Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

Nominees in Local Search category: 2008 SEMMY Awards

2008 SEMMY NomineeThe following are the nominees in the Local Search category for the 2008 SEMMY Awards. The judge(s) will narrow this group down to 5-6 finalists. Congratulations to all nominees! Thanks for the recognition!

Local Links of Interest

Local SEO 2008 Predicitons - Andrew Shortland, LOC@LSEOGuide. Andrew is doing the fumes of Delphi Oracle thing.

Google Maps Gaining On Market Leader Mapquest – Greg Sterling, SearchEngineLand provides some great analysis about Google neutrality and technology in the maps market share mayhem.

iPhone specific web sites — do they make sense? – Martin Kleppmann, Yes-No-Cancel
Bill Gates and Company Want to Watch You Watch TV, Buy Groceries, and Use Your Credit Cards and Cell Phone (and Take Notes) – Bill Slawsk, SEOByTheSeal

Local Links of Interest

Yahooo Makes a New Play for Ads on Mobile Phones – Miguel Helft, NY times

Magellan Device Adds Google Local Listings – Greg Sterling, LocalMobileSearch

Google’s Lunchtime Betting Game – Noam Cohen NY Times
This has little to do with local but is an interesting research report on the use of prediction markets within Google.

According to the report, “Using Prediction Markets to Track Information Flows: Evidence From Google,” which was presented Friday at the American Economic Association meeting in New Orleans, the strongest correlation in betting was found among people who sat very close to one another, trumping even friendship or other close social ties.

This is tangible evidence, the authors argue, that information is shared most easily and effectively among office neighbors, even at an Internet company where instant messaging and e-mail are generally preferred to face-to-face discussion.

What Does 2008 Have In Store For Local? Greg Sterling, SEL

SEL Survey Data & Comparison

Mobile User Survey Redux: the Late Adopter

After Greg Sterling surveyed SEL readers on their mobile internet usage patterns, I thought it would be interesting to survey a totally distinct user group. Greg agreed and we surveyed the 1123 registered readers of OleanInfo.com, a local portal site catering to folks interested in Olean NY. Roughly 80% of OleanInfo’s readership lives within 40 miles of Olean, NY, a small town in western NY State.

The readership was chosen for contrast with the SEL readers. Presumably they are rural or of rural origins and less technically oriented. They proved to be, as a group, classic “late adopters”. 85.8% of the OleanInfo respondents were over 40 and 58% over 50 and as a group had very low mobile internet use. This stood in contrast to the SEL readership that was 84% under 40 of which almost half access the mobile internet once per week or more.

Other highlights:

• 90% of respondents report using their cells to text message (thus they do sooner or later adopt)
• 0% penetration of the iPhone
• Very low (12%) penetration of traditional smartphones
• 87% had no mobile internet usage AT ALL
• 26% reported using Free DA and of those 32% used Goog-411 and 44% uses Free-411. (Remember that the Goog-411 billboard campaign took place in Olean)

Here are the results of the survey taken last week. OleanInfo respondents are listed first with the comparable SEL response in parenthesis.

What sort of mobile phone do you currently own?

  • Conventional cell phone — 87.6% (58.7%)
  • Traditional smartphone (e.g., BlackBerry, Treo) — 12.4% (30.7%)
  • iPhone — 0.0% (10.7%)

Indicate how many of the following you do with your mobile phone (multiple answers permitted):

  • Send and receive text/SMS messages — 90.9% ( 97.2%)
  • Access the mobile Internet — 22.7% (56.9%)
  • Use downloaded applications (e.g., Mapquest Navigator, Google Maps for Mobile) — 12.1% (36.1%)

How frequently do you access the mobile Internet?

  • Never — 87.2% (33.8%)
  • Once a month or less — 4.6% (13.5%)
  • Two-three times a month – 4.6% (5.4%)
  • More than once a week — 1.8% (21.6%)
  • At least once daily – 1.8% (25.7%)

If you don’t access the Internet on your mobile phone, why not (multiple answers permitted)?

  • Keying in queries is frustrating — 21% (45%)
  • The network is too slow — 6.2% (52.5%)
  • The screen on my phone is too small — 14.8% (57.5%)
  • I don’t have a mobile Internet plan — 77.8% (45%)

Which of the following mobile search engines/sites do you use (multiple answers permitted)?

  • Ask – 17.4% (8%)
  • AOL – 4.3% (0%)
  • Google – 78.3% (90%)
  • Microsoft Live Search/MSN – 26.1% (8%)
  • Yahoo oneSearch/Go – 41.3% (20%)
  • Note-The high response rate on this question implies that the question was not fully understood

Do you use any of the free directory assistance options?

  • Yes – 26% (29%)
  • No – 74% (71%)

If you use any of the free directory assistance options, which one(s):

  • Goog411 — 32% (73.9%)
  • 1-800-YellowPages (AT&T) – 28% (8.7%)
  • 1-800-Call-411 (Microsoft) – 12.0% (8.7%)
  • 1-800-Free-411 – 44% (21.7%)

Indicate your gender

  • Female – 38% (24%)
  • Male — 62% (76%)

Indicate your age

  • 18-24 — 1.8% (17.3%)
  • 25-30 — 2.7% (25.3%)
  • 31-40 — 9.8% (41.3%)
  • 41-50 — 27.7% (12%)
  • 51-60 — 30.4% (4%)
  • Over 60 — 27.7% (0%)

Where do you reside?

  • US/North America — 99.1% (65.3%)
  • Europe — 0.9% (25.3%)
  • Asia — 0.0% (9.3%)

The survey has the caveats of any internet survey and the results only reflect the reality of the group surveyed. That being said these responses provide an interesting contrast to the results of the SEL reader survey.

Local Links of Interest

As noted in WRAL.com there is a new local search engine, WhatsOpen.com that is now open.

WhatsOpen is an intriguing service with an even more intriguing about us page. Their approach to local search is not the standard who, what or where but rather what and when. They ask a question that even folks familiar with their own local scene frequently ask.

Just type in the name of the store you’re looking for, and your location….Results are displayed on a Google Map mashup, with listing of stores, their hours of operation, their phone numbers and their distance from the city center appearing in a left-hand column.

Users choosing to sign up for the full beta of the version get access to information from the U.S., the European Union and China along with mobile phone applications Google Android or iPhone.

An interesting report of agressive marketing & billing practices in the Local SEM space in the Google Maps for Business Group.

In Restless Pursuit of Craigslist’s Success – Bob Tedeschi, NY Times

The NY Times writes a glowing report about The Kijiji unit of eBay in their pursuit of Craig’s List. At the end of the article Kijiji’s opportunities were put in perspective by Greg Sterling:

Even without such features, though, Craigslist added nearly seven million users during the last year. That should be enough to give pause to Kijiji and other competitors, according to Greg Sterling, of Sterling Market Intelligence, an advertising consultancy. “There are other sites, like Google Base, with nicer features for users, but they haven’t dented Craigslist,” he said.

Windows Live Expo from Microsoft, another free classified ad site, has also struggled to gain an audience. “The more competition there is, the more it reinforces Craigslist’s users,” Mr. Sterling said. “So Kijiji is going to have to take a long-term view if they want to gain any traction.”

Understanding Google Maps nominated for Search Blog Award 2007

SearchEngineJournal.com once again has their annual Vote for the Search Blogs Awards
posted and Understanding Google Maps and Yahoo Local has been nominated in the Best Local Search Blog category. Thanks to Miriam of SolasWebDesign and Frank of LocallyType.com for nominating this blog. I really appreciate the recognition.

It has been a fun year for me. With your help, I have learned a lot about Local Search, Google Maps and myself.  A special thanks go out to Dave, Bill, Greg, Danny, Miriam, Cathy, Chris, Chris & Matt for making yourselves available, providing insight & information and being gracious, decent people. To these folks and those of you whom I have forgotten to recognize, but have contributed so very much to my knowledge this year, I say: A Very Heartfelt Thanks!

Local Links of Interest

8 White-Hot Trends Lift Local Search in ’08  – Michael Boland, Search Engine Watch

Eight local search trends will rock the search engine world in ’08. Here are the ones with the most momentum as we roll into the New Year 

Amazon Kindle does Maps – Joshua Topolsky, Engadget

Users of the device have been plumbing its depths, and have uncovered a handful of easter eggs which will make current owners extra happy, and might push potential buyers over the edge. Amongst the hidden features are access to Google Maps coupled with CDMA-based location-finding, which also allows you to quickly locate nearby gas stations and restaurants (as well as your own custom searches).

The Pogies: Envelope, Please David Pogue – NY Times

MAPPING BREAKTHROUGHS Google Maps (maps.google.com) has been blowing MapQuest off the map for some time now. But three new features make it head-spinningly great.

Want a coffee with your iPhone? - Brian Caulfield, Forbes

In an application with the U.S. Patent Office filed on Dec. 20, the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer and gadget company described a wireless system that would allow customers to place an order at a store using a wireless device such as a media player, a wireless personal digital assistant or a cellphone.

The system could go far beyond the program that Apple announced with Starbucks in September, which allows iPhone users to press a button and wirelessly download the song playing in the background as they sip their soy lattes.

In Search of the Breakthrough Mobile Network – Stephen Lawson, IDG News Service

It’s been a tough year for municipal Wi-Fi projects and emerging wireless technologies, but with the bruises comes new muscle.

Local Authoritative OneBox = I’m Feeling Lucky; or Not!

The recent posting at SEORefugee about the Denver Florist going broke due to their business being displaced by appearance of a competitor in the OneBox, has brought Google’s Authoritative OneBox into the consciousness of the search community.

The Authoritative OneBox has been the gold standard to measure success in local search marketing. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it refers to a singular local listing that shows up at the top of the main Google search results page when Google determines that a certain local listing is the authority for that local search.

It made its first appearance last October. Bill Slawski wrote up a OneBox Patent Summary in January of this year. In that same timeframe (January & February) it became more frequently displayed and there was an increase in use of the Authoritative OneBox. Previously it was shown when there was no competition locally but it started being shown more frequently and for the “dominant” local listing.

In some ways, the Authoritative OneBox is like the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button on the Google main search window. It reflects the confidence that Google has in their technology. It reflects that idea that they can determine the single best answer to a query. It is said that Google forgoes $110 million in advertising revenue by keeping the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. At some level the button reflects a certain DNA of Google and their desire to be playful yet confident in their results. It also reflects a certain arrogance: the idea that their algo is so good that it can determine the answer a searcher wants to the exclusion of all others.

The Authoritative OneBox also demonstrates the fundamental difference (and difficulties) between returning relevant results of an abstraction like webpages and returning the real results of a concrete thing like a business. When would a user ever want just one response to the query Denver Flowers?

However it raises more questions than just that.

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Local Links of Interest

Ads on Google Maps for Mobile (& Goog-411?) Coming Next Year (Greg Sterling – LocalMobile Search from the recent Google Local Symposium)

* Performance of mobile ads “is excellent”
* Google has discussed ads on Goog411 and will likely add them but not before the company feels comfortable with the user experience
* The response to MyLocation has been very strong
* Google will likely be introducing local business ads (which currently appear on Google Maps) on Google Maps for Mobile (the application) in the first half next year. MyLocation will enable them to be much more targeted than currently can be accomplished on the desktop.

iPhone Tops Windows Mobile Devices in Web Browsing (Market Share by Net Applications)

We’ve been tracking iPhone usage since its launch. Total web browsing on the iPhone has topped the web browsing on all Windows Mobile devices combined, as this report shows. This report is a listing of the top operating system versions in use. It is not a measure of units sold, but the share of users browsing the internet with the devices. The iPhone has had a dramatic rise in usage share in its short time on the market

Adapt Or Die: Debating The Future of The Mobile Web & The User Experience; Why The World Wide Wait Could Wreck Mobile Search & What To Do About It (Peggy Ann Salz – msearchgrove.com)

While there are some unsettling question marks around Google’s motives, the outcome to watch is how the new interest (translated: rhetoric) in openness will likely whet user appetite for more control over their search experiences and results. Brendan is also betting that users will gravitate to a variety of sources for the answers they need, a shift that will require operators to combine and expose results from storefronts, the Internet and the mobile Web. Any vendor spin aside (InfoSpace of course offers a federated mobile search solution that brings together results from a variety of sources), Brendan does have a point. If open is the flavor of the day, then operators will have to put up or shut up.

Jill Aldort, Senior Analyst, Consumer Mobility Applications, Yankee Group, who led our Internet World roundtable discussion, revealed that her research shows 13 percent of users surf the mobile Internet, up from 6 percent last year.

My (ancient) cell phone as a reading device.

I have an old Nokia 3650 cell phone with a pre-columbian Java and an even older Symbian OS rev. Although it might just as well be called the Simian OS for all the good that my opposable thumbs do me. While it basically sucks I have learned how to take advantage of its many Web 0.5 features like WAP browsing.

I have experimented with most aspects of mobile internet, mobile local and mobile search on my phone. Most web implementations and search options for this generation of technology are either useless or so difficult to use that they might as well be. They do however tend to highlight interface issues with using mobile devices for browsing, emailing, reading etc. and when it does work it is awe inspiring. There is still something very Buck Rogerish about reading Bill Slawski’s recent post on Google Health & Privacy while heading down the highway (my wife IS driving of course).

IMG_17071.jpgAny task that requires significant input like internet searching, extensive email responses and Google SMS local search get used only when the “pain is worth the gain”. Other activities like Goog-411 that are not only painless but “fun” get used more regularly.

The one surprising thing that my antiquated cell phone does well is allow me to read. Virtually all of the uses that I have found for it include active reading with little or no input….I read emails (then call the client), read my kids text messages (then fume :)) and most significantly keep abreast of my Google Reader list of “must read” local search news for the day.

Reading “Mobile web design is so different from the desktop web” (Martin Kleppmann of www.yes-no-cancel.co.uk) clarified my understanding of why some things work and some don’t on my ancient mobile browsing environment.

Google in their WAP mobile Google Reader implementation demonstrates Martin’s point:
For mobile users it is even more important than for normal web users that the designer has figured out exactly what the most frequently needed aspects of his site are, and made those aspects immediately and very easily accessible. This means that a mobile page can contain far fewer navigational elements (links) than a page intended for desktop viewing.

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