Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

Local Links of Interest


Polo Ralph Lauren to Launch Shopping by Cellphone – Reuters News Service
Polo is the first luxury retailer to launch a mobile commerce site, hoping to stay ahead of a trend that is making its way from Asia to the United States, said David Lauren, senior vice president of advertising and son of designer and Chief Executive Ralph Lauren.

5 Steps for 5 Stars: Reputation Management for Small Businesses
– David Mihm, davidmihm.com

A great summary and “a list of truly exceptional posts related to this topic written in the last couple of months, and summarizing their findings”.

Hyperlocal Blogging Sonoma County, CA – More SEO Copywriting Tips – Miriam Ellis, Solaswebdesign.com

The second part of a two part series on copywriting tips for hyperlocal blogging.

Smartphone Is Expected via Google NY Times

T-Mobile will be the first carrier to offer a mobile phone powered by Google’s Android software, according to people briefed on the company’s plans.

How Image-to-Text Could Be Used in Google Street View – Phillip Lenssen, blogoscoped.com

Google could be able to make the streets searchable through a normal text input box. If a club is called “Foobar” and you enter “foobar”, you may find the location even if it’s not available from any existing yellow pages overview service.

Does IYP market share matter?


Does the IYP/online business directory market share matter or has the battle already been decided? Has this category been relegated to just another niche search area where money can be made but market dominance is not possible?

A recent press release noted that www.local.com, ranked fifth in the Business Directories online industry category. This was based on the Hitwise analysis of market share of U.S. visits received at the internet yp sites in Q1, 2008. Greg Sterling at Screenwerks noted the other sites in the category as ranked by Hitwise in their results:

Business and Finance – Business Directories
1 maps.google.com
2 www.yellowpages.com
3 www.whitepages.com
4 local.yahoo.com
5 www.local.com
6 www.infospace.com
7 yellowpages.superpages.com
8 virtualearth.msn.com
9 www.switchboard.com
10 www.yellowbook.com

I have small quibbles with these IYP comparisons. Maps.google.com has a tendency to be over counted due to its integrated mapping function and Yahoo tends to be undercounted due to the fact that it splits its local, yp and maps products into different urls. A resolution to this methodology issue is likely to move Yahoo local closer to first in this list but these are small details.

I see a much bigger problem in that it appears to me the battle for local business listings has already been won and not by the properties on the Hitwise list. These comparisons are simply measuring who has 1st, 2nd and perhaps third of the remaining, ever declining market share left to them by market leaders Google’s and Yahoo’s universal search results.

Here is my math….
Continue reading

Local Links of Interest


When Will ‘Mobile Search’ Overtake the Internet? - Greg Sterling, LocalMobileSearch.net

While it might take some time for mobile to pass Internet search in the US or Western Europe, in context of the entire world it’s not hard to imagine mobile search volumes exceeding the desktop Internet, in the aggregate, within 5-7 years.

Google Goes Back to ‘Opt-in’ in Mobile - Greg Sterling, LocalMobileSearch.net

When Google first launched mobile AdWords it was an opt-in program: advertisers specifically had to choose to be in mobile sponsored search results. Then, in a fairly well publicized move, Google decided to make mobile an opt-out for AdWords advertisers:

The company informed me last week that it has gone back to an opt-in policy for mobile at the present time.

I also discussed with Google the degree to which the desktop and mobile might ultimate become more similar than different, in the context of “full HTML” browsers (Safari, Opera, Skyfire, Mozilla, Android). We’ll see. As I’ve tried to argue in the past, while there are some advantages in that scenario for users there are considerable disadvantages for advertisers — chiefly because online ads get lost and become very difficult to see.

The iPhone is probably the model of how smartphone browsing will evolve: native applications + full HTML browsing. But that still doesn’t solve the problem for advertisers seeking to effectively reach mobile audiences.

Move Over Universal Search, Illustrated Search Is Smarter? - Bill Slawski,SEObyTheSea

The authors of these patent filings refer to this approach as a “smart aggregation of search results by concepts.” In addition to helping searchers quickly understand different concepts related to their queries,and view different relevant content types from different sources, is also that focused advertisement can be presented.

What Google’s ZIP Code Targeting Means for Local Businesses - David Mihm, davidmihm.com

I take a look at some of the implications of this development, and expand on an earlier hypothesis about why Google introduced the 10-pack to Universal search in the first place. Yes, ZIP code targeting means more relevant results for searchers, but it’s an innovation that might not be entirely altruistic.

Local (Mobile) Links of Interest


Smartphones Now Ringing for Women – Laura M. Holson, NY Times

If recent history is any guide, roughly a third of the people snapping up Apple’s new iPhone are likely to tote it in a purse.

In a big shift for the phone industry, women have emerged as eager buyers of not just iPhones but of all so-called smartphones — BlackBerrys, Treos and other models.

In the last year the number of American women using smartphones more than doubled to 10.4 million, growing at a faster pace than among men, according to Nielsen Mobile, which tracks wireless trends.

Apple’s $199 iPhone: How Can It Be So Cheap? – Yardena Arar, PC World

“There are probably subsidization issues going on here,” he said. In fact, AT&T in a news release issued today hinted that it would be taking a hit on revenues from device sales in hopes of increased profits down the line from data services to what’s anticipated to be a huge customer base.

“In the near term, AT&T anticipates that the new agreement will likely result in some pressure on margins and earnings, reflecting the costs of subsidized device pricing, which, in turn, is expected to drive increased subscriber volumes,” the news release states. It also points out that AT&T will no longer share revenue on iPhone services with Apple, and that the cost of an unlimited data plan for consumers will rise from the current $20 a month to $30 a month (on top of a voice plan available for $40 or more).”

This appears to be a razors and razor blades strategy with Apple picking up the extra commission. In rural areas with no 3g coverage this seems like a bad deal.

TomTom says navigation app already runs on iPhone – Reuters

Dutch navigation device maker TomTom already has a version of its navigation software running on Apple’s iPhone and has plans to sell it to consumers, a spokesman said on Monday.

“Our navigation system runs on the iPhone already,” the TomTom spokesman said after Apple announced a new version of the iPhone that will include global positioning (GPS) capability.

The spokesman did not say when TomTom, Europe’s biggest maker of car navigation devices, would be ready to start selling the software.

Active navigation will be an important application for accelerating iPhone adoption and will facilitate active search.

Google Mobile Advertising: Start Now! – David Szetela, Search Engine Watch

The first concept to grasp: mobile search ads can evoke three different actions:

- (The usual) click-through to the advertiser site
- A click that sends the “clicker” to a Google-supplied Business Page
- A click that immediately and automatically places a voice call to the advertiser’s phone number

The latter two options require zero web site development, and can be perfect options for certain advertiser types:

- Retail businesses that finish many/most of their transactions by phone, such as take-out restaurants, florists, or taxi companies.
- B2B businesses that crave phone leads. Sure, they need to have the processes and infrastructure to qualify and (hopefully) close clients within a call or tow — but many businesses do.
- B2C companies whose aspects straddle the previous two, like professional services: legal, financial, investment, etc.

Cell Services Keep It Easy, and Free – David Pogue, NY Times

A good overview of GOOG-411, Cha-Cha and Jott

Conversation with Universal Business Listing’s Doyal Bryant


I recently had a conversation with Doyal Bryant, one of the founders of Universal Business Listing.

Universal Business Listing is attempting to establish itself as a single stop for businesses to create one listing for use across the local internet. They want to become a business resource that provides ”internet fresh data” to the various consumers of business data for local search. They charge up tp $30 for a business to create a listing with them and manage and track the listing for one year. They then provide these listings at no charge to the data collators like Axciom & InfoUsa, to the 411 providers like LLSI and to the Local engines like the YP’s, Yahoo and Google.

While the conversation was wide ranging, it helped me understand some of the “back story” on how data is handled across the internet and provided a few other interesting factoids:

• The primary data suppliers like InfoUSA and Axciom will often prioritize 6 or 9 month old telco data over “internet fresh” data. This has implications for any business changing their address or updating their DBA.

•He noted that Yahoo and Google will prioritize their ad system’s address over other sources for that address. I wonder what would happen if there was a conflict between the the Local Business System and adwords.

• For one national rental company with 4000 locations that had actively attempted to manage their on-line listings there were still 200 that contained critical errors at any point in time. In other words there was a 5% error rate on basic information such as phone, street address etc. even when the company was engaged and attempting to keep them correct.

• He relayed a story about a major national insurer with agents & branches in most cities. By the insurance company’s calculations between 40% and 60% of all inquiries and contacts came via local search.

The takeaway? Local search is playing a huge role in local marketing for national firms but the current system for collecting and distributing data across the net to the end user guarantees that there will be errors in the data and delays in information propagating. 

 

Local Links of Interest


 Small Business Marketing Success Story: Avante Gardens - Matt McGee, SearchEngineland

This interview with Cathy Rulloda is a great overview of good practices. Cathy is always at the forefront of using the internet for local marketing in the very tough florist arena and she more than holds her own.

Free-411 Rolls Out Dial Directions Nationally & Jingle Goes Nationwide with Dial Directions - Greg Sterling, Screenwerks/Local Mobile

Against that backdrop Jingle needs to continue to develop, market and differentiate its service if it hopes to stay ahead of this increasing competition. One way it has sought to do that is by offering Dial Directions service, which as of today is now available nationally: any location to any other location (by address or intersection).

I see Free 411 services as a critical bridge service between the phones of today and the mobile internet of tomorrow and the services use much the same data set that we have been working with. Greg offers this interesting chart of Free 411 intents:

Free 411 Intent

How do we determine the names of things -  Mikel Maron, BrainOff.com

A mid April post that takes a fascinating look at the politics and policies involved in naming places. What we often assume is an absolute in a Map is really  a fluid, conflicted political & social battle. How does Google handle the conflicts that arise? How does OpenStreetMap do so? An eye opening and educational piece.

 

Local Links of Interest


A Technology Consortium Plans a Wireless Network – Matt Richtel, NY Times

The consortium includes a disparate group of partners: Sprint Nextel, Google, Intel, Comcast, Time Warner and Clearwire….

They expect the network, which will provide the next generation of high-speed Internet access for cellphone users, to be built in as little as two years, but there is no timetable on when it will be available to users and the price is not determined. The partners are seeking to beat Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless to the market.

Sprint Scores Coup with WiMax Joint Venture – Greg Sterling, Local Mobile Search

Sprint and Google have also entered into an agreement related to Sprint’s mobile services, whereby Google will become the default provider of web and local search services, both of which will be enabled with location information, for Sprint. Sprint will also preload several Google services – including Google Maps for mobile, Gmail and YouTube – on select mobile phones and provide easier access to other Google services.

Apple and AT&T to launch iPhone 3G a lot sooner than we think - Boy Genius Report

AT&T reps just got an internal email stating that they would be unable to take vacation time from June 15th to July 12th”due to projected increased traffic and an exciting new promotion/product launch.” 

The Ten Commandments of Online Marketing for Small & Local Busines - David Mihm, Mihmorandum

Step-by-step instructions for the small business just trying to get a handle on this whole internet marketing thing. (I missed this one while on vacation but it is worth looking at if you haven’t read it)

Apple’s Price Reduction & its stealth mobile computing initiatives


Fortune (via LocalMobileSearch) reports that Apple will be reducing the price of the iPhone by $200. As Greg points out at Local Mobile: Price Matters!

The new price will drive adoption of this fully functional mobile computing device masquerading as a smart phone at a faster rate. Apple’s mobile computing strategy became very clear this past month while visiting a childhood friend who had up to the moment of our visit had steadfastly maintained his Luddite approach to computing.

His wife had purchased him an iPod Touch for an upcoming 20 hour vacation flight to Bali. Upon our arrival he proudly showed me his new toy (remember this is a guy that like me, buys a new car every 15 years whether he needs to or not) and told me how he was going to listen to Dylan and the E Street Band on his long trip.

I started tapping away and noted that it would be a simple thing to hook it the internet via his wife’s laptop which he agreed to. From that point on, each morning and evening he had me implement and train on an ever increasing number of internet capabilities….he started downloading podcasts by Amy Goodman, buying a few videos for the trip on iTunes, discovering the joys of Google Maps (you mean I can look up restaurants? show me!) and incredulous that he could now read his email anywhere.

Last I heard from him was an email from the Tokyo airport about a sock that my son had left buried in the den couch.

Apple, in focusing on the killer app (either music or phone calling + music) has developed a very seductive and appealing way to bring not just the technorati but the ludderati as well into the age of mobile computing. These new users may just leapfrog the desktop that they were so resistant to and in doing so make computing (and local search) a much more integrated part of our every day life.

Searching for reviews


I am currently traveling with my family from Northern California to Oregon. We needed to book a hotel near the San Francsico airport the other night. My wife ended up booking us into the Best Western Grosvenor in South San Francisco.

As we checked in, there was an obviously placed notice that that if we reviewed the hotel on TripAdvisor.com we would be entered in a drawing to receive a full credit towards our room expense.

We went to the room, set up our laptop and proceeded to struggle with a very flaky wifi connection, calling the front desk who alerted maintenance. We finally logged on through the connection for the Holiday Inn across the street.

The next morning I got serious about attempting to win my free stay and proceeded to create an account with TripAdvisor.com and to locate their record to provide a review. About 15 minutes into the sign up/review process, the WiFi connection started slowing down and finally went bad before ever being able to actually write the review. After another 10 minutes of struggling with the flakey connection I finally gave up.

I was an extremely motivated user and between the time it took to get into Tripadvisor and navigate a buggy wifi connection, I could not make it to the end line. While checking out, we were forced to fill in the hand feedback form to enter the electronic review drawing.

The impact of the hotels efforts are interesting. The Top 10 Hotels in Google all have more than 45 reviews to their credit on the search: Hotels South San Francisco. Our hotel showed up on page 3 of Google Maps with no reviews. Its Google Maps record is unclaimed and has its name mispelled.

At Tripadvsior.com the hotel has received 126 reviews and is accumulating reviews at a run rate of about 1 per week.

It is fascinating to me that reviews have become an integral part of some hotel’s customer relations management. It is also fascinating that it could be so poorly executed as to cause my rating to go down. The lengthy process to get signed up with TripAdvisor speaks to the need for a product like LeaveFeedback.org. The poorly managed WiFi setup speaks to the importance of good execution across all of an establishment’s offered services.

It is also of note that the review process focused so heavily on TripAdvisor while ignoring their Google Maps record reinforcing the poorly thought out nature of the exercise.

Does Local need to be held to a higher standard? Greg Sterling Responds


Greg Sterling of Screenwerks gets the last word (well other than mine of course) on the topic of whether Local needs to be held to a higher standard.

Greg: Does Local need to be held to a higher standard? Whether or not it should be in a sense it already is – by virtue of the difference between Local and general Web search. With general Web results users have multiple choices in the majority of cases. If the data or answers they seek are missing or inadequate on any one site all they need to do is “click back” and move on to the next publisher.

In Local there are fewer choices typically. In some cases,accordingly, the consumer is without recourse if the data are missing or flawed. If someone is looking for a specific business location and doesn’t find it on the engine, it reflects very negatively on that site (e.g., “I was looking for restaurants and all they had were fast-food places”). Thus I believe that people do hold Local to a higher standard already – because it’s about the “real world” and their daily lives. In many cases the users are the arbiters of truth;they know what’s correct and what should be there, as opposed to general Web searches where they may not.

The central challenge then, as others have mentioned, is getting good data and making sure it’s “fresh” and accurate. This requires a mix of strategies and an approach that’s distinct from the Web crawling done by the major search engines. Getting good Local data and the objective of presenting an optimal Local user experience require much more structure and working with trusted partners. But increasingly it also means getting the distributed mass of users involved.

Google and Yahoo! have essentially opened up their databases in an effort to get the community involved. Users at large can correct inaccurate records – provided this doesn’t open the door for major spamming – and broaden the database considerably as well. Google is finding this with My Maps, where it’s getting lots of additional information, organized in interesting ways, beyond the standard business listings database.

While I don’t subscribe to unrestrained free market capitalism I think there’s a “Darwinian struggle” going on and the better products and approaches in Local will ultimately succeed. The push back to that argument is Google’s position and power in the market and the gravitational force it exercises over search behavior.

Because Google has become so important to many local businesses and because of the well-documented benefits and consequences of “showing up” or “not showing up” in Local results, there’s almost a “moral obligation” on the part of Google to do everything possible to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the database. This burden resides with the others as well. But Google is in a position of higher responsibility because of its power and influence.