Category Archives: Google Places (Maps & Local)

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

Google Sources Look Familiar


I was struck by the obvious similarity between the visual aspects of the new Local OneBox and the Google test of the Sources display first spotted by Cyrus Shepard.

Google has been on a tear of late in local to gather photos and display them on your Place page. One assumes that this effort is on going in other topical areas as well.

Google is currently showing similar results to the Sources test for bricks and mortar businesses and geographical points of interest.  What better way to demonstrate that universal results are nothing but search results rather than “other Google products”? Products, online retailers, celebrities, movies, TV shows etc all would lend themselves to the first page search result treatment.

 

 

Google Places: More UGC


Two weeks ago there were numerous reports of new pop-ups on the Places page to ascertain from visitors the accuracy of a business location, the website associated with the listing, and the quality of included photos. Shortly there after it became obvious that Google was starting to once again actively allowing users to edit every Places attribute of claimed & unclaimed listings via community edit feature.

Over the weekend I spotted additional pop ups soliciting user input as to hours and the url of websites that are unknown.

After retreating from UGC somewhat in 2010, Google seems to have once again moved very actively and aggressively to permit and encourage user inputs as to the veracity of records.

Dependable Locksmith Back in The Business of Deceit


I was surprised to learn that Dependable Locksmith, raided in late 2009 by the Feds and sued by the attorney general in Missouri earlier that year , was still in business and still using their “standard” business model of bait and switch. It does not speak well of our regulatory or legal environment that known crooks and charlatans with a profile like theirs could continue to operate in the exact same way.

It is unclear to me how folks in Orlando are finding them, that wasn’t made clear in the Action 9 story, but it doesn’t appear to be Google.

Grey Pinned Results Now Live


Updated: 10:30 pm
Update: 3:00 am
Update: 11/2 11:00 am
Minor Update: 11/3 8:00am

Google has upgraded their local search results and the Grey pinned results are now live. Note in the screen shot that the branded One Box search now shows up to 4 5 images or a streetview and 2 images, although it depends on how many images are on the Places page. Google now notes that there may be two streetview images, an exterior AND and interior view. The grey “Feedback” link at the lower right takes the user directly to the Report a Problem input screen.

Essentially, Google is now surfacing the whole of the Place page content (what is left of it) on the main page of Google with the exception of the description. In the case of the branded search immediately, in the case of the blended and 7-pack results when you mouse over the -> to the right of any listing. It surfaces virtually all information in the Places page including up to the 5 photos AND a thumbnail of the home page.

In July when Google suggested that they would integrate some of the great information that’s been buried in Places it was hard to imagine something quite so bold as this. If users won’t go to Places, bring Places to them. It also puts the stripping down of Place page content into a bigger context, no more than can fit on the front page of Google.

Here is a slide show of various new views of local:

Thanks to Jeffrey Manger of TrumpetLocalMedia for the head up on the fact that this was rolling out. It broke just as I was getting ready to give my Getlisted Google Places presentation. I did the presentation twice today and it is ironic that a presentation can be outdated between the first and second one.

Here are more focused screen shot comparisons with some notes…
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Is Grey the New Red for Google Places?


For a more detailed analysis of this change see:  Grey Pinned Results Now Live

Since Nyagoslav of Optilocal first spotted the grey pinned local results a week ago, there have been a number of other sitings of the change in the wild. There is still a fair bit of variability in the layout and arrangement indicating that Google has not yet picked a final design and they are still testing. The widespread sitings would tend to argue that ultimately the change to grey is likely.

Here are screen shots from Optilocal, LocalBusinessRockstar and LocalvisibilitySystem that capture some of the variety still presenting. Besides the grey pin, you will note that on some screen shots the pin has moved to the right. Most significant to me was the change of the Branded One Box. In moving the images to the right, Google is reducing the space given to a brand at the top of the page. We still need to see this result with SiteLinks to ascertain the full impact.

Click to view a screenshot slide show of the range of grey pin results that have been spotted:

 

 

The potential change to grey is interesting. We know  from eye tracking studies of local results, and intuitively understand, that the Red pins are very compelling to the searcher and attract their focus. We also know that Google has stated at the Senate hearings that the local results actually decrease Google income by some percentage.

Google has invested significant marketing resources into the Red pin with a bevy of marketing campaigns. As a result, the pin has become an incredible icon for the brand,  achieving worldwide recognition as a symbol of Google’s local search capability. When you see the Red Pin you think Google Maps.

It strikes me as odd that Google would mess with that strong branding of the image but it is possible that a change to grey in the main search results is an attempt to amerliorate the negative impact that local search has had on ad income.

Your thoughts? Is the change coming? Why would Google fool with the Red Pin?

Update: Wissam Dandan of LEBSEO Design has put together this video. Note that the grey pins turn red when you mouse over them:

 

Here are  the original postings & summaries of the grey pin discoveries :

*CatalystMarketing’s summary
*Optilocal
*LocalBusinessRockstar
*LocalvisibilitySystem

For a more detailed analysis of this change see:  Grey Pinned Results Now Live

Samantha (The Serial Bogus Google Reviewer) Strikes Again


Oh Samantha you naughty vixen you.

You get outed in Philadelphia dinging lawyers with fake reviews. Little did I know that you were a serial offender.  Triangle Direct Media seems to have found that you already had second profile with the same name and that you had done your dirty deed to 18 cleaning companies in Cary, NC.

Oh dear Samantha, how many others have you hurt? I think I see a pattern. You appear addicted and seem to be making a business out of this reputation management stuff.

In case your business needs marketing help I have put together this tag line for you: Positive only reviews for your business but wait till you see what we say about your competitor. 

 

Local SMB Survey: 68% Have Facebook Pages, 28% Have Claimed Google Places Listing


As part of Getlisted Local University we occasionally survey the attendees. We ask several questions to assess their level of knowledge about search in general and local search in particular. This survey sample size is very small and self selected from those that registered for the seminar. The participants are primarily small and medium businesses and the market area they occupy is mostly rural. The results however are consistent with previous informal surveys.

I am always shocked that so many businesses have created Facebook Business pages and so few have claimed their Google Places page. I have been at the local thing for such a long time that I frequently forget how few businesses actually make a concerted effort to understand and benefit from Local search.

4. Do you have a website? (y/n)

Yes   83.3%
No   5.6%
5. Have you “claimed” your local business listing in the Google Places Dashboard?

Yes   27.8%
No   55.6%
6. Does your business currently have a Facebook page?

Yes   66.7%
No   22.2%

 

My takeaways?
1)There is still a huge upside to Local search
2)Google Places has not yet succeeded in gaining mindshare against Facebook despite the very real benefit it offers and their longer time in the market.

Google Places: Community Edits of Claimed Listings Are Back!


Andy Kuiper just pointed out to me, that in addition to the random UGC inputs on the Google Places page discussed this morning, that full on community edits of a claimed listing have returned to Places. The new (back to the future sort of new) community editing system allows logged in users to edit any listing via Places whether it is claimed or not by simply clicking on the Edit this place link on a Places Page.

Apparently the edits are referred to MapMaker editors for approval. It is not clear if all edits can be approved by a senior volunteer editor or if they will still require approval by Google staffers. MapMaker, introduced to the US in April of this year, was also introduced into Canada the day before yesterday. Volunteer MapMaker editors achieve trust in the system by doing edits themselves and by doing accurate approvals of other’s edits. What they might or might not know about conditions on the ground is not considered important so editor quality varies.

The return of full blown community edits is an open invitation to abuse. The editors in the MapMaker environment are mostly honest, hard working souls but like those in all Google forums, have more on their plate than can be handled responsibly and it certainly opens up new pathways for corruption. It is not at all clear that adequate safeguards are in Place.

Let the fun begin.

Getlisted.org Local University coming to WNY on November 1


Local University: WNY is coming to the  Holiday Valley Resort in Ellicottville, NY next Tuesday, November 1, 2011. The afternoon session is nearly SOLD OUT, however there are still seats available in the morning session.

We’re bringing in some of the nation’s leading online marketing experts as well as Google and Bing for an intensive four-hour  crash course in Internet marketing that will help the SMB navigate the possibilities for marketing their business on the web. The SMBs will learn Search & Social Marketing tips and techniques that will lead to sustained, long-term search engine visibility (and new customers) in their local markets and beyond.

There will be two identical 4 hour sessions ( from 8am – 12pm and 1pm – 5pm). The speakers include Matt McGeeDavid MihmMary BowlingEd ReeseCecelia Stewart of Google Places, Aaron Weiche and myself. Bing has also recently signed on as a sponsor and the Bing Portal Product Manager Joe Futy will be there demonstrating their new business portal. With Google’s assistance we were able to provide 25 college students with “scholarships” to attend the event.

We will be holding “office hours” offering free website reviews for attendees in an adjacent room at the Holiday Valley Resort from 8:30am – 1:00pm and from 1:30pm – 6:00pm. Slots are available on first-come, first-served basis in 15-minute intervals. If you would like to reserve a time for one of us to review your site, please email us at localu@getlisted.org with your preferred time.

Pricing for the event is $129. Click here to register. Enter the discount code: MB2011 to receive special pricing of $99 (save $30).Hope to see you there!

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Google Places Adds a Range of New UGC Features


Over the past week or so a number of new features have cropped up Places Pages that solicit user input in an effort to improve the quality of Places results. Google noted that “We’re doing different experiments like that on Maps to verify data is correct and up to date”.

Ability to critique the location accuracy was spotted by Daniel Hollerung and reported by Chris Silver Smith.
The ability to vote an owner uploaded photo up or down was noted by Gav Heppinstall last week.  
The option for a user to provide input as to whether a website is correct regardless of whether of the record has been claimed was first seen late last week and reported out by Matt Siltala yesterday.  

With the exception of the image vote, these new user inputs appear to surface on a somewhat random basis and although they could be related to trust issues, I don’t think they are. Another point of interest is that with the multiple choice answers, the user is given a range of choices that go from positive to negative. It appears that the method in which they are implemented attempts to minimize the ability to game them by evil doers.

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