google Organic Local Onebox results weight the same local listings differently. My simplified analysis does not (and can not) establish definitively what these relative weights are. It can however point us to the data sources that Google is using and perhaps allow us to develop models for improving rankings.

Here is a summary all the details that Google Maps captured for the search Restaurant Buffalo, NY on each listing that I analyzed:

Restaurant Ranking Details (# of Directories) Referring Web Pages Number of Reviews Stars Rating Business Type
A 8 176 57 4 Hotel
B 8 385 76 3 Hotel
C 8 451 15 4 Hotel
D 5 156 37 5 Restaurant
E 7 260 18 4 Hotel
F 7 383 5 0 Hotel
G 4 73 29 3.5 Restaurant
H 7 81 26 3.5 Restaurant
I 5 57 25 5 Restaurant
J 6 78 4 0 Restaurant
K 2 12 2 0 Restaurant
L 3 48 0 0 Restaurant
M 1 55 3 0 Restaurant
N 7 190 8 0 Restaurant
O 3 28 10 0 Restaurant
P 7 89 6 0 Restaurant

There is a lot of information in this chart so here are some different ways to look at the info…. Continue reading Sources for Google Map’s Restaurant Local Listing data

Which Restaurant Review sites are used by Google Maps?

Reviews Vs RankingSeveral weeks ago I did some research on which directories Google Maps referenced to provide details for their local search.

Matt McGee of Small Business SEM suggested looking at which review sites were used as well. I took the same approach and analyzed which sites were used to provide review/rating detail to Google Maps. Here is the summary of the list in alphabetic order:

Review Site Total Reviews 10 4 39 3 17 36 1 43 22 98 93 78 2

Continue reading Which Restaurant Review sites are used by Google Maps?

Google Plus Box now standard?

Update 12/21: The PlusBox is now visible in FireFox and Safari on the Mac
Matt Cutts recently wrote of a New Google UI feature: Plus Box. Several things interest me about this announcement:

First and foremost it is another push of local data out the main Google search window. This will continue to make Google Maps data more accessible to the average user and do so in a way that doesn’t disrupt the clean Google interface. This is consistent with previous Google behavior and my ideas about their long term strategy that I noted in the past.

matterofthai1.jpgIt is also of interest on several tactical levels. Firstly, the feature which Matt noted on December 9th is still not available to everybody. When I search on Matt’s search phrase I do not get the “Plus Box” (but I am happy to have a name for it). Apparently this is due to the fact that is currently only working on IE and will soon be available for Safari, Firefox Mac and Opera. Continue reading Google Plus Box now standard?

Here today and gone tomorrow! Where did Google Click to Call go off to?

clicktocall1127b.jpgThe news of Google rolling out Click to Call spread like wild fire last week. I expressed optimism about the service while some, like Matt McGee expressed reservations about its impact.

Pundits not to worry. Its gone today. Not sure what happened to it either. When I searched today from Olean, NY it was gone. However others are reporting still seeing the feature.