January 28, 2008
It has always struck me that one of the bigger problems with the internet yellow pages is that often they are used to find out what people mostly already know or to confirm the last emotional inch of the purchase cycle. They look up the directions betweein two known locatiions to get the specifics of the directions or to confirm them. They look up a business or even a business category to find the phone number of a particular business that they had already decided to contact. They are not really looking for new information and thus are not very receptive to an ad.
Part of this behavior is that people are looking to expend as little energy as possible and partly it is a function of long term training both offline and on. The Yelllow Pages or Rand McNally functioned this way and to some extent despite integrating maps and business directories many IYP still do function this way. Most folks really have been conditioned to to use these resources in this limited way. While the search for “pizza olean ny” makes for good blog fodder it is unlikely that most people other than search marketers writing about local ever use Google that way. It may be that this behavior limits the upside advertising potential of local and services like Goog-411.
Google has taken a small step to “recondition” users to the many possibilities of they IYP search process with their upgrade to Maps: No Address Required announced in the Google Lat Long Blog:
Have you ever been traveling and needed to get directions from your hotel to another destination in town, like a restaurant you keep hearing about? You may have been a bit frustrated that Google Maps required you to look up the addresses of your starting and end points before ultimately getting your directions.
Well, we felt the same way. So we fixed it. Now you can type in any location where you want to go — whether it’s a specific street address, a business name like Fuzzy Buddy’s Dog Daycare, or even something more general like “florist” — and we’ll help you get directions. We’ll even automatically try to find the closest results for you.
January 27, 2008
WiFi Triangulation on Mobile and the Desktop – Greg Sterling, LocalMobileSearch
Ted Morgan, CEO of Skyhook Wireless (provider of WiFi location on the iPhone)… said that the feature has already proven to be wildly popular with users and heâ€™s seeing an impressive volume of usage already.
Mobile Local Search: A Perfect Storm – Michael Boland, SearchEnginewatch
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) showcased the first few devices that run Google’s much anticipated Android operating system….These are the first physical signs of what will be a major inflection point in the history of mobile devices and mobile local search.
This perfect storm of factors has finally happened and will bring the mobile search world where it needs to be. There’s no going back. Rising usability standards and corresponding usage growth are the first steps that we’re seeing now.
The Coming Wave of Gadgets That Listen and Obey – NY Times
In 2006, [Phillips] and a colleague from ScanSoft, John Nguyen, started Vlingo because they thought that speech recognition technology, cellular networks and phones were all becoming powerful enough to allow voice navigation systems on cellphones. â€œWe couldnâ€™t have done this five years ago,â€ he says….James R. Glass, a principal research scientist at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at M.I.T., says speech technology â€œis going to end up everywhere speech can be useful.â€
GPS Adds Dimension to Online Photos – ANICK JESDANUN, The Associated Press- Washington Post
That’s just one of the growing number of uses for geotagging, which is largely practiced by tech-savvy and professional photographers but is likely to expand.
January 26, 2008
Here are two screen shots that show the view on the search:Restaurant Bradford Pa in the main search results page before and after the return (most?) of the reviews from CitySearch etc.
Before Reviews were Added Back In (View full size ):
After Reviews Added Back In (View Full Size):
Several items of note:
â€¢ There was a reranking of the results that was at least influenced by the availability of the reviews
â€¢In the after screen shot the top 5 all had reviews although not in drect relation to rank
â€¢It appears that some reviews have been removed. Note Togi’s Family Restaurant had 2 before and no reviews after. Same for Farm Family restaurant.
January 25, 2008
The judges have made their choices, and the finalists in the Local Search category for the 2008 SEMMY Awards are:
Congratulations to each finalist!
Hereâ€™s How to Vote
Now itâ€™s your turn to choose a winner! Please read each article above and decide which one you feel is the best. When you click below, youâ€™ll be able to vote in this category only. To vote in other categories, please visit the pages listing those finalists. Voting is open now, and will close at end-of-day on January 30, 2008.
VOTE NOW IN THIS CATEGORY (link will open in a new window)
The Local Search SEMMYs are judged by Brad Geddes and Barry Schwartz.
Most of you that are interested in mapping already read the Google Lat Long Blog but for those of you that don’t Google has introduced a new tool today on the blog that allows a viewer to see an animated sampling ofÂ users map updates that have been made around the country. Even if you are only slightly interested in mapping this is a fun thing to take a look at.
This morning I wrote a piece: Google Maps: The changing landscape for reviews that speculated on the removal of CitySearch, InsiderPages and Yelp reviews from Google Maps.
They were gone. I verified that on a specific and general basis as recently as January 6th. A reader has pointed out that they are now back. CitySearch, InsiderPages & Yelp reviews are all back.
His search tip of including the site: command in Maps is a very useful search technique. For example if you are looking to see if there are CitySearch reviews for Bradford PA Restaurants enter the following in the Maps search field:
restaurant site:citysearch.com bradford pa
The specific case of the missing Beefeater’s Restaurant reviews in Bradford that I had inquired of Maps Guide Jen have reappeared. I guess Google can just misplace a couple
hundred thousand million records. Too bad, I was having fun with the speculation of what goes on in the black box.
Over the past year with the development of user generated content and the rise of reviews in particular with exactly how to approach this new form of customer input. The more internet aware have embraced the review process and have been using the process for reputation management, quality improvement through the feedback process and customer relation management. Certainly for those businesses that have quality as a focus and execute well, having customers so publicly proclaim their virtues can be a very positive thing.
But most small business lack the time to manage and review all of the possible review sites that might affect them. The fragmentation of the IYP market and the growing number of review sites has made the chore ever expanding. Typically the recommendation I would make was to choose a site that was locally popular, industry relevant and picked up by Google. This advise seemed even more appropriate when it became clear that Google was using review quantity as a factor in Google Maps ranking. Some small businesses went beyond just responding to reviews to setting up formal systems to actively encourage reviews that would ultimately show up in Google Maps,
However over the past 2 months the changing landscape of Google has made this practice more difficult to pursue. There are a number of interesting and seemingly related reports of changes in Google’s handling and listing of reviews.
Just the facts, mam:
â€¢ Add your reviews to businesses on Google Maps Google Lat Long Blog, June 19, 2007 at 10:59 AM
â€¢ Has Googleâ€™s relationship with CitySearch changed? and other Maps insights November 28, 2007
â€¢ Google Maps Not Counting Own Reviews SEO Igloo, January 1, 2008
â€¢ Maps Guide Jen provides an update on the missing CitySearch reviews January 9, 2008
â€¢ Insiderpages Reviews Gone From Google Maps SEO Igloo, Thursday 24 Jan 2008
â€¢ At MacWorld I asked a Google staffer what had happened to the CitySearch reviewsâ€¦they responded that they didnâ€™t know but stated that perhaps is was just a â€œrealigned business relationship like happened with Yelp and the removal of their reviewsâ€. Go figure, I hadnâ€™t noticed the loss of Yelp reviews.
Now that we have the “facts” as we know them out of the way lets look at them a little more closely and move into the much more enjoyable area of speculation!
January 23, 2008
The Local OneBox 10 Pack is new and has yet to be fully vetted. Its appearance off and on over the past week has made testing a bit of a struggle. One of my observations has been, that while Google may be going further afield to provide accurate results, in very rural searches they are not succeeding.
I live in a rural area of Western NY State. One would probably have to travel 70 miles in every direction to find 10 web hosting companies. The search results Web Hosting Olean NY now goes out 50 miles to find 10 results for the web hosting query. The problem? It doesn’t succeed. 50% of the returned results are not in the web hosting business at all but rather are universities.
The Olean Web Hosting search previously returned an authoritative onebox. This seems to imply that Google will be showing it less or that it requires more authority to achieve. That being said the search “Denver Flowers” still returns the Local OneBox for Lehrer’s Flowers. This was the result that was widely looked at just prior to Christmas as an indicator of the growing impact of Google Maps.
Of equal interest to me is that the search for Olean NY Web Hosting when performed inside of Google Maps still provides just 3 results and only uses a radius of 25 miles to find its results.
One assumes that as Google evaluates the click thru’s and other quality indicators the results will either get more accurate or since they have indicated that they are willing to show 3 or 1 perhaps it will just drop back. In the mean time it appears that at least in markets where there are very few competitors the results will be problematic.
Greg Sterling has received “official confirmation” from Google that the Local OneBox will now often contain 10 listings (although could include 3 or 1 when appropriate). From Search Engine Land:
Google said today that the reason itâ€™s showing more links is because usability testing revealed that many people didnâ€™t realize there was additional local content available beyond the three listings, despite the â€œmore results . . .â€ prompt. Accordingly, Google said that with the 10 links it is hoping to signal people that there is much more local content a click away.
The ranking of those ten results is based on a range of factors, including the query, proximity, availability of ratings/reviews and their quality and several other variables.
Google also said that it wouldnâ€™t always show 10 results; it might still show three sometimes or one if the query is very specific.
I read “people didnâ€™t realize there was additional local content available beyond the three listings” to mean that Google is striving for more Maps traffic in their competitive maps battle. It will be interesting to look at the Hitwise data to see if there is a similar increase to last year when the Local OneBox was upgraded.
January 22, 2008
It was just about one year ago that Google last upgraded the Local OneBox. At the time it led to a significant increase in Maps usage. It seems that an upgrade to the OneBox is or soon will be upon us. It was available all of last night and this morning and reports have come in from India and now the west coast. This change will have some impact on Google Maps traffic by increasing the inbound links to the maps area. A bigger change though is the impact it will have on bricks and mortar exposure and radically changing the nature and intensity of local search marketing tactics. You can read my thoughts on this change here , here and here
Here are some other reports from around the web on this change:
Google Local Business Results Expanded - Tim Cohn, Search Marketing Communications notes their appearance in Oklahoma
More Local Listings Live in Google? – Greg Sterling asks about the loss of the ratings
@Search Engines: How to Improve Your Local Search Interface – David Mihm, DavidMihm.com offers some interesting suggestions about improvements that Google might consider and issues that different users face.
Google Local Universal Search gets serious! Really serious. – Chris Thomas – Reseo Location: Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia