Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

Google Plus Box – Where does the (wrong) data come from?

One of the more vexing problems in local search has been erroneous address & phone data showing for a bricks & mortar location in the main Google search results in the Plus Box. For a screen shot of the issue click here.

Small business owners have flocked to the Google Maps for Business Group in search of answers on the apparently untrue assumption that the data in the Plus Box comes from the Local Business Center record.

I recently theorized that the primary source for this erroneous information was the business website itself. That seems true as far as it goes. Apparently though there are other web “signals” that will trigger the Plus Box and if a business has relocated in the past several years it is likely that the information will be wrong, even if the website and the Local Business Center record has been correctly updated.

This recent request to the Google Maps for Business Group motivated me to look deeper into where this information might come from if not the business’s website. It appears that the source is either a high page rank directory site with a Maps API display or one of the many Yellow Page resources that Google uses as a secondary, confirming source for address information.

The upshot is that the (incorrect) Plus Box data appears to come from:
•Your Website
•Secondary business listing data suppliers to Google like the YellowPages
•High PageRank Directories that use a Google Maps API to geolocate the incorrect address

These sources would need to be changed for Google to “get it right”. There may be other sources but a creative search of Google should turn those up. I would suggest your prioritize your “cleansing” efforts by the list above. In this particular case, I found 62 web references to the wrong address. I do not think that all need to be changed.

Clearly Google could simplify this correction process in a number of ways. They could simply prioritize Local Business Center data when they have it. Barring that choice, they could provide details as to the sources of their data so that it could be purged more easily from the index.

The current system of begging in the Groups is obviously an inadequate response to a problem that from the SMB’s perspective is pressing. It is particularly so when customers end up at the wrong address due to the erroneous Plus Box. In these cases the business complaint should be addressed immediately and the business treated as a partner that helps Google generate accurate data.

Here is the original query from the Maps Group in its entirety and my research and response:
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Local Links of Interest

KML: HTML for the Geoweb – Christopher Schmidt, TechnicalRamblings
KML has become the “HTML” of the Geographic Web. With limited semantic meaning, a combination of mostly-human understandable XML tags for the majority of the usages, widespread use and abuse for purposes far beyond the original thoughts and intentions of the designers, and more, KML fits well into the geographic version of the niche filled by HTML in more generalized content publishing.

Beneficiaries of UGC in Map and Location Updating – MDob, Exploring

This is part of series on the implication, benefits, winners and loosers in having users updating Mapd and Business listing data.

Yahoo! onePlace Offers Front Door to Mobile Internet – Greg Sterling LocalMobileSearch

One of the many things holding the cell phone back from being a functional internet and search platform in the terrible user experience. This product might solve some of that for non iPhone users.

Do Ratings Matter Part Deux – Greg Sterling, Screenwerk

Yahoo’s response to Greg’s response to Matt’s posting:

  1. Ratings (stars) always matter and factor into the presentation of ranked local results in Shortcuts/Direct Display and Yahoo! Local.
  2. Most of the time the local results presented in search results and in Yahoo! Local will be identical (top three) but not 100% of the time.
  3. Reviews/review text don’t factor as a weighted variable in the algorithm for the presentation of local results via Shortcuts but may, on occasion, play a part in the ordering of results on Yahoo! Local.

Local Links of Interest

Google Local Maps Is Not Yellow Pages – Miriam Ellis, SEO Igloo

An insightful piece on the conflict between SMB expecations and reality in Google Maps and what Google can do to help improve the situation.

In the “not every Map Idea is a Good Map Idea” Category:

My Neighbors are Nucking Futs – Jerrold, blogto.com

Sometimes truly ill-conceived ideas meet easily-accessed technology and make it to the web. Rotten Neighbors (pardon the American spelling) is one such not-so-bright idea that somehow made it through development and has gone live online.The idea is simple. Using the Google Maps interface, you point to a house or building and tell the world how crazy/sleazy/ugly/horny/etc the occupants are.

Why Google Apps is a Serious Threat to Microsoft Office – Bernard Lunn, ReadWriteWeb.com

Not only is Google miles ahead of MS on collaboration, they have moved ahead on mobile access. I have long believed that mobile would be a key driver for Web Office. Now I can get access to my Docs from my Blackberry. When I switch to an iPhone with that bigger screen, I will be able to say “sayonara” to my laptop even more. In that world, MS Office looks like a real dinosaur.

The changing nature of Local Search

I ran across this ad for a “Local Search Expert” this morning in the Houston Craig’s List:

roofing.jpg

This ad intriuged me on a number of levels. One could draw conclusions about the SEM industry, the Local 10-Pack or the need for qualified pros in major markeets.

But the takeaway for me was that Local has arrived. Local is no longer just the province of hotels, restauarants and florists. The percieved value of this type of exposure has reached into the deepest levels of the local business world. For a roofing company to be willing to pay for the service inidcates to me the changing perception and reality that is local.

Local Links of Interest

Google to add video to local business record in Maps – Mike The Internet Guy

Don’t Pee in the Pool. Responsible Social Media Marketing - Marty Weintraub , AimClearBlog

I have never really engaged in social media marketing. When I wanted to I asked Marty for advise and was impressed with his understanding of it. This article really strikes home and while social media marketing has not yet had a huge role in local SEM, it will going forward and this is great advice.

Google Maps Street Video a funny look at the creeping intrusion of technology in our lives (thanks to Mark Lehr of WandInc.com via Greg Sterling )

View the Super Delegates on Google Maps – Rick Klau, Superdelegates.org (Thanks to Google Earth Blog)

Local Links of Interest

Evidence Clear: Better Usability = More Mobile Internet Usage – Greg Sterling Localmobilesearch.com

AT&T Mobility president and CEO Ralph de la Vega reportedly told audience members at the GSMA Mobile World Congress Thursday that 95% of iPhone owners surf the mobile Web, although only 30% had done so before. About half have also watched videos on the iPhone via YouTube.

Google Gets What It Wanted from C-Block Auction – Greg Sterling, LocalMobileSearch

[Google] doesn’t have to build the infrastructure but it may reap the benefits of the required openness attaching to the C-Block of 700 MHz spectrum…..That winner will have to allow “any legal device” to access the network. Thus any Android phone would be allowed to operate, as well as devices such as the iPod Touch or perhaps the iPhone itself. 

Local Search Keyword Analysis  – ConvertOffline.com

A nice piece of research showing the relative frequency and structure of Sevice+Locale and Locale+Service searches.

Is all search local?

I did an interview with Rand Fishkin yesterday that was published at SEOMoz.org. One of the questions that came up in the interview was:

There have been estimates that nearly 40% of all search queries have some sort of local intent – to what degree do you think that’s an accurate estimate?

Here is the answer I provided:

This research is from my local guru, Greg Sterling. I have not looked at the methodology or the numbers and can’t speak directly to their accuracy, but the source is impeccable and the logic is valid. It provides a useful lens for understanding local. In the end it doesn’t really matter if it is 10%, 40%, 60% or more. If you are in one of the industries that needs local and can benefit from it, then you need it and you probably need professional help to navigate the maze that is local. If you need it and you don’t have a strong presence, it can be a disaster as seen in the case widely reported last December of the florist that was affected by a competitor gaining the Authoritative OneBox.

Local search is an aggregation of a million niches which will come to local as the ROI becomes more obvious to each of them. As the granularity of local data increases and functional mobile technology proliferates, more and more business sectors will be impacted and will benefit from participating in local.

Greg Sterling pointed out to me that the question is really a proxy for the question: Is Local a big deal? Should we take this seriously? And he pointed out that “most people still don’t get the online-offline connection aspect of local”.

Yesterday I experienced a case in point. Our family was spending a ski weekend with the families of my college friends and as it was raining, we were discussing books and chronic pain relief , the specialty of the friend with whom I was talking.

He thought he had ordered a certain book, but couldn’t remember exactly where or even what the title was and so we started a search in Google. After he made a few unsuccessful searches on Google for the author or the book name, we were able to tease out both on search 5 or 6. That took us ultimately to Amazon to verify the book and its name. From Amazon, we visited Borders.com to see if it was in either his or wife’s order account (which took us back to Amazon). Ultimately he discovered that he requested the book be sent to the local Borders for his pickup. Tomorrow when he gets back to Detroit, he is heading into his local Borders and picking up the book.

It reinforces Greg’s point that ultimately many searches have a local intent. We after all exist in a local world and fulfill our real needs in that world. One could say to paraphrase that “All search is Local” in that it is intended to impact our real lives in some way.

Local is “over rated” – Local is “under rated”

This was mostly written as a response to comments in my interview with Miriam at SEOIgloo. I realized that I can only write so many words before breakfast so I have posted the comment slightly changed here.

There are those who say that “local search gets no respect, it should be important to all” and others in the search industry that look at local and say: “It is not a significant force, its not important and doesn’t affect my clients”.

I have often thought the “local is over rated”/”local is underated” debate misses the point to some extent.The debate is more nuanced than that. And the answer is: Yes.

If you need Local, you need local.

We are in a nascent market, local search, that has not yet fully developed. It requires indexed content from the producers of the information and searches from the consumers of it. It will use new ways of accessing this information

So as more and more information comes on line, as Google (or whomever) provides more and more granularity, users and producers both will follow along as they realize that they will benefit.

Each company will come to local when it is in their benefit to do so. Five years ago, local wasn’t important unless you were in the hotel business, 4 years ago it wasn’t important unless you were in the hotel or florist industry, Three years ago you would have added cars and restaurants to the list and so on.

As your industry or the industry groups that you represent benefit from local, your business will need to be there. For now it local is a collection of niches.

As the information granularity improves, say WalMart posts local inventory, it will also impact the usage and the companies that will need to be there. If Target sees Walmart there then the process will progress on the data side as well. Local will become the ultimate aggregation of niches.

As the information improves in any given industry segment and as the business feels the need to be in local, the searchers will be there & the SEM’s will follow. In the meantime the number of niches that benefit will continue to grow.

Ultimately, as Miriam points out on SEOigloo, even with Ebay sellers all bussiness is local. (Just look at the comparison of internet shopping to total shopping).

The other looming change will be in how we access that information. The movement toward hand held computing ala the iPhone will change all of this is unforeseeable ways but most all of them will have an impact on local.

The game has just started so it would be foolish to place any bets on who does or doesn’t need the capability. I think we can agree that the number of niches that benefit from local is growing. At some point what was a collection of niches becomes the majority and the tipping point is reached. Keep your options open and take advantage as you see the opportunity.

Regardless there are industry segments that need to be in local now and they need solid advice and counsel.

Captive Viewers+Demographic Knowledge+Location Awareness= AppleTV2′s Targeted Local Ads?

While reporting on Apple’s mobile strategy at MacWorld I was enamored by the elegance and usability of Apple’s AppleTV2.

It solved a problem that we didn’t know we had (how to avoid driving to BlockBuster), was easy to use, very cool and consistent with Apple’s overall strategy of using the computer (or 2) as the center of the personal digital information flow.

It also struck me that Apple already had all of the elements in AppleTV2 that would make for compelling local ad delivery: location awareness, attentive audience, knowledge about tastes & interests, a credit card on hand (just one click away), demographic information and more that I hadn’t thought of. I dismissed the idea as it seemed that Apple was not even remotely discussing the idea. I should have known better than to think that Steve Jobs would leave money on the table.

This recent patent review from AppleInsider opened my eyes to both the incredibile potential of the idea and the thought that Apple had obviously put into the idea. The patent reviews the use of context sensitive widgets that can pop up on your TV screen as a funtion of the music that you are listening to or the video that you are watching. These widgets could be preprogrammed into the media or if “the content is broadcasted, such as live television, then a widget could potentially be downloaded as part of the broadcast signal from a cable head-end, or provided through a separate communication such as an Internet connection, and then displayed over the content.”
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Local Links of Interest

Google News’ New Local Angle – Greg Sterling, SEL  detailing Google’s new local news service, similar to topix.com

In CBS Test, Mobile Ads Find Users  – Laura Holson, NY Times

CBS plans to announce on Wednesday that it is trying one of the first serious experiments with cellphone advertising that is customized for a person’s location. Its CBS Mobile unit is teaming up with the social networking service Loopt, which allows its subscribers to track participating friends and family on their mobile phones. 

Porn, not ‘localisation,’ is what users are searching for  – telecoms.com

Content, not local information, is what most users are looking for when using search on their phones. And, as on the fixed Internet, much of that content is pornographic, Farhad Divecha, director of search-engine-marketing agency AccuraCast, told delegates at the recent Mobile Search Conference, held in London. 

Study: Free Mobile Directory Assistance To Overtake Paid  – Mark Walsh, mediapost.com