Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

Merchant Circle causes revolution amongst SMB’s

MarketWatch noted that MerchantCircle Revolutionizes ‘Feet on the Street’ Sales Force by Tapping Current Business Members.  The subhead read: Local Business Owners Rewarded for Signing Up Business Neighbors to Network. I also read with interest Greg Sterling’s related announcement: MerchantCircle Turns SMBs into Sellers where he noted:

In a clever twist, MerchantCircle is seeking to turn its thousands of SMB “members” (it now claims 630K) into a sales channel that will sell its services to other small businesses.

 I could imagine a headline that said instead: Merchant Circle implements new plan to turn neighbor against neighbor.

I can already see Matt McGee, moaning loudly, when he receives his first automated phone call from his local Plumber (Joe?) who mentions in the prerecorded call, that his daughter saw a bad review about Matt’s SEM services, and that Matt better scurry on line to MC for some reputation management and to verify his business.

While I think that the plan is brilliant, the “devil” as they say is in the details and I am sure that Merchant Circle will bring their very special view of marketing to the equation. Any local merchant would be well advised to not be the first one on the block to take up the offer until the details of their marketing strategy become clearer.

You wouldn’t want to be the first merchant to project Merchant Circle’s brand of marketing into your local neighborhood. It may be too clever by half as neighbors have long memories and the revolution of which MarketWatch speaks may not be the one that they envisioned.

Can the IYP’s survive and thrive?

The other day I noted that “As I have pointed out before, it is my belief that the IYP’s have already lost in this race. From my point of view they bring little of technical or marketing value to the space. Their core product, business listings have been commoditized to the point of being available for free and without significant innovation there is no reason for their survival going forward.

But I had coffee with Ahmed Farooq of iBegin on my way home from SMXEast and he pointed out that there was a path for them to success. Everybody these days has access to cheap or free YP listings. InsiderPages, Dex or Superpages no longer have exclusive listing data. What they do have is “feet on the street”.

They have the sales staff and customer relations that could solve the remaining problem in Local. That is to gather all of the deep local data about real, extant businesses that people care about….not just hours, but brands, niche information, context and other details that will make Local truly useful and not just a broken Yellow Pages.

They have what Google, in their algorithmic approach to Local, will never have; conversations with real businesses on the other end of the phone. Unlike their upstart competitors, they have scale and capital. The IYP’s could once again provide unique data that is valuable and that could push local to the next level of accuracy and functionality.

It would seem a so much more successful strategy to gaining links than their Payola approach. It would create value to themselves and the greater internet, obviously a concept that they have yet to grasp.

Google Maps: One (data) Ring to Rule Them All

Yesterday I asked whether Google Map’s upward trend continue? Can Mapquest maintain its market share? Or like the IYP space does Google just have too much presence in search to not win this race also?

From where I sit, these Map & IYP Market Share comparisons only look at a narrow sliver of Local results being delivered to end users. I have taken the liberty of adding an estimate of Google’s % of total Internet traffic that shows a Local OneBox to Hitwise’s chart. I am assuming that Google.com has roughly 6% of total traffic and that the Local Onebox shows for geo specific queries on roughly 10% of all searches. It could be as low as 7% and perhaps as high as 15%.
Mapquest Vs Universal Local

Regardless, it indicates that Google.com is displaying a map with attendant local results 2 to 3 times more frequently than Mapquest. Thus when you combine the reach of Google Maps and the Google.com Local OneBox, it is approaching 1% of total Internet traffic. This aggregate is 3 to 4 times the market share of MapQuest.

Google has never sat on it’s laurels in regard to Map’s market share. At every opportunity they have directed traffic inwards towards Maps as opposed to elsewhere. As Matt McGee noted on SearchEngineLand:

We’ve noted on Search Engine Land that two factors likely began to change the traffic trends for map sites: First, when Google stopped linking to MapQuest and Yahoo! Maps; second, when Google Maps began to be featured prominently in Universal Search results.

The imminent release of location aware browsers will further refine Google’s ability to deliver locally relevant results to the desktop. I am sure that this not the only trick up their sleeves.

But even this analysis captures but a share of the local information flowing from the Google Map’s data siloh into end user’s hands….
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Maps IYP Market Share

For my presentation at SMXEast, Heather Hopkins of Hitwise was kind enough to provide me with this custom view comparing the 3 leaders in the Maps/IYP space. With Mapquest’s recent upgrade this space is largely converging into a consolidated Maps/Directions/Business Listing product.

As I have pointed out before, it is my belief that the IYP’s have already lost in this race. From my point of view they bring little of technical or marketing value to the space. Their core product, business listings have been commoditized to the point of being available for free and without significant innovation there is no reason for their survival going forward. Above them they are being cannibalized by Google, Mapquest and Yahoo and from the bottom they are loosing out to the more nimble iBegin’s of the world. As you can see in the graph, the market share of the IYP leader, YellowPges.com, demonstrates that weakness.

So it would appear from this graph that the battle is between Google and Mapquest. Yahoo, with their innovative local and map products might be considered the dark horse. September’s introduction of a new local product by Mapquest and the rough Google transition to TeleAltas (among other problems) seems to have led to an uptick by MapQuest.

% of Total Internet Traffic Mapquest Google Maps Yellowpages.com

Will that trend continue? Can Mapquest maintain its market share? Or like the IYP space does Google just have too much presence in search to not win this race also? Let me know what you think. I will share my thoughts tomorrow.

Google Blogsearch good for hyperlocal blogging?

Google, in upgrading Google Blog search, has created an intriguing potential competitor to Techmeme. The upgraded search provides broad blog coverage, picks up stories quickly and has the potential to project blog content more widely. ReadWriteWeb noted:

The new Google Blogsearch has the potential to reach tens of millions of people and drive insane amounts of traffic.

Google Blog Search

Whether that is true for local blogs is yet to be seen. There is however a feature that highlights blog by major search terms. This could have an a positive traffic impact for hyperlocal blogs as it emphasizes blogs related to primary geo search phrases:
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Can You Spell Restuarant?

One of the struggles of researching local marketing is the fact that I frequently misspell the word Restaurant. I am obviously not the only one. I searched today for Pittsburgh Pa Restuarants to find this Authoritative OneBox:

Restuarant?

The record has not been claimed by the business owner as of yet but it made me curious how widely the error had penetrated the Internet. On the search “Arby’s Roast Beef Restuarants” it cropped up 33 times including Yelp and Allpages.com amongst others.

This search result put several issues in sharp relief for me:

1-Google’s Authoritative Onebox is far less than perfect and predicates its results too heavily on business title.

2- Once an error like this crops into one electronic directory, it crops into many. It will be an annoying problem for the business owner to solve.

3- Now more than ever, it is critical to double check your marketing message before you hit the return key!

Eric Enge: Frazier Miller and Shailesh Bhat Interview on Yahoo Local

Eric Enge has an informative and detailed interview today with Frazier Miller and Shailesh Bhat on the inner workings of Yahoo Local.

There were many items in the interview of interest and a number of notable contrasts with Google’s fully automated system.

Some of the highlights:

- Yahoo Local relies very heavily on the licensed feeds that they get through data providers like InfoUSA, Acxiom, and Localeze and these should be the primary sources for maintaing data accuracy in your Yahoo record.

- They “have human and manual moderation that goes on for changes, so … submissions all go through a moderation process where we look for patterns and we actually do validation of data to make sure it is accurate”. Google could learn from this approach!

- Categorization and consistency of keywords across data sources and your listing are key to ranking

For more key points from the interview ….
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(The original) Local Links of Interest

U.S. on Track to Top Mobile Net Market, Study Says – Steve McClellan, AdWeek.com

Why the change? Kerr cites several reasons, including the fact that U.S. mobile carriers are rapidly building out 3G networks, which facilitate the transmission of mobile Web-based video at faster rates, something that U.K. and other European-based carriers did years ago. Plus, newer handsets available in the U.S. offer higher quality reception of video and music and cheaper subscriber plans have boosted sign-ups among consumers, he said.

The most highly trafficked sites tend to be those offering news, sports and weather, with spikes occurring during rush hour and lunch breaks. “Growth in the U.S. has really come on strong in the last two years,” he said.

VoIP Goes Mobile – Olga Kharif, BusinessWeek.com

Gorilla, iCall, and a growing number of other services rely on what’s known as Voice over Internet Protocol technology that delivers speech via the Internet in much the same way as e-mail. VoIP calling is already raising a ruckus in telecommunications, putting pressure on the price of land-line calling and luring subscribers toward upstarts like Vonage (VG) and Comcast (CMCSA) away from incumbents such as AT&T, and Verizon (VZ). Now, the technology threatens to erode sales for mobile-phone service providers too.

Load Your User’s Location on the Map! - Pamela Fox, GooglegeoDevelopers

Wouldn’t it be better if the map could automatically center to my location without me lifting one of my precious fingers? The answer is yes, and now it’s easier to do than ever with the introduction of IP-based location information in the AJAX APIs framework

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….
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