Category Archives: Google Places (Maps & Local)

Comments, research and information about Google Maps (Google Local)

The Good and the Bad of Google Maps


On 1/20/07, I wrote on the Google Blog:

Jen (Google Map Guide)

We work with a local restaurant that when viewed in Google Maps has but
one review from CitySearch dated September 2005.

There have been a number of subsequent customer reviews posted on this
restaurant at CitySearch, Yahoo and Yelp since May, 2006 and later but the
review information at Google has not been updated.

As a small business owner, they understand your use of reviews to
provide reader guidance. However, they are concerned that Google has
not conscientiously updated their information.

Please advise.

Mike

On 1/30/07 Google responded:

Hey Mike,

I completely understand your local restaurant’s concern about the most recent reviews not appearing with their business. At this time, I can’t tell you exactly when we’ll be getting those new reviews into Google Maps, but I can assure you that we are working to provide the most up-to-date data that we can. The best I can do at this time is ask your client to be patient, and let them know that more recent reviews should be appearing shortly.

Thanks,
Jen Continue reading

Google now Serving Ads on your cell phone


Bill Slawski has recently reported on a Google patent to deliver ads on your cell phone. After reading the patent, I happened to be playing with Google SMS yesterday and received my very own (obviously reduced) ad that read:

(Ad)Hotels.com
Great Hotel Rates!
Hotels.com
800-449-4167

Here is what Adwords has to say (my italics and bold for emphasis):

In some cases, the local business ads may also appear with relevant searches on Google Maps for mobile. Ads appearing with mobile search results may contain only two lines of text, so local business ads may show in a shortened form on mobile searches. Currently, advertisers aren’t charged for impressions or clicks accrued by local business ads on mobile searches.

The text versions of your local business ads may also appear on Google SMS queries. Due to the limited amount of space in the SMS format, your ad text may not be included in its entirety. However, your business name and contact information will be included.

OneBox patent summary from Bill Slawski


I have written a number of times about the OneBox:

-Eyetracking Heatmap: How Searchers View the Google One Box

-The Google “Onebox” on general search phrases

The OneBox, in its many forms is very important as the primary interface that Google provides to local search and thus deserves attention. Bil Slawski has just published a summary of Google’s OneBox patent at Search Engine Journal as well as listed other OneBox references. As Bill points out the OneBox is Google’s method of allowing vertical search to works its way into the main search engine results page.

Google responds to geolocation issues


There is a more than a little irony in Google’s “official response” to the complaints about problems with the underlying geo-location data (italics are mine for emphasis):

== 9 of 10 ==
Date: Fri, Jan 19 2007 2:29 pm
From: “Maps Guide Jen”

I just wanted to let you know that your voices and concerns are being heard.
Currently because we source all of our map data from NAVTEQ and TeleAtlas,
we may not be able to make manual corrections to your business locations. We
don’t currently have a way for you to submit your specific map corrections
to Google Maps.

Some business owners have reported that adding a note to the “Description”
section of their business listing has helped their customers to find them.

You can edit your listing by following the instructions at

http://maps.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=15391&topic=1481

Cheers,
Jen

==

Bill Slawski talks about a recent Google patent to improve location information accuracy. Clearly Google is working on this difficult problem. Obviously, they have yet to solve it.

Local Data Accuracy- a veritable beehive


Bill Slawski and I have discussed whether Google Maps & Yahoo Local data would get more accurate over time. Both companies have taken a somewhat different approach to fix inaccuracies: Google relying on large directories with sales organizations, the small business itself and their algorithms while Yahoo relies more on the general public and the small business to improve accuracy. It remains to be seen which, if either system, will ultimately lead to the highest accuracy and most useful data.

Google has created forums for feedback and correction of the data in their Google-Maps-For-Business-Owners Group. The good news is that correction is occurring. The bad news is that for the small business people it is not occurring fast enough. The group is a regular beehive of activity with a surprising amount of input from small business owners. But it is a beehive in which the keeper just stuck his hand into the hive and stirred things up by sticking the bees in the wrong place and the bees are mad!

Here are two posting from yesterday:

=============================================

TOPIC: Category Options
=============================================

Date: Wed, Jan 17 2007 12:18 pm
From: “Farmer Karl”

I have been quite satisfied with my Google Adwords campaigns these last
two years and hope Google Maps can eventually become as useful.

As it apears obvious with previous posts, the Google Maps Category
Options situation is not good and seems to show very little
improvement. Has anyone seen a new category suggestion that was
actually implement these last two months? It is understandable that
business owners would resent seeing competitors listed in categories
(which I assume were imported from places like “superpages.com”) that
they themselves can not use.

We’re in the entertainment farm business (pumpkin patch, corn maze, PYO
fruit) and can’t find any category that seems even remotely applicable.
I’d even settle for simply the category FARM which my customers
normally use for google searches.
=============================================

TOPIC: Incorrect location on Map
=============================================
Date: Wed, Jan 17 2007 12:25 pm
From: “edrents@XXXX”

Same here, not only is my business location wrong on the map, but my
street name on the map is misspelled, and the map shows intersecting
streets that don’t really intersect! This situation tends to make me
distrust all the Google maps.

Eddie
===============

The comments in the forum, mostly critical, fall into several categories:

1)My listing is wrong, please fix it
2)The category that my competitors are in, is not available to me
3)The map is wrong (one way or another)

As can be imagined small business owners can be quite passionate:

Yes, this seems to be a very serious issue in that my address leads to a map of my competitor’s operation ten miles down the road! I wonder at the coincidence of this! Any search for my location takes customers to my competition! In fact, this seems to a legally actionable situation that needs to be addressed immediately.

Continue reading

Google Maps now displaying business category


Google Maps with Category descriptionGoogle Maps has recently added a new piece of information with a business: their category. Whether this is a test or a permanent addition is unclear.

What is clear is that it is not done with consistency with a given search. The reasons for this are not obvious. For example on the search (inside of Google Maps) “web design Olean NY” some businesses have no category listed, some have the one category description and others have a different category (obviously provided by different 3rd party providers). Google has acknowledged that these categories are from other data providers.

I have noted in a previous post how this can play out in unusual ways and the likely source for the data. Another outcome of the use of categories from other sources is that it leads to small business frustration.

With this new change that shows the 3rd party category, there is more transparency as to why a listing is where it is but there is still no option to include your specific business in this category.

As sophisticated as Google’s local algorithm is one would think that they could come up with a single comprehensive list of categories that would be transparently available to every business in their local database.

Eyetracking Heatmap: How Searchers View the Google One Box


Eye Tracking Heatmap

From the Marketing Sherpa report excerpt: a heatmap…revealing how actual consumers’ eyes view listings. As you may be aware, the red blob is where most searchers looked directly; as colors change, the level of attention goes down. The “X” indicates where searchers clicked, and the red horizontal bar shows how far down folks scrolled to view listings.

User behavior upon viewing a search results page has always fascinated me although I have never attempted to actually test this behavior or track the physiology behind it. The folks at Marketing Sherpa annually do that and the results are both instructive and beautiful.

Among their key findings: … is the attention to which search users pay what we call the “bullet points” within top listings… these eyetracking results indicate you can’t afford to wait for a time when Google stops changing the One Box (if indeed they ever stop changing.)… In addition, as our past eyetracking tests (also included in the appendix of this Guide) have
revealed:
- There’s a “red triangle” of attention in the upper-left corner, beyond which eyes don’t
stray.
Continue reading

Google Maps Multiple Destination Command Line


I noted last month that Google Maps now supports Multiple Destinations.

On Safari on my old Powerbook 12″ 1 ghz, the “Add Destination” feature is very slooooowww and thus I didn’t use it much. Today I realized that the destination point allowed a simple command to enter all of your travel points at once. In the destination field simply enter “City, St. to:City, St to:Next City, St.” etc. and the complete route may be entered very quickly.
directions1.jpg

The category exists at Google Maps; Sort of….


Reuben Yau (of reubenyau.com) points out an interesting annomoly that occurs from time to time with categories in Google Maps where a business can achieve onebox or authoritative onebox listing in a category that doesn’t exist in the Google Local Business Center. He wrote: The other thing I noticed is that the category for that site is Gazebo Builder which is taken from Acxiom’s database, but that category is not present within GLBC. FYI Acxiom is the database behind yellowpages etc.

Here is what Google has to say in the Google Maps for Business Owners Forum: Because our listings come from different sources, not all categories
available on Maps are in the Local Business Center – you may want to use to
category suggestion page to submit Services – Resume. That’ll help us
improve our category options in the future.

One wonders why Google would want to limit the categories and what process they use to decide whether to accept a category. It would be interesting to have a list of those categories that Google uses but that they don’t make available through the Google Local Business Center.

The prodigal son of a search engine comes home


How is Google integrating Google Maps data and what does the future hold?

Over the past 14 months, Google has been integrating ever more local data into its main search results page. This use of Maps data on the main results page indicates how important Google thinks that local is.

The first major change of many this calendar year was the renaming of Google Local to Google Maps (April 20, 2006). Here is a list of integration since the last quarter of 2005:

Google Feature ~Date of Introduction
Plus Box December 9, 2006
OneBox Business Listing Map July, 2006
Onebox Authoritative Listing Map July, 2006
Google Local renamed to Google Maps April, 2006
Top 3 local listings Onebox November, 2005
Integration of Google Local & Google Maps October 6, 2005

Obviously Google Maps gets many fewer visits than the Google search page (in fact only 1/100 of the visits, about 25 million searches a month). For now local data is also being pushed out to cell phones (via directory assistance, SMS, Mobile Maps) but that too is not having a very significant impact.

Most users only find information that Google presents on its main search page. It seems too that most users when they do find a phone number on a search engine still end up picking up the phone to call (see Greg Sterling’s analysis).

Given this usage, local data only has impact today when Google presents it on the front page. It is, however, not easily tracked at this point. If a business is called from a front page local Onebox listing, there is nothing comparable to web analytics to automatically register the behavior.

There has been a steady and rapid integration of local data into the main Google page. More will be coming along. Perhaps it will be presented within the existing user interface or perhaps in some new presentation model.

I would like to hear your thoughts on which of these introductions to date has most increased the use and value of Local Data when found through the main search results? Was it the Plus Box (Loren Baker seems to think so) or do you think it was some other feature?

What would you like to see integrated in the main Google search results page in the first few months of 2007?

Continue reading