Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

Catering to couch Potatoes at the Ballpark

In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Russell Adams reports on the increased use of wireless devices of all stripes at Major League Baseball games (and other professional sports venues) for viewing stats, instant replays, ordering food and participating in game time promotions.

At some venues wireless devices can be rented for $25 per event. The Mariners (who are owned by Nintendo) rent Nintendo devices while the SF Giants’ AT&T Park offers free wireless access.

The following quote from the article intrigued me:

The quest for new forms of in-seat entertainment is being powered by the rise of mobile devices that function as a phone, television and computer. The number of people with a high-speed Internet connection on their mobile wireless device jumped to 11 million from 3.1 million in the first six months of 2006, according to the latest figures available from the Federal Communications Commission. Just in the almost two months since Apple released the iPhone, the number of fans at the Giants’ AT&T Park using its free wireless service to get stats and take part in trivia contests has jumped 50%; in a few games, that figure has reached about 700 fans, according to the team.

This uber-local use goes hand in hand with acceleration of the broader use of wireless devices and by my way of thinking, increased usage of Google Maps and other local data resources. Short term( 1-2 years) I believe that the main beneficiaries will be restaurants and other local tourist services. Long haul (3-5 years), whether other types of businesses will benefit remains to be seen.

Local Links of Interest

Experiment with Google Voice Local Search -Naturalsearchblog

Google patent app shows extensive Google plans for mobile search -ZDNET Blogs, Russell Shaw

Local Mobile Search Ready to Roll?-Greg Sterling, Screenwerk

Yahoo! Real Estate Updates Home Values Search with Maps and Local -Yahoo! Local & Maps Blog

Measuring the Impact of Universal Search on Local Search Traffic -Naffziger’s Net

Refining Queries Using Category Synonyms for Local and Other Searches – Seo by The Sea

Local Search not the be all and end all

Today I received a communication from a reader reporting that he was surprised that his organic “long tale search using local phrases” (i.e. service + locationpage optimization) were still producing solid results for hist website. He said “Actually surprised me.  I figured the one box would have a more dampening effect……and it may have…but this traffic is still strong.

My response: I have never felt that a Local specific Campaign could have more than a very limited overall impact on any business that has regional appeal as you can optimize for so few terms and locations (a design flaw in the algos?)….you use local to get high rankings for your bricks & mortar location and you use longtail for all of the regional variations and markets that you serve…that has been the best bet and continues to be.

Mapping Market Share

Chris Coad at the Complete.com Blog has an interesting summary of Map Provider Market share.

His conclusions:

  • Though traffic is down more than 20% from it’s peak in June, MapQuest remains the king of online map services with over twice the traffic of it’s nearest competitor.
  • Google Map’s functionality has allowed it to nearly double in size since January 2006. Google’s service is quickly gaining ground on Yahoo’s similar offering, and also shirking seasonal trends.
  • Live Search* has been gaining significant traction: coming out of beta in September, it has since grown to twice the size of well established RandMcNally.

He also has very interesting data on the different ways that the services are used.

iBegin Source – a radical approach to local data

Ahmed Farooq of iBegin.com contacted me several weeks ago to alert me to a new product that his company is releasing today: iBegin Source, a free and low cost source for business data in the 50 states.

Traditionally business data from InfoUSA and the like is expensive and very restricted in its use. For example, InfoUSA quoted $101,038.34 for every business in NY State as opposed to the $1000 for the iBegin commercial data set for New York. While InfoUSA includes more and different fields in the data, for many uses the geocoding available with iBegin may be more valuable.

iBegin Source is making this local data available for each of the 50 states. From iBegin Source’s website:

Key benefits:

  • FREE download for non-commercial usage
  • Commercial license is only $1000 for a state or $40,000 for the entire USA. Other data brokers can cost more than $500,000
  • Automated purchase. No sales team to go through
  • Data is updated constantly. Includes daily, weekly, and monthly data updates
  • We have 10,820,453 total business listings. Already cleaned and de-duped
  • Commercial license includes geocoded addresses

The availability of free or cheap local data that is updated regularly has the potential to shake up not just the internet yellow page business and local search but direct marketing as well. To quote Ahmed: “We want to help promote enthusiast and hobbyist sites (just look at what happened with mapping applications when Google released the Maps API).”

Here is an interview that I did with Ahmed over the past few weeks that provides more insight into his service:

Q:Tell us about your company and how you got into local search

The parent company is Enthropia Inc., a webdev firm based in Toronto. We are self-funded, over four years old, and we build our own sites (no client development).

We got into local search because the current crop wasn’t good enough. From massive errors in data to slow searches, it was a headache to find anything near me. Canadian local search is especially horrible. We didn’t want to take a shotgun approach, covering all of Canada/US. We opted for a city-by-city approach (ala CitySearch).

Describe your new service to provide local data

Local business data is expensive. The data itself is full of duplicates and errors. I remember processing 34,000 records for a city and ending up with only 8000 unique records. Brad Fled had an interesting post on how bad local data is, and how the suppliers provide of no way for direct updates.

So iBegin Source does four things differently:
1. Perpetual license. Once you purchase our data, you can use it for however long you want.
2. Cheaper data. An entire state is only $1000. The major data brokers (that everyone uses) are roughly 300-400% more expensive than us. Some are high as even 1000% more! We want to help promote enthusiast and hobbyist sites (just look at what happened with mapping applications when Google released the Maps API)
3. Open system for updating. Anyone can submit an update, and we also have a trackback system for automated updates (akin to what Brad Feld was suggesting). All of it revertable just like Wikipedia. No more closed systems.
4. Geocoding comes included. Six decimal accuracy and major intersection included. Simplifies the entire process.

What do you think will be the impact of making this data available?

The entire idea is that helps launch new local-oriented sites. If I wanted to setup a local site right now, the cost of the data is a major barrier. With iBegin Source I can self-fund my project.

We also intend on becoming the centralized place for local data. On the iBegin city sites we have received thousands and thousands of updates, of which a fraction of one percent were incorrect. Why not just give users the power to do the changes themselves? Worst case situation: we do some reverts.

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Your mobile phone meets the ether

As a partner in a small firm that relies heavily on technologies that support and enhance telecommuting to maintain customer contact, I found three (totally unrelated) announcements of interest:

Microsoft acquires TellMe. I have been a big fan of 877-520-Find as a safe and productive tool for cell phone calling. It demonstrates effectively how voice (even though frustrating 10% of time) can move local search data easily into the mobile world. It avoids the DWT (driving while typing) offense that seems likely to kill people and is less frustrating than talking to directory assistance in a foreign country. The TellMe acquisition will put this type of service on the front burner as Google, Microsoft and others compete for the next generation of mobile search.

Gizmo SMS has rolled out a new service that allows you to send SMS text messages from your browser to mobile phones around the world, for free. I have always thought that texting was an effective business communication tool but just never could bring myself to pay for a web to phone service. It is simple, effective and even works from dial up via an old browser.

David Pogue of the NY Times writes (reg. req’d) of a new service that provides “One Number That Will Ring All Your Phones”. A new service by GrandCentral.com (free for 2 numbers, $15/month for 6 phones) will ring all of your phones simultaneously and keep all of your messages in a single web based voice mail box.

All of these services integrate existing mobile phone technology with the internet in a way that increases the value of both without requiring new hardware for either. They all could be used for delivery of ads and all offer a glimpse of the immediate future of integrating data with our cell phones.

Greg Sterling: Print Yellow Pages: What’s the Real Story?

Greg Sterling’s recent post: Print Yellow Pages: What’s the Real Story? is one of the best summaries of the issues and realities of the print Yellow Pages and their positioning vis-a-vis the internet yellow pages and local search.

I have fallen into the “detractor” camp for a number of years but have recognized that my personal point of view does not a trend make. Greg’s conclusion:

“It’s simply untrue to assert that all is well in print yellow pages land. But it’s also incorrect to call the medium dead……paradoxically, as consumer usage continues to migrate online the bulk of the revenues will remain offline for some time.”

Creating the world’s database, with all of the world’s information

Speaking of schema and the semantic web, the NY Times today had an article on Freebase(registration req’d), from start-up Metaweb that has the goal of “trying to create the world’s database, with all of the world’s information,” based on the ideas of the semantic Web.

According to the NY Times, “since it could offer an understanding of relationships like geographic location and occupational specialties, Freebase might be able to field a query about a child-friendly dentist within 10 miles of one’s home and yield a single result.”….

“It’s like a system for building the synapses for the global brain,” said Tim O’Reilly, chief executive of O’Reilly Media, a technology publishing firm based in Sebastopol, Calif.

Despite the articles fawning, messianic tone, it is interesting to me that the these ideas are now receiving coverage in the mainstream press.

Google slayers and purveyors of “all of the world’s information” will come and go. Some will survive and offer interesting developments and one might even one day unseat Google (and it might just be Freebase). Regardless, this road will be long, winding and interesting both in the technologies and the competitive battles.