Category Archives: Google Places (Maps & Local)

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

Google Acquires Incentive Targeting For Coupon Programs

Mike Dudas of Google just tweeted that Google has acquired Incentive Targeting to power highly targeted manufacturer and private label coupon programs. He noted that “Incentive Targeting..[does] for retail couponing what Google [does] for online advertising: make simple, relevant, measurable, & effective”

It would appear that the acquisition is for both talent and IP. And as Greg Sterling points out strategic. The company website notes that their “patent-pending technology allows non-technical marketing executives to design sophisticated, relevant promotions—and measure ROI in real time—directly over the Internet”. The product is interesting because it will deliver the coupon either via cell phone & social networks or via traditional methods of print and register receipt AND closes the loop for easy redemption and tracking.

It is an intriguing acquisition in a number of ways. It obviously puts Google directly into the coupon business. In the past they have never committed to couponing in any significant way and it had been said that Larry Page in fact had a disdain for coupons. Their past behaviors have certainly reflected a certain schizoid, on again off again approach to coupons.

This product, while currently serving large chains and manufacturers, could readily scale down to a single merchant and fit into the SMB dashboard/integrated marketing portal that is rumored to be in the works. Imagine a single location grocery store or our local 30 location chain being able to have an advertising person easily issue coupons across media & track the results in real time. It sounds like a winner to me. It could obviously move beyond groceries as well.

Now lets hope that it sees the light of day sooner than Google’s last local purchases of PunchD and TalkBin.

Ah… the Irony Of Google Local – International number handling issue is solved, no it isn’t

There has been a persistent bug in G+ Local’s (mis)handling of international phone numbers that Barry pointed out in his blog today. This problem has been on-going for a number of months and Google is aware of the issue.

However I found the irony of these two posts showing together in my G+ stream too rich to not note. As I pointed out in another post that in Google Local:

Google’s policy of release early and iterate often and innovate often, leads to more than its fair share of bugs particularly when they forget the iterate often part.

Nokia HERE Maps Sucks (Significantly) More Than Apple Maps

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): Continue reading

Google+ Local Finally Supports Businesses Open 24 Hours

Updated 5:00 pm

Eagle eyed Matt Gregory alerted me to the fact that the Google for Business Dashboard (and apparently the G+ Page for local as well) that a business can now indicate that they are open for 24 hours and it will display correctly on the G+ Local page. This is a feature that has long been requested in the forums.

To have your hours show as open 24 hours in either the Dashboard or the Plus Page management area indicate an opening and closing time of 12 a.m.

Google has yet to fully clarify who is eligible for using this feature and whether a physical presence is required. It would seem that brick and mortar shops that have a physical presence would clearly be eligible as would service area businesses that hide their address and make house calls 24 hours a day. Beyond that it gets murkier. Would a lawyer that has a call center answer for them qualify? Would a bricks and mortar shop that is willing to come in on an appointment basis if called?

I asked Google to clarify their policy as to who was eligible to use this 24 hour designation. Their response:

The hours on the listing need to be the hours that location is directly contactable–meaning if calls are routed to a call center after-hours, only the call center listing should be shown as open during those hours. If a service-area business located at the business owner’s residence is willing to receive calls and go to customers’ locations 24hours/day, it is welcome to list its hours as such.

Ed Parsons: 1 in 3 Searches at Google are Local

Updated: 9:26 am 11/14/2012

Ed Parsons, the Geospatial Technologist of Google,  has indicated in a recent talk at Google PinPoint London 2012 that “about 1 in 3 of queries that people just type into a standard Google search bar are about places, they are about finding out information about locations. …this isn’t Google Maps just people normally looking at Google”.

The number of searches with local intent at Google has long been a topic of interest to marketers, directories and SEOs. In December of 2010, Google indicated that searches with local intent were 1 in 5 of all searches. Recent research by Chitka indicated that the number was closer to 1 in 4. Ed Parson, who should know, says that the number is 1 in 3. Based on Comscore’s September Core Searches that puts the total number of Google searches with some local intent is in the ballpark of 3.6 billion searches a month. Clearly not all of those show pinned results. It is not clear from Parson’t talk but it would appear that the 1 in 3 number applies to the desktop. If one were to then include mobile the % would obviously be higher.

 

Yesterday afteroon, I put this question to Ed Parsons on Google Plus to get a better understanding:

I was wondering if you add some detail to your quote at about 2:16 where you said: “about 1 in 3 of queries that people just type into a standard Google search bar are about places, they are about finding out information about locations. …this isn’t Google Maps just people normally looking at Google”

Is that both desktop and mobile? What percentage are Map/Driving direction related? What are the other categories of query types?

Ed’s answer:

It’s a composite figure both Mobile and Web, we don’t have an exact number but it’s between 30-40% – These also [are] not always [as] explicit [as] ‘Find me a pizza restaurant in Chelsea’, a more generic search request say for Football Teams would be framed geographically to highlight teams local to the individual searching..

This answer validates David Mihm’s logic in his post 20% Local Intent Number Is 50% Too Low where he put 30% as the lower boundary for searches with local intent at Google.

Here is the complete video. The comment about local search volume occurred at 2:15 of the video: Continue reading

Google Adds Mirror Dice to G+ Local Pages

Google has added a new feature (props to Matt Gregory for pointing this out) to the Google+ Local pages that allows a user to add custom fields to any given business listing. You can add things like the name of the person you deal with at the business, their birthday and unique contact information. The final output, a private, personalize contact card, is similar to the details from Google contacts that shows on a G+ personal profile of someone in your circles.

Perhaps I have a lack of imagination but this is one of those features for which it is hard to see its regular use. It could conceivably be part of a CRM system, it probably integrates with GMail and perhaps is a way for Google to draw relationships between the social graph and the business graph. But one has to ask why?

Did you ever ride in a car that had chrome pipes & fancy spinner hub caps but you always felt lucky when you arrived at your destination? And then the owner, for the next upgrade, added mirror dice rather than fixing something substantial? Well that’s what seems to have happened to your Google+ Local page.

Google+ Local pages have plenty wrong with them, significant and substantial problems. This is true whether with you are working the +Local page  via the old and decrepit dashboard or attempting to manage it via Plus… but now Google has added an ability that you are unlikely to use. Go figure.

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Google Local Search Results Where None Have Gone Before

At a recent Local University, Googler Joel Headley indicated that Google desired to increasingly show local results whenever pinned results were appropriate and Google was able to show them. One area where this has become apparent is in Real Estate which are once again showing a broad range of pinned blended and pack results.

In 2009 Google rolled out an expanded real estate listing product. However that product was dropped in January of 2011. Before that period and until very recently, Google did not return any blended results for most real estate searches and the only local search in real estate that returned pack results was the very specific “realtors + city” search. Searches like homes for sale + city and houses for rent + city did not return 7 packs. Even the search real estate + city did not return pinned results.

However, at least since August, these searches are once again returning local real estate firms in the results. When Google does not have strong web + local inventory but thinks that there should be a local result, they will return a three pack. When there is solid inventory of local business listings that are doing well on both organic and local, Google is now consistently returning blended results.

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“We do not support this location” Update

Earlier this summer, Google removed a large number of residentially located service area businesses (SAB) from the index for not hiding their address. While Google was trying to clean up the index, a number of  these SABs were removed in error. It turned out that Google was unable to restore many of those erroneously removed to the index. Some business listings have been restored but others have been waiting now for a number of months.

Google updated their guidance on this issue last night:

We currently do not support this location

Here’s the state of these listings now (October 8):

Sevice-area businesses who are experiencing the “We currently do not support this location” message should –

1.) Check to make sure you comply with the quality guidelines, particularly hiding your address, if appropriate.

2.) Once you’re sure you comply, contact the support team (select the last option).

3.)  If possible, the team will reinstate listings that are OK.

4.) Sometimes, the support team cannot reinstate a listing, even if it’s OK. These listings cannot be brought back because of an issue that we’re still working on fixing. The support team will send an email back saying the listing is down due to a technical glitch. When we have an update, we will follow up with all of the people who got the message about the technical glitch.

What’s the status of listings in #4?

For listings in #4, there isn’t much course of action other than waiting. Please know that our team’s doing everything we can to get them reinstated when possible.

Hey guys,

Good news — we’ve been able to bring back some of the listings that incorrectly had the “We currently do not support this location” error. Many previously deleted service area businesses that had their addresses correctly hidden a few weeks ago are back.

If your listing’s not back yet, please know that we are still working on it. In the meantime, please review the quality guidelines and this article on service area businesses. Make sure your listing complies.

Thanks,

Jade

For those of you still experiencing this problem, there is only one option. File your request for reinclusion via the Google for Business Help files and wait. Note that if Google is unable to recover your listing quickly then you have no choice but to wait for their engineering solution. Businesses that followed Google’s original advice to recreate their listing have not had any success.

This recent email from Google support sent to me by Kane Jamison of Hood Web Management  clearly indicates that Google is working on these listings on a first come first serve basis:

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Google Local Weekend Update

Here is Google’s recent update for G+ Local and several other updates from around the web:

Here are Google’s minute markers with my comments in italics:

0:01 Introduction

0:16 Listings take a week to go live, a few weeks for link from Google Places dashboard to work

It might take longer than a week depending on their internal build cycles.

0:40 Verified social pages now showing message if edit not accepted

This message appears:

Google + Local editing message

0:59 Fewer categories displaying because uncommon categories no longer appearing

Choosing from the list of auto generated categories increases the likelihood that a category or two will show. Maybe speculation in Linda Buquet’s forum about categories changing dramatically is in fact the case? Clearly the missing categories is NOT a bug but an intentional decision on the part of Google. 

1:18 International phone number formatting issue with verified social pages

1:28 Formatting not appearing on owner descriptions

HTML tags are no longer showing but some rich text formatting is not showing although some is. Google has had problems showing rich text on local listings in the past and they finally seem to be fixing this issue. See above image. 

1:45 Google+ Local best practice: edit verified social pages via Google+

What happens if a page is edited via the Dashboard? Not sure but I am sure it isn’t pretty. 

2:14 Forum tip: better mobile forum display, yay!

 

Some other updates that have occurred in local while I was traveling:

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Travelling – Light Postings

I am traveling to the MN Search Presents Local U – Twin Cities. Then on to NYC for Local U Advanced at SMX EAST & Westchester for a Local Univeristy in Tarrytown NY. Posting will be of necessity light for the next few days.

We are nearing capacity for the Local U Advanced in New York next Monday but there are still a few seats left if you want to join us. Would love to see you there. Be sure if you are coming to introduce yourself so that I can put a face to your name.