April 15, 2013
Early last month, Google released a 1.1 upgrade to their iPhone mapping product that was faster, integrated Google contacts and included more countries. Apparently though the upgrade has not gone over well with users as the bad reviews seem to be flowing into the App store at a significant clip.
Since its release 5 weeks ago there have been 1,179 reviews of which a great many were negative. The initial release was greeted with instant savior status and 10′s of thousands of positive reviews. Complaints about the new version included high levels of data usage, increased difficulty of use, screen dimming issues, directions failures and usability problems.
There is more than a little irony in this. I suppose that there is some possibility of a review smear campaign, although that seems unlikely, it does point out how hard mapping is. Even when you are Google.
March 7, 2013
Last night I was driving to Baltimore for an upcoming LocalU seminar. I heard the ding of a received text while listening to a podcast and I was curious. I asked Siri to read it to me. She did. She asked if I wanted to reply, I said yes. She sent my response flawlessly.
A while later I was heading down the highway and glanced at my email and wanted to send off a quick response to one ( I know, I know…it’s dangerous. Do not try this yourselves). I dictated, she understood me and inserted my response correctly into the email.
At 9:30, just outside of Williamsport and dog tired, I pulled over to the side of the highway and asked her to recommend a few nearby hotels as I couldn’t see any signs off of the exit. She asked me which of the several choices I wanted and if I wanted to call one or get driving directions. I indicated that I wanted driving directions and she guided me to the next exit and through a maze of service roads to a decent night’s sleep.
Hmm… it wasn’t until this morning that I realized with a start that she was 4 for 4. Was it an aberration and the Siri brain farts will start again today? I think she was showing off.
Slowly, ever so slowly, it seems that Siri is getting smarter. When did that happen?
March 6, 2013
Yesterday I published the first question of my driving direction survey showing an extremely fragmented market. It is a category led by Google but one that is fragmented and, after a long period of calm, is once again becoming heated.
Apple, with the release of their own mapping product in September, has quickly garnered market share and has created a playbook that others like Samsung could very well follow. After Apple’s disastrous rollout where their mapping product was widely criticized (ah the problems of a market leader), life has settled in. I wanted to see, 6 months in, how Apple Maps was fairing in the competition for iPhone users and how many users were actively using products other than Apple’s.
Using Google survey I created a filter question to ascertain their preferred device/software for driving directions. Five hundred users that indicated iPhone as the answer were asked this follow up question:
- What mapping or driving directions app do you use most often on your iPhone?
The answer? Its a statistical dead heat with Google Maps for the iPhone showing a lead that is well within the margin of error of the survey.
What does this mean for Apple and Google?
The survey doesn’t really address whether the users still using Apple Maps are happy or just victioms of inertia. My anecdotal reports would indicate the former, that many are very happy with the product but I don’t have hard data to back that up. Apple, in releasing a product before it was fully ready, opened themselves up to plenty of criticism. More importantly they have yet to learn how to play defense well in an all too combative market that will take any opportunity to go after the market leader.
Apple has a solid market share and more importantly critical real estate. They have a product that is easy to use and very attractive. They seem to be willing to do what it takes to make Apple Maps a long term contender.
Google, a hyper competitive player, will (or should I say has) move into their release often, upgrade features till the other side gets tired strategy. Yesterday, after only two months on the market, they released a fairly significant upgrade to their iPhone Google Maps product.
As Googler Joel Headley noted on Google + yesterday in response to my survey:
It’s great to see a number of players that have great apps. I know it will help focus Google to develop new and exciting things in mapping not thought of by other folks.
Google, not used to second place in the mapping space, seems willing to invest resources in regular and frequent upgrades to their iPhone app (even while Their Places Product is burning).
Mapquest, an early entrant into the iPhone driving directions market with an excellent product, lost a tremendous opportunity to gain visibility both before the Apple Maps release and in its aftermath. I am not sure how they missed their chance. They too could have been a contender and one has to wonder exactly what they were thinking during the fiasco. The many bit players, like the telco products, will never achieve lift off velocity. Waze, seems to have moved on with Apple’s entry.
It does seem to be a two horse race. Like I said yesterday “driving directions, long a stable and somewhat boring market, is once again in play”. The advent of mobile platforms has injected vitality and change into a market that needed just that.
Note: See yesterday’s post for methodology and issues related to the survey results that might impact the results.
March 5, 2013
When we think of driving directions, we often think that Google’s omnipresent role in the world of Maps indicates that they dominate the market for directions. When Google surpassed Mapquest and Yahoo in desktop mapping in 2009, it seemed that it was game over. But the current reality of driving directions seems to offer up a quite different picture for market share than search and for maps penetration in general. With the disruption of mobile hardware it appears that Google’s lead in this fragmented market can be attacked. While Google is in the lead, with a market share of over 30% (*see note below as to why the survey undercounts Google’s share), their position in the US market is not overwhelming and not unassailable. This has implications for both those looking to break into the mapping world as well as for the SMB that is hoping to be found by their customers.
I have recently completed this survey that attempted to answer two questions:
- What product or service do you normally use to get driving directions?
- What mapping or driving directions app do you use most often on your iPhone?
The survey was conducted during the the Feb 22 – March 3 period and used Google Survey. A sample of 5532, weighted to reflect the adult US Internet population were asked the first question. The first question was used to screen for iPhone users, 500 of whom were then asked the follow up question.
Driving directions are an interesting use case; they occur at both ends of the purchase funnel and again independently of any purchase intentions. Consumers might look for driving directions after doing a search for a local business or before traveling. But they are also likely to request driving directions first and enter buying mode later. While driving direction use isn’t likely to be daily or even weekly, the product is a stepping stone to more regular and habitual use of all of a vendors mapping products and more importantly provides the vendors with a critical source of current road data.
You can see from this survey that usage of driving directions is very fragmented over different hardware and software services. Because I desired to isolate iPhone users and ask them an additional question about their maps usage (more on that in the coming days), Google’s share in the survey from iPhone users is not reflected in the above. It would appear that would add about 6% more users.
The story gets more even more interesting when you look you look at that data by age cohorts. There is a clear preference by those under 45 for Google and Apple mapping products while in the older cohorts there is a significant preference for Mapquest. This implies that usage is strongly habitual and once started it is difficult for a mapping product to change users behaviors.
January 23, 2013
Justin is the Founder and CEO of SupportLocal. He is recognized as a long-time innovator and leader in local search and social. In 2003, he founded LocalLaunch, a leading search engine marketing platform and products company. LocalLaunch was acquired by RH Donnelley/Dex One in 2006. Speaking around the world on the topics of local search and social, Justin has over 15 years of local search marketing leadership experience.
Justin is one of the smartest guys around and he thinks a lot about the big picture in local. His ideas are worth listening to.
TOP TRENDS IN LOCAL SEARCH 2012
GOOGLE AUTHORSHIP AS A STANDARD
Authorship must be part of the social search convergence dialogue as validated authoritative content mixes with our friend’s preferences in a dual for the best answer to user queries.
THE CONVERGENCE OF SEARCH AND SOCIAL
Today, the marketing funnel opens right back up post transaction (an hour glass) as the business has an opportunity to move the customer into a connection and potentially into an advocate – in turn, informing discovery.
SOCIAL SIGNALS BECOME CRITICAL COMPONENTS TO RANK AND PERSUASION
Increasingly social signals will affect discoverability and buying decisions, as one’s social network will provide us with a necessary qualitative checks and balances on the best answer. What was a sufficient product approach to local search discovery over the last decade is no longer sufficient.
THE BIRTH OF G+ LOCAL
As G+ Local converges with G Places pages, we are witnessing a new publishing format that seeks to solve both directional intent and social engagement functions. Combining discovery (pre-transactional activity) with engagement (post-transactional) activity, we have given birth to new forms of business profile structures and responsibilities for businesses and vendors alike.
SELF-PROVISIONING BECOMES A REALITY FOR SMBS WITH FACEBOOK PAGES
Hockey stick adoption of Facebook business pages amongst SMBs demonstrates willingness to self-provision but yields a non-qualitative data by-product and an “okay now what” demand for social marketing services.
SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT IS NOT TREATED EQUAL
We have come to understand that for businesses “social engagement” is a highly variant and for most, a discretionary condition. Tremendous use case differences lie in customer transaction types amongst verticals (ex. Repeat vs. recurring) that has a profound impact on the form and nature of social engagement strategies.
AND THEN THERE WERE THREE: GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, and APPLE
The rise of mobile usage in local search, the introduction of Apple maps and the meteoric rise of social for SMBs sets the battleground for years to come in local search.
THE DEATH OF DAILY DEALS
Need I say more.
THE RISE OF CONSUMER PREFERENCE FRAGMENTATION
Consumer preference as expressed by Likes, +1s, Check-ins, Reviews, Recommendations and more continue to splinter by type, medium, and site. Products of tomorrow will attempt to consolidate local preference of consumers and in turn will give the majors what they seek – a scalable local social layer to search.
2012 – ONE WORD – TRUST
Local search is no longer just about answers – it is about trusted answers.
January 17, 2013
Adam Dorfman is an interactive marketing professional with over 15 years experience in all facets of online marketing including local & organic search, pay per click, paid inclusion, email, XML driven advertising, mobile advertising, social networking, content creation, analytics, usability and offline integration as well as web development, hosting, networking and project management.
He currently oversees the Velocity platform at SIM Partners – a SaaS solution that empowers national brands to maximize Social, Local Search, and Mobile at the location level through automation and scalability.
Clearly, the biggest news in local search for 2012 was Google’s shift to Google+ Local. While Google Places was still a mess when they made the switch, it feels like the issues we had managing listings for local businesses there paled in comparison to Google+ Local. Google has made some very recent efforts into amending some of the problems, but Google+ Local is still much more difficult to get right than Google Places ever was.
As huge as that news was, there was so much more that happened with Google in 2012. From the still under-reported Venice Update to their integration and pull back of Zagat review formatting to removing AdWords Express from Places prior to the Google+ Local release, it seems that Google+ Local is receiving more attention and resources than ever before.
Apple’s foray into local search was also big news in 2012. When Apple dropped Google Maps as the native iOS mapping application and replaced it with their own, they received a lot of attention from both inside and outside the industry. The move highlighted the importance of map software and local information to people outside of the industry (plenty of my colleagues friends and family were asking about it).
When Apple rolled out their own mapping application, there was a lot of public criticism of Apple’s software, many suggesting it was subpar to Google’s . Not only did Apple end up highlighting the importance of this market to the general public, but also showed their vulnerability with the (perceived) failure of Apple Maps, to the extent that Tim Cook released a public apology for the application. In the end, Apple ended up making Google look like the better software developer and trusted source for local and map based information.
Outside of Google & Apple, here are some news and trends that caught my attention as something that will have a noticeable impact on our space moving forward.
- Marissa Mayer becoming the new CEO of Yahoo.
- National brands seeing the importance of having a hyperlocal strategy.
- The continued shift of local being driven by mobile usage.
- This is larger than local but the increasing complexities when it comes to creating, optimizing and managing paid, earned and owned media has made competing with national brands harder than ever for SMBs.
- David Mihm joining the SEOmoz team. Speaking of David, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a link to David’s yearly Local Search Ranking Factors survey or the Local Search Ecosystem. While not “news” at this point, they are still the two pieces of content I visit most frequently for reference purposes.
- The focus on bolstering international offerings by Yelp as well as them working to increase the amount of places their data is being syndicated to.
Thanks to Mike for keeping us in the space up to speed on the endless changes going on with Google+ Local. It’s been a whirlwind of a year and I suspect that 2013 will be no different.
December 13, 2012
Late yesterday, as you probably already know by now, Google Maps for iOS appeared in the app store. The product includes, turn by turn directions, transit directions, traffic information, street view and the ability to sync your searches and directions with your desktop.
The early (and frequent) reviews are predominantly and overwhelmingly positive. The legitimate criticisms offered include:
- the inability to do offline navigation,a feature in iOS maps and critical with spotty cell service,
- no iPad app yet
- a lack of bicycle routes
- slowness, choppiness and performance issues (definitely on the iPhone 4 but perhaps others as well)
In my initial test, compared to iOS Maps, Google Maps is significantly faster at generating maps. Its ability to disambiguate and find locations is superior. And I assume that its database of places is better but I have yet to test that.
It does not however integrate with SIRI which from a car based “workflow” point of view is a huge drawback. Not necessarily Google’s fault but a typical use case for me is to ask SIRI about a location and from there get directions. It is mostly hands off and very easy. Speed of map generation is not as important as the convenience of getting directions in a mostly hands free way that is critical. All in all Google Maps appears to be a great mapping product.
Amazing what Apple had to do to get Google to provide turn by turn on the iPhone. One wonders though, even with the hoopla how many iPhone owners will take the time to download and use this product instead of Apple Maps or whether Apple Maps is “good enough”.
November 21, 2012
Nokia, with the help of Navteq, is a seasoned mapping company. Arguably they are in the top tier of digital mapping. Their new product, Nokia HERE Maps for the iPhone, should show Apple what good mapping is all about. It doesn’t. In fact basic interface issues prevent the product from being a serious contender in the iPhone navigation market. Apple can now proudly say that there is a mapping product for the iPhone that sucks more than theirs.
Visuals: When I read reviews online about it being blurry, slow, ugly and lacking turn by turn, I couldn’t believe that Nokia would put out an inferior product. Now is the time to strike while Apple is still recovering from their Maps fiasco and come out with a great product. I thought Apple fan boys were just ranting. I particularly could not understand a map that was blurry. But sure enough the maps are totally fuzzy, hard to read and annoying. The ONLY thing clear on the map was the “here” brand name. And as Andrew Shotland pointed out even that can be confusing in the context of a map.
Basic Interface Screw Ups: My first search was for 1 Riverside NY, NY. A search that both Apple Maps and Google Maps understands. Apparently Nokia HERE does not understand common abbreviations like NY for New York. When searching for NY it turned up a foreign airport who knows where. When I searched on SF, CA it turned up Santa Fe, New Mexico. Forcing users to type out every word on an iPhone is a big hurdle from the get go and not understanding common naming short cuts is a deal breaker.
Kludgey Interface: Generally the interface for anything other than basic directions is confusing. Certain tasks like looking up nearby business are totally opaque and often non functional. I searched for nearby Grocery stores and was shown a department store.
Business Listing Quality: As far as I can tell other than certain categories like food, entertainment and shopping these are missing altogether.
Routing: I do not live in a big city so my tests typically reflect testing a product’s familiarity with back roads and short cuts. I figure if the product can get these back country roads correct far away from urban centers then the chance of getting the more important stuff right is far higher. Apple and Google both gave me a choice of routes although Apple gave the better choices and in its current iteration, a better way to select the route. HERE offered no such options and offered no alternative routing. It was their route or the highway so to speak.
Things Nokia HERE Has: It does offer public transportation routes which Apple does not. For me that is not enough to get by the egregious interface issues. They also offer the option to save a map for offline use, although the many warnings and caveats were discouraging. A map can take up to 13 mbytes of storage.
Bottom Line: Don’t waste your time or bandwidth to download the product unless it is for a case study in the decline of Nokia as a force in the mobile world.
Some additional screen shots comparing Apple Maps & HERE Maps output (click to see images at full resolution): (more…)
October 29, 2012
Siri has been making lots of stupid mistakes lately in local search. Mistakes that it’s younger sibling, Apple Maps, is not making. These are simple mistakes that were not there when Siri was the only game in town. Is she just looking for some more attention? Is she thinking of heading in some new direction or is Apple Maps just sending her the wrong way?
Here are two example searches that return totally crazy results that Apple Maps gets essentially correct.
Note that Siri can not even find one jeweler in or near Williamsville and returns results that are 26 miles away while Apple Maps returns relevant results:
(click to view larger)
I have found these types of results to be fairly widespread while I was traveling last week. Here is another example (Hotels Allegany NY) :
October 26, 2012
I did an interview in GPSBites where I was asked to muse on my background, the current state of mapping, the fate of PNDs & mapping companies and the near future of the intersection of mapping and commerce. Here is a snippet of a much longer interview:
2. You recently published your own survey which was designed to gather feedback from users of the new iPhone map application for iOS6. You stated that you did not believe the recent Apple maps issue was going to affect Apple sales, and in our view Apple must share a similar view as they went so far as publishing an apology on their home page which even recommended customers use rival solutions in the interim.
However, they certainly are facing some challenges. If you were heading up Apple’s cartography division, what recommendations would you make to the company on how they could improve the experience and application moving forwards?
I am not sure that I agree with the premise of the question. It assumes that Apple does not understand cartography and mapping. And that I have significant insights to provide to them.
Assuming that Apple is stupid or just uneducated is a dangerous assumption. Taking potshots at funky maps is an easy target. Remember it was not that long ago that Google was losing whole towns, repeatedly.
Mapping is hard. Apple knows full well how hard mapping is and they knew full well that they were going to have difficulties coming into this. When they announced Apple Maps in June 2012 I can not imagine that they would blow that marketing opportunity by announcing that their new Maps product had a “few” problems. NO they went ahead and presented it as the most innovative mapping product ever. Whether it is remains to be seen but in some ways they are where Google with mapping was in 2008, in some ways ahead of that and in some ways behind it. But to assume that they need my advice is to ignore a lot.
Apple has been a late starter in several industries that they ultimately succeeded in leading or developing a very strong market position. They came to the already existing MP3 player market with one device. Over the years as they developed the necessary skills they came to dominate that market. When they entered the phone business NO ONE thought that they could succeed. But their smart phone still sets the standard and has significant market share. They continue to grow their PC market share to a healthy position after being at death’s door in that market. So they know how to succeed as an underdog, how to build out the capacity AND knowledge, and plan for the appropriate growth when they enter an existing and competitive market.
Mapping is in some ways different but in many ways the same. It takes time to build up the institutional knowledge and the people necessary to compete head to head with the likes of Nokia/Navteq and Google. This knowledge can not be built over night and you can’t ramp up all the necessary efforts or staffing in one fell swoop.
Apple could have taken an easier way out of the mapping dilemma and their conflict with Google if they had partnered with TomTom or Mapquest, both of whom already had turn by turn apps working well on the iOS platform. They didn’t. Apple chose to go it alone. The real question that we need to ask (of Apple) is how much of the stack are they intending to own and of the parts that they don’t own, how are they going to get them up to the world class standards that they surely know that they need.
In choosing TeleAtlas, they chose a company with incredible underlying technology but limited resources. Apple has a history of making significant investments in their partners to gain a competitive advantage. By giving TeleAtlas access to the massive amounts of geo data generated by the iOS6 crowd Apple may just have provided TeleAtlas the information that both TeleAtlas and Apple need to compete.
We live in interesting times and Apple’s foray into Mapping promises to make it even more so.