Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

Loci 2009: Daniel Tunkelang’s Interesting Local Posts of 2009

Daniel Tunkelang is one of those individuals that you probably know little about but who will be influencing our lives a great deal going forward. Since November 2009 he has been the a Tech Lead/Manager on the local search team at Google and has a long history of heavy hitting in the search environment. His specialty is what is known in search as faceted search which he believes offers a potentially powerful way to approach a broad class of local search problems.

In early December, he reached out to me and I would like to welcome him to the Local Community (btw he seems to have a tough skin which should serve him well :)).

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Not sure any of it qualifies for your list–the local space is a bit new for me, so I’ll surely have a more targeted list next year! Anyway, here’s some stuff I liked from 2009:

WWW2009 Madrid Proceedings:
Computers and iPhones and Mobile Phones, oh my! (pdf) A logs-based comparison of search users on different devices

Greg Nudelman at UXMatters:
Best Practices for Designing Faceted Search Filters

Cameras, Music, and Mattresses: Designing Query Disambiguation Solutions for the Real World

And a collection of free resources about faceted search and search user interfaces:
Free Chapter on Faceted Search User Interface Design

Daniel’s bio if you are interested in more nformation about him:
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Loci 2009: David Mihm’s Most Important Articles in Local Last Year

David Mihm, well known for his writing on his blog & at SearchEngineLand and for his work on Getlisted.org, an smb local listing management tool, offers up the articles that he found most important over the past twelve months…
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There were a ton of great articles in the Local Search industry this year & the following list really does not do a number of noteworthy posts justice.  But here are my choices of articles I couldn’t do without from the past 12 months…

General Interest: Why SEO Still Matters for SMB’s (Lisa Barone / Outspoken Media)
Lisa takes Web 2.0 “thought leader” Robert Scoble to task for his short-sighted view of what SEO actually means in 2009, and highlights why it’s perhaps more important than ever for small business owners.  If there were a “rising star” award for Local Search blogging, Lisa would surely win it–although she’s been a regular blogging star for years already.

The State of the Internet Yellow Pages: Brave New World for IYPs (Chris Silver Smith / Search Engine Land)
Chris details the impact that Google’s Local Universal interface has had on IYP companies in 2009.

Tips and Advice: If I Were Launching a Small Business Website Today (Matt McGee / Small Business Trends)
Wow.  A FREE, detailed Internet marketing plan for small business owners just getting started on the web courtesy of one of the oldest-school gurus in our space.  Well-written and spot-on as usual from Mr. McGee.

Analytics (tie): Tracking Local Search Traffic with Analytics (Martijn Beijk / Blumenthals.com) and Tracking Analytics from the 10-pack (Mike Belasco & Mary Bowling / SEOverflow)
Similar to Liebnitz’ and Newton’s simultaneous yet independent discovery of Calculus, Martijn and the SEOverflow team both solve a long-time headache for Local SEOs by detailing an ingenious strategy to segment 10-pack clicks from organic clicks.

Research / Analysis: What Is Location Prominence? (Mike Blumenthal)
Yes, I could have nominated the Local Search Ranking Factors for this award but no one outside of Bill Slawski has ever dived into a Google patent as assiduously as Mike did on this one — and translated it into plain English for the rest of us.

Holding Google’s Feet to the Fire (tie): Is It Time to Send Google Maps Back to the Drawing Board? (Matt McGee / Search Engine Land) and Go-to-Client and Home-Based Businesses Out of Google’s Local Loop (Miriam Ellis / SEOigloo)
It seems a shame for Mike not to win the award in this category, but we’ll use the argument “he wins it every year” to justify his exclusion.  Matt calls Google out very publicly for its over-aggressive merging on Search Engine Land (an issue which was largely fixed within a week) and Miriam continues to agitate for, in her typically polite but insistent fashion, a solution to the service area problem (which has still not been solved despite a constant outcry from the Local SEO community since the very dawn of the 10-pack).

Excellence in Business Listing Data Exposition (tie): SMN Webcast Recap: Local Business Listings (Matt McGee / Small Business SEM) and Who Powers Whom? A Closer Look at the Local Search Data Providers (Yours Truly / GetListed.org)
Matt does a bang-up job of recapping the Search Marketing Now webinar featuring representatives from infoUSA, Acxiom, and Localeze, and I take things one step further with the most up-to-date chart of which data providers feed which search engines.

Corporate Philanthropy: Google Maps Should Consider a Canonical Phone Number Tag (Chris Silver Smith / Natural Search Blog)
Chris proposes a solution to help clean up business listings for the local search engines and data companies.

Business Owner Philanthopy: The Complete List of Google Local Business Center Categories
(Mike Blumenthal)
Mike came across the full taxonomy of Google’s LBC and published for business owners and SEOs everywhere.

Loci 2009 – Important Articles in Local Search

loci with pronunciations

1. Particular postions, points or places
2. Centers of activity, attention, or concentration

Each year, I invite folks whose opinion I respect to provide the readers of this blog with lists of the articles from 2009 that seemed most important to them. The people contributing come from a range of positions and job descriptions, some will be familiar to you and others not. All have one thing in common; they have something to say about local that is worth listening to.

Here is the charge that I gave them: Would you be willing to share the 3,5 or 10 articles/ideas/links that influenced your thinking or actions the most over the past year? The articles could be yours, or from others and could cover any topic that you think relates to Local ie local mobile, phones, mapping, Local VC, Local companies, Google, trends, marketing, best practices etc….but articles that you found of importance in one way or another throughout the year.

I will be running lists from Bill Slawski, David Mihm, Seb Provencher, Matt McGee, Martijn Beijk, Daniel Tunkelang, Mike Dobson, Gib Olander, Lisa Barone and more.

Stop back over the next 10 days to welcome their many voices.

Looking for a Legend In All the Wrong Places

Zebedi recently posted this comment on my Get a Virtual Office With a Keyword Stuffed Maps Listing article. I thought it worth highlighting and responding:

As a small business person, I cannot find an SEO that can tell me how to genuinely appear in search results in the areas we genuinely service. Why is it called SPAM if it is genuine?

People like us go to clients, rather than them coming to our workshop. (antique and furniture restoration and custom furniture etc. etc. in case you are curious). We are talking about relatively rare service skills and a large client catchment district to gain the higher class of items which are our niche. This is the way it always has been, since 1983, and the way it always will be. We are in a metropolitan region but not in the major city. Nor are we in the two sister cities that we service. We are in an in-between city area. Our workshop is in between the main city and one of the sister cities, and because of highways, about 1-1.25 hours from the other sister city.

We are not alone in this issue. Lots of service providers are in this situation, particularly if they target the top end of their skill/ items, and even more so if the equipment or the skill is rare. Also, it is not unusual for people like us to have workshops or acreage to handle the noise and the land required for specialist vehicles and equipment and often, economically, we choose in between sites for our business for land price benefits – yet still good access to client catchment areas. Have a look where most industrial estates are. It is no point of chance that it happens to be between cities rather than in them.

SO if you want to catch some work – solve the problem.

Looking for a legendary SEO ….

Here is my response to Zebedi. What would you add?
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Local Search: News of the Weird

I love the intersection of Map and life and sometimes the things that I read provide a new angle that just wasn’t obvious before.

This recent post in the Google Maps forums raises all sorts of questions. It falls into the category of “no wonder they are getting a divorce”:

Date: October 31, 2009 4:17:25 PM EDT
Subject: I have an ex – wife who is now a business competitor. How can I prevent her from posting fictitious bad reviews
Author: Dream Parties

When a customer googles my company, all reviews are positive, 5 stars. But my ex-wife is now in the same business and has threatened to publish fictitious bad reviews. How can I block all reviews or tell the world that her review is a fraud.

Question from Dream Parties in Maps – How Do I?

So one has to ask a few questions here, no?
- What was the husband at Dream Parties really doing?
- Will ownership of an LBC account someday become a disputed asset in the divorce court? Will we see an LBC custody case?
- What else does she know?
- And who really did write those reviews in the first place?

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From the arena of News of the Weird (Corporate version) in the category of “Tim Armstrong has his work cut out for him at AOL”: AOL’s Patch Dumps Google Maps, But Not For MapQuest

After a Spring-time acquisition, AOL’s local news subsidiary Patch finally dumped Google Maps from its homepages today.

But instead of Mapquest, Patch pages feature Open Street Maps.

Can someone explain to me their thinking? Is this what is known as corporate synergies?

Tectonic Shifts Altering The Terrain At Google Maps- an Interview with Mike Dobson

Of the many new features in Google Maps of late, none seemed more important than the recent change in underlying data providers and Google taking over these tasks themselves. This change shows in Maps visually with the inclusion of new land & property parcel data, the change of the copyright message in US maps and a new 30 days to fix, “Report an Error” capability easily accessible from within Maps. These changes were significant in their own right.

However, they also carry with them a mirror of all the technological, competitive and societal dynamics associated with the rising importance of geo-spatial data in our lives. And of course, with that, the continuing rise of Google to dominance in gathering and managing these critical foundational data. It is this change that so intrigued me.

You can “read all about it” in a new piece at SearchEnginland, Tectonic Shifts Altering The Terrain At Google Maps, where I interview Mike Dobson of TeleMapics, a mapping industry veteran.

The bottom line? Google is succeeding in mapping the planet. This information, gathered in a range of different ways, is enhanced, in typical Google fashion, by users the world over. The article explores both the technical basis for these technologies and the competitive implications of Google’s moves.

Geospatial information is the building block for the whole next generation of user experience from smart phones to virtual reality. Hopefully the interview will help you form an understanding of this important technology. I know that it did for me.

Let me know what you think.

SMX East – Announcing the 2009 Limited Edition SMX East Local T-Shirt

We are announcing, for immediate delivery, the availability of this year’s 2009 Limited* Edition SMX East Local T-Shirt!

The shirt is intended to commenorate David Mihm’s Ultimate Local SEO Vanity Search & raise money for charity. All profits will be donated to Google to hire a customer support representative. :)

If for some reason they determine that they are unable to utilize this largess, the profits will go the Mental Health Association of Cattaraugus County to fund the Lee Greene Memorial Scholarship**.

This shirt, available in a limited quantity is tastefully designed with David Mihm’s photo on the upper right crest and captioned:
hire-this-man

Buy now as the supply is limited!

Sizes

On the back of this classic T, done in a tasteful white with a touch of familiar color, we offer David’s tactful & classic answer to this important question:
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AOL is Now Selling Local 10 Pack Spots

A reader recently pointed out that AOL is now selling all the spots in their “Local 10 Pack” on a CTC and possible PPC basis through YellowPages.com and ServiceMagic. I don’t follow AOL search hat closely so this may have been happening for a while.  

Here are several sample searches:

Attorneys near OleanNY 14760 Local Sponsored Listings

See more local listings near OleanNY 14760 »

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Auto Repair near OleanNY 14760 Local Sponsored Listings

See more local listings near OleanNY 14760 »

The results are not uniformly bad but particularly on the small town searches above the results are less than acceptable. In the lawyer search none of the results are even remotely local and in the car repair search most of the national franchises are not available in this market. When I searched for Plumber Olean NY, I was given a single plumber located 70 miles away that specialized in water proofing. Not much help if I have a leaky toilet. Searches in more urban areas (see Washington DC Plumber) returned somewhat better but still not stellar results. 

Whether that is a function of lack of inventory or a bad algo is unclear but the results are very unsatisfying. AOL is likely under pressure to monetize their search. It seems to me that doing it with such irrelevant results is a quick, one way ticket to oblivion. 

That being said there are a number of good reasons why a lower volume search engine might want or need to monetize these results. In the absence of an alternative ranking strategy, it is also a strategy that might make perfect sense as alternative to distance ranking in certain market segments (like plumbers) that are not really location based.

Should local listings on general search engines go to the highest bidder? Do you think we will see more of this practice on high volume sites?

State Attorney General to AT&T: Remove Illegal Locksmith Listings at Yellowpages.com

Legitimate locksmith’s have been attempting to convince authorities to pursue the illegetimate locksmiths for several years. They seem to have achieved a high profile success in Missouri where the State Attorney General is filing suit against one of the Florida companies behind a significant amount of the mapspam. In addition, the Attorney General “has also taken steps to get AT&T to remove the company’s ads from “The Real Yellow Pages” and www.yellowpages.com”.

From the KCTV5 website that broke the story locally:

“Clearly the Yellow Pages has made lots of money off of this,” said Koster.

The state is suing Dependable Locks Inc., out of Florida, a company accused of flooding the phone book with dozens of company aliases and hundreds of phone numbers.

And the attorney general’s office has given the AT&T Yellow Pages five business days to shut off hundreds of phone numbers linked to the fraudulent companies.

The Attorney General’s listing of related companies had a familiar ring to it and many are still present in Google’s index. “The following are the alternate business names used by Dependable Locks, Inc.”:

–A#1 24 Hour Locksmith
–A 24 Hour Locksmith
–AAA 24 & 7 Day Locksmith
–A Always Available 24 Hour Locksmith
–A Emergency A Locksmith
–A Locksmith Always 24 Hour
–A Locksmith A 1-24 Hour
–A Locksmith 00 24 Hour
–A Locksmith O Always 24 Hour
–A Locksmith Service 24 Hour
–A Locksmith 24 Hour Emergency
–A Locksmith
–A Kansas City #1 Emergency Locksmith
–24 Hour A Locksmith at St. Louis
–24 Hour A Locksmith
–0 24 Hour Locksmith

As Glenn Y(who alerted me to the above story, thanks) noted in a recent comment on my post Google Maps vs Locksmith Spammers: Spammers winning: “Every person who counts on internet search has a dog in this fight. SEO professionals will need to get involved with the solution, or lose their ability to positively effect search for their customers. This is not about locksmiths, it’s about fraud and search.”

Here is the press conference that has some interesting detail:

Local Links of Interest

MapQuest: A Symbol Of Everything That’s Gone Wrong – John McKinley, Silicon Valley Insider

John McKinley, a former AOL President of Digital Services, offers a concise and pointed critique of Mapquest’s loss of market dominance and what needs to be done about it.

Local Search Behavior by Industry Category – David Mihm, Mihmorandum

Do the IYPs offer any real value? David highlights a chart from a Comscore/TMP study that seems to indicate so, primarily in industries that have low web penetration. I am not buying but see what you think…

Windows Mobile 6.5 — Obsolete Already? Ian Paul, PC World

With Windows Mobile 7 coming out so soon, some people may just forget about Mobile 6.5 altogether and wait for the more advanced system. This is particularly problematic for Microsoft, since it’s already clear that Windows 6.0 and 6.1 device owners won’t be able to run Mobile 6.5. So if Mobile 7 is also going to require a new device, then why not wait a few more months for the newer system?

Hello?

Local Search Directories List emarketingmatador.com

Has put together a great reference list of US local, directories, IYP & upstream data provider sources that one should consider when planning a local campaign. Minor quibble: the only source missing was iBegin.com. While I like and use UBL, I think you should take control of Google (and a few others) as it is far too critical in the successful campaign mix.

Explore more with User Photos in Street View - Google Lat-Long

Google has been integrating Panoramio images into Maps and Maps Business Listings for a while. Now they are integrating them with Streetview. Greg Sterling has an interesting comparison of this new feature with Micorosoft Live’s Photosynth at SearchEngineLand.com