Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

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 »

******

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

Will Google’s Streetview Data be used to replace TeleAtlas?

sv_after_beforeWhen Google expanded StreetView coverage for the U.S. in December. I was struck by the visual on their blog.

Google is not a company that often buys data from others. They usually either buy a company or they build it themselves. This map begged the question: Could Streetview Data be used to replace TeleAtlas?

In a Forbes article on the Nokia Navteq deal in late 2007,  Michael T. Jones, chief technologist of Google Earth, Maps and Local, was noted as saying “the company never considered buying Navteq. Instead, Google could simply recreate the data far more cheaply by tapping the mapmaking skills of its hundreds of millions of users — a wiki of maps.” They obviously decided to not buy TeleAtlas either.

While MapMaker could provide some fundamental data in many countries, it could never provide the accuracy and detail for travel routing. So I asked a couple of people who are more familiar with map making than I, if they thought that Google could use Streetview data to replace TeleAtlas.

Both James Fee of SpatiallyAdjusted and Barry Hunter of NearBy.org agreed that it was not only possible but likely at some point in the future that Google could be using Streetview data.

Continue reading

The Semmy Nominations Announced

The Semmy Awards, founded by Matt McGee to honor search marketing content online, has announced the 2008 nominees in the following categories:

Three articles that I wrote this past year: In the Trenches: the reality of SMB Marketing- Bruce’s Sew Handy Interview in the Small Business Category and Ranking Factors in Google Maps – Cracking the Code SMX Local & Microsoft’s listing in Google Maps Hijacked (oops by me) were nominated in the Local Search Category.

Thank you for the recognition and my hat  is off to the many other nominees. I must note that I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t receive any nominations in the Rant category. I guess I need to further refine the curmudgeon parts of me going forward. I am sure the Merchant Circle and Google would both appreciate seeing more of that side of me. :)

Local in a Ford Near You

As the pricing for GPS and computer chips drop we have seen computers moving into a range of new situations from TV boxes to your iPod. The capability is now moving into automobiles as well and in this context, Local makes lots of sense. Ford is at the forefront of making this technology widely available in its cars with its Sync technology.

David Berkowitz of Clicktoday did a recent interview with Doug VanDagens of Ford Motor Company. It is clear that Ford has made a commitment to making this technology available in every vehicle at a very low price. Just bring your own voice plan. From the interview:

David Berkowitz: Good, thanks? Do you just want to share what you’re doing?

DV: ….What we’re announcing here at the show is an ability to connect to the internet through a normal voice plan. So all you need is your phone, and we can take Sync through Bluetooth, connect to your phone, connect out to Tellme, which is a voice portal – a best in class voice portal, and Microsoft now owns those assets. From there we can direct you to a number of Internet data sources. We can send the GPS information from the vehicle, we can send health report diagnostic information over your voice plan, and then we have traffic, directions, business search, and information, all internet-based.

DB: This seems unusual to me at least. I don’t follow the automotive industry that closely, but it seems that when a new feature comes out, it’s on your premium model.

DV: Correct. So when we first introduced Sync, we introduced it on the Focus, and the young people loved it, right? It’s a connection to an MP3 player, hands-free cellular calling. This is the same thing. It’s free on every one of our vehicles. There’s another automaker that announced some services similar to this, but it’s only available on their high-end luxury cars. This service is going to be available on every one of our vehicles, free for three years.

You’ll have access to the internet information. You can personalize it. If you want news you can go in and say “I want technology news,” “I want business news.” It’ll be read to you. You can get sports, news, weather. Later this year we’re going to introduce movies and stock prices.

You can get navigation information, so you can go out and say, “Find me the closest Starbucks,” and it will go out, based on your location, and find the closest Starbucks to you, analyze the traffic conditions, tell you how to get there the fasest way, and download the directions to your car. The call will end, and now you’ll get turn-by-turn directions. It will say, “Turn right at 200 yards,” “Turn right now,” it will take you anywhere you want to go. It will do business search – you can get the phone number, and all of this is free for three years.

DB: Does this work in conjunction with GPS or more as a replacement?

DV: We’ve added GPS in all of our vehicles. Starting in January, all of our new vehicles will have GPS. So we send the location from the car so we know where you’re at. You can say things like, “Search nearby,” and they’ll find anything that you want nearby. You can do a business search, you can do it by category, you can do it by actual business name, by proximity. So you can say, “Find me an Italian restaurant.”

It will not be long before it will become necessary to optimize your site for viewing at 65 mph while heading down the highway in search of the perfect pizza parlor. Ford, the strongest of the US automakers, has over the past few years been improving their quality and unlike Chrysler or GM, actually leading for a change.

Sign me up!

Locai 2008- Miriam Ellis – Most Important Search Pieces in 2008

Miriam Ellis, along with her husband, operates  Solas Web Design, a web design & local seo company focusing on the small business marketplace. She writes frequently on small business issues at her blog, SEO Igloo. When she isn’t writing on her blog or commenting here, you will also find her guest blogging, moderating  and writing at: Search Engine Guide, Cre8tive Flow, 14th Colony and The Conscientious Home. Dang, no wonder I have never met her in person. :)

****

Here we go, Mike:

In my opinion, these are the two most important local search pieces published in 2008:

http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/08/04/ranking-factors-in-google-maps-cracking-the-code-smx-local/

http://www.davidmihm.com/local-search-ranking-factors.shtml

These two articles stand out in my mind as having been especially engaging:

http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/09/18/google-maps-widespread-hijacking-of-business-listings-confirmed/

http://searchengineland.com/a-small-business-marketing-success-story-john-tuggle-guitar-teacher-13746

I know there are a ton of other articles I’ve really enjoyed, but my memory tends to hinge more on writers I’ve come to admire, rather than on specific pieces they’ve published. Over time, I’ve learned which authors publish work that most appeals to me, and I return to them again and again. 

I will read anything written by you, Mike, by Greg Sterling, David Mihm or Matt McGee. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Martijn Beijk a bit this year. I’m excited about Matt’s hyperlocal blog and have closely followed the Local and Small is Beautiful columns at Search Engine Land in 2008. 

What I would love to see in 2009 is a focus from some of these great folks on how-to local articles and further case studies of successful small businesses. These are the topics that engage my interest most and I’ll put anyone in my feedreader who is writing about them!

Miriam Ellis

Loci 2008 – Rand Fishkin – The year in Local 2008

Rand Fishkin , of SEOMoz, needs no introduction from me. Here are his favorites: *** Sure – here goes:

Hope that helps! Rand

Loci 2008: Ahmed Farooq

Ahmed Farooq is the founder of iBegin.com. He has created, sold and recreated significant local web properties several times over. I communicate almost daily with him about his and my activities and I have found no one to have a better handle on the technical and social issues that confront local nor a better idea on how to build honest businesses within the space. From where I sit, his youthful influence and creative vision makes him the person to watch in the coming years. He writes at his blog, Tech Soapbox.
*********

No particular order.

1. http://www.davidmihm.com/local-search-ranking-factors.shtml – All in all, one of the best articles to start at with local search. Any time a friend asks for help in local search – this is what they get.

2. http://www.davidmihm.com/blog/general-marketing/local-seo-citation-is-new-link/ – After they are done with the previous link, this is what they get next. I think it really sums up local optimization – get cited and you will succeed.

3. http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/10/30/microsofts-listing-in-google-maps-hijacked-oops-by-me/ – As a company, my thinking seems to be going towards the popular grain (no longer a fan of reviews or most UGC). Mike found an excellent example on how UGC is far from perfect.

4. http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/08/04/ranking-factors-in-google-maps-cracking-the-code-smx-local/ – I’m fully expecting Mike to make this a bi-annual-updated presentation

5. http://gesterling.wordpress.com/2007/10/16/no-yelpers-says-one-local-cafe/ – I absolutely stole this off of Greg’s list, but it kind of underlines what I was trying to say with Mike’s hijacking of MS. It became even more pertinent after the entire Proposition 8 skirmish on Yelp (and I actually agreed with Yelp removing those reviews).

6. The various posts on Google Mapspam. What makes it sad is that the payday spam is still there – hell, one of the businesses listed for ‘cash advance new york city’ is a parking page!

7. http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/12/16/in-the-trenches-the-reality-of-smb-marketing-bruces-sew-handy-interview/ – kind of smacks the DIYers (of which I am one of) in the head.

8. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/22/business/media/22carr.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1229965464-/0AeK+vUHW2muJIXWmFHcA – I really like this one – kind of about focusing on your strength, not your weakness.

9. http://gesterling.wordpress.com/2008/12/09/google-lbrr-going-out-of-business/ + http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/google-local-business-referrals-is-shutting-down/1377/ – I’m surprised no one mentioned this. It was a potential black eye for Google, but every one seemed to have moved on quickly about it.

10. http://www.localseoguide.com/botw-local-greg-hartnett-interview/ – the established SEOed sites are coming. Trust me, I know. Prepare for local data dilution like you could have never imagined :)

11. No story specifically, but where-o-where are Yahoo and MSN? I think Yahoo’s accomplishment in local this year was releasing data by a company they bought out.

12. http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/12/17/merchant-circle-has-trouble-getting-it-right/ + http://blumenthals.com/blog/2009/01/09/why-google-has-trouble-getting-it-right/ - MerchantCircle and Google (!) start astroturfing on blogs. Mike is pretty tech-savvy and keeps a keen eye on commentators – how many other blogs have been hit by such comments? It kind of speaks for how big online local is becoming when people start pull such behaviour.

Loci 2008 – Maps Guide Jen shares highlights of 2008

The inestimable Maps Guide Jen, Google Map’s not very public face, has agreed to share her highlight in Local from 2008. If I were Google, I would turn Jen loose to be their voice in Local. 

*****

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some picks for 2008. Matt did a great job weighing in on some of our spam fighting efforts, and pointing out articles like Danny Sullivan’s and your own posts on “Google Local Business Hijacking” and “Google Maps Hijacked.” These efforts certainly remain high in priority, as you’ll see within the list below, but I’ve also included some particularly relevant articles that speak to the successes of Google Maps last year. 

1. Spammers Hijack Top Florist Google Local Listings – Cathy, FlowerChat (September 13, 2008)

Prior to this post, we’d seen spam restricted mostly to small-batch, low visibility businesses. Cathy’s alarm really exemplified the extent to which spam had begun to affect the lives of major business owners. 

2. Google Local Business Center adds custom category selection – Erik Larkin, PC World (April 15, 2008)

Custom categories were a huge win for business owners with Local Business Center listings. We saw many debates over category selection and display; this change significantly curtailed concerns over categories.

3. Evaluating Google’s Response to Maps Spam reports – David Mihm, Sphnn (September 11, 2008)

We loved to see this public analysis of our own spam fighting efforts. We recognize that what we’re doing may not always be prominent, so we really enjoyed seeing the results of our efforts from David’s perspective.

4. My experience using Google Local during a Medical Emergency – Miriam Ellis, SEO Igloo Blog (November 4, 2008)

Miriam’s great, well-reasoned perspective showed us the perception of community edits in the SEO community. From later correspondence, we also recognized a few places to bump up the prominence of our contact forms, and display more information on how community edits affect the Maps index.

5. Google hobbyists put ‘paan’ vendor on the map - Samsanth Subramanian, livemint.com (October 16, 2008)

By featuring a couple enthusiastic users who are making a big impact through Map Maker, this article talks about how  the wiki model for maps in India is working.

6. Local Business Center Update – New Interface & Features – Mike Blumenthal, Understanding Google Maps… (June 13, 2008)

This redesign cleaned up our interface to make it faster and easier for business owners to create, verify and edit their listings. We found that the changes cut down on a lot of confusion over verification, and how clicking on various buttons/links would affect a listing. As a result we saw a decrease in complaints about those processes.

7. Report Spam on Google Maps – Maps Guides & Google Users (July 10, 2008)

This isn’t really an article, but we’ve found it incredibly useful to have this thread where the public could see and respond to spam reports. We understand the scope of what users are concerned about, where the definitions of spam become fuzzy, and how spam reports change in nature as we filter out types of spam. 

 

Honorary Mentions:

8. Google Maps and YP – Comparing Oranges To…Tangerines – Miriam Ellis, Solas Web Design  (July 17, 2008)

9. What is a Legitimate Review? – Greg Sterling, Screenwerk (August 7, 2008)

10. Local Users Bill of Rights – Mike Blumenthal, Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local Search (June 7, 2008)