May 6, 2007
Google has recently upgraded the Local OneBox with additional pins that create a stronger visual point of entry to Maps.
In late January, Google’s upgrade of the Local Onebox led to a dramatic increase of traffic to to Google Maps. At the time I noted that:
They are still only showing three results. Why three? Why not 4 or 5 or even 6. The choice to stick with 3 denies many the opportunity for a listing.
This recent upgrade (I have no idea when it occurred as I have been busy catching up on business and my son’s basball upon our return from an extended vacation) doesn’t really solve this problem of the arbitrary placement of the top 3 listings but does create a strong impression that there are more listing worthy of note and should induce even more traffic to Google Maps. It is a subtle but welcome upgrade
March 22, 2007
The Real Estate Local OneBox is Missing in Action!
Real estate is one of the largest areas in local search. Specifically the search, ‘city, st+ real estate’ consistently shows as having one of the highest frequencies for the ‘service/product + locations’ type searches.
Until very recently this type of search (‘real estate + city, st‘) on Google, returned a Local OneBox of real estate offices. It no longer does. The Local OneBox had reliably appeared on this search from last October until late last week.
Whether this is a permanent change or not, it raises some interesting questions about the logic of Google’s change. There are several possibilities why it has been removed:
1)This a test, testing 1,2,3….
2)There was not enough perceived relevance provided by the OneBox to stay in place
3)Revenue from real estate ppc ads dropped significantly and/or complaints from these advertisers went up.
4)Google has other plans for this incredibly valuable real estate
Do I think it is number 1, 2, 3 or 4?…..
March 21, 2007
Chris Coad at the Complete.com Blog has an interesting summary of Map Provider Market share.
- Though traffic is down more than 20% from itâ€™s peak in June, MapQuest remains the king of online map services with over twice the traffic of itâ€™s nearest competitor.
- Google Mapâ€™s functionality has allowed it to nearly double in size since January 2006. Googleâ€™s service is quickly gaining ground on Yahooâ€™s similar offering, and also shirking seasonal trends.
- Live Search* has been gaining significant traction: coming out of beta in September, it has since grown to twice the size of well established RandMcNally.
He also has very interesting data on the different ways that the services are used.
I have recently started writing a monthly article forÂ theÂ Locals Only section at Search Engine Land. My first article addresses Google’sÂ role in the area of voice activatedÂ directory assistance.
Directory assistance with voice recognition and category listings has the ability to permeate the mobile user market place in the near term and could impact local search as much as Google’s Local Onebox. This technology requires no change in user behavior or user hardware and it really works without the advent of more advanced products.
Greg Sterling has reported extensively in this area and has a recent report on an upgrade to JinglesÂ 1-800-Free-411.
The rate of change in Google Maps has been a topic of discussion. I noted issues with reviews not being updated in almost a year for certain businesses.
Matt McGee has a very good piece reviewing his experience. His conclusion: the slow rate of change of these prime listings is great news for the businesses that are fortunate enough to score one of those A, B, or C spots. And until the data gets processed more quickly, good luck to those businesses on the outside looking in.
March 19, 2007
Last month there were reports of errors in Google Maps listing for Duke Medical Center phone numbers. Not only were the numbers often times wrong but Google Maps was listing as many as 5 phone numbers for a single facility, few of which went to the central switchboard. To Google’s credit the Duke Medical Center situation was resolved rapidly on an individual basis.
When an additional report surfaced in Google Maps for Business Owners from NYU Medical Center, I decided to investigate the depth of the issue and see if was isolated to large teaching centers or was more widespread throughout the medical listings.
The report from NYU reported not just multiple and wrong phone numbers but wrong map locations as well. Google’s new feature in the Local Business Center, allowing the movement of Map markers, will facilitate some corrections about location but not the problems with phone numbers. Most medical centers have difficulty complying with Google’s protocol for record correction as they have multiple mail stops making delivery of the PIN card unlikely and multiple phone lines making a call for verification almost impossible.
The medical center phone data is in critical condition and in need of intensive care. .
Only 2 of the 13 markets did not have listings showing 4 or 5 phone numbers. 18% of all listings showed 3 or more phone numbers despite low verification rates through the Local Business Center. And if you live in Fargo, ND it appears by Google’s account that there are more medical phone numbers than there are doctors.
When I found 5 phone numbers listed for a hospital, I spot checked by calling some of the numbers to see where they went and if the answerer had received erroneous calls. In very limited tests, the numbers went to a department rather than the main desk facility listed and noted receiving a fairly large number of wrong number calls. I think it is safe to assume that any facility with 4 or 5 (and likely 3) numbers listed probably has numbers not for the main facility or that are in error.
The fact that none of the medical facilities with 3, 4 or 5 phone numbers listed had yet to claim the record in the Local Business Center shows: 1)that there is a possibility that they will get cleaned up and 2)that it is a ways off. Another (perhaps more real world) test of the quality of this data would be to see if the single number that Google picks for these records in the Local OneBox is the correct one.
March 9, 2007
Thursday, Google introduced the ability to add custom attributes to a business listing at the Local Business Center. It is of interest that the default custom attributes change by industry. The choices for additional detail fields change as well. For example with a service industry the first field is Price, in the restaurant business it is Ambiance and for a Physician it is License Information.
You can see the default choices in the samples below. Google is essentially creating a public means to access the “schema” for each industry and to also help define it. Are we seeing the beginning of the “semantic web” race?
Speaking of schema and the semantic web, the NY Times today had an article on Freebase(registration req’d), from start-up Metaweb that has the goal of “trying to create the worldâ€™s database, with all of the worldâ€™s information,â€ based on the ideas of the semantic Web.
According to the NY Times, “since it could offer an understanding of relationships like geographic location and occupational specialties, Freebase might be able to field a query about a child-friendly dentist within 10 miles of oneâ€™s home and yield a single result.”….
â€œItâ€™s like a system for building the synapses for the global brain,â€ said Tim Oâ€™Reilly, chief executive of Oâ€™Reilly Media, a technology publishing firm based in Sebastopol, Calif.
Despite the articles fawning, messianic tone, it is interesting to me that the these ideas are now receiving coverage in the mainstream press.
Google slayers and purveyors of “all of the worldâ€™s information” will come and go. Some will survive and offer interesting developments and one might even one day unseat Google (and it might just be Freebase). Regardless, this road will be long, winding and interesting both in the technologies and the competitive battles.
March 8, 2007
Another report of large medical center problems with Google Maps:
== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Thurs, Mar 8 2007 9:22Â pm
From: “Michael” Â
I have the same exact problem. I am the web director for NYU Medical Center.
I have the correct address and phone number listed in over 20,000 pages on the footer.
Google maps does not have an elegant mechanism for validating changes. With large institutions, mail stops can be very difficult so the post card method does not work. Also, our call center is analog, so they can not validate there. How about a validation tag on our web site?
that would seem to be the most logical.
This has become a serious problem for us, as we have patients
literally showing up in the wrong locations when they are scheduled for surgery.
I have sent several emails to the maps group, to no avail.
Bart, if you find a solution i would love to hear it. I would love to know where the mapbot is getting its data from. An XML document on the root of my server listing the correct addresses and numbers would make the most sense to me.
Google has upgraded the Local Business Center with a range of new features. You can now:
*Add photos to your Google Maps listing (within the guidelines)
*Add custom attributes to your business listings
*Correct and adjust your Google map marker location, so if it is slightly off, you can move it to the right spot
*You can now see statistics on how many people viewed and clicked on your local business listings
The ability to correct your map marker has been a frequent request at the Google Maps for Business Owners group and will add one step to the process of improving data accuracy.
The custom attributes feature holds out the promise of solving one of the vexing problems facing businesses that serve larger areas than the locale in which they are located and possibly solving the categorization issues as well.
The other very interesting feature of the custom attributes is the attributes differ by industry group. The default values for a Physician are different than the default values of a restaurant. It appears that Google is in the race to build the “semantic web”.
Barry Schwartz at SearchEngineLand has a great summary of the other new features in the Local Business Center..