Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

Yelp Successfully Sued in Small Claims Court

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 11.32.21 AMAccording to the Wall Street Journal, a bankruptcy lawyer took Yelp to small claims court in San Diego and won a judgement of $2700.

….the judge describing Yelp’s advertising contract as “the modern-day version of the mafia going to stores and saying, “You wanna not be bothered?”

The case will be taken to a higher court on appeal.

The McMillan Law Group, which brought the claim against Yelp, agreed to an advertising deal with the site after it had become “a good source of new clients for us,” said attorney Julian McMillan, representing his firm in the court.  The deal involved the firm paying Yelp $540 per month in return for 1,200 ad impressions per month on the site. An impression is counted each time an ad is displayed to a user.

Mr. McMillan claimed Yelp did not deliver the 1,200 monthly impressions, leading to his firm cancelling the contract and asking for its money back. The site’s representative in the court, Bradley Bohensky, said the claim was based on a misunderstanding of how such impressions are measured, and that Yelp in fact “over delivered” on the ad impressions promised.

Several thoughts:
-The Wall Street Journal, and to a lesser extent the lawyer making the claim, rehashed the Yelp conspiracy theory of pay to play but this case seems to revolve around the one-sided and coercive nature of Yelp’s contract and whether impressions were properly delivered.
-Rocky Agrawal has pointed out the extremely high pricing of Yelp’s advertising and the often irrelevant impressions that they provide. This would seem to me provide another avenue for a small claims court action.
-The lawyer bringing the case has clearly understood that winning in small claims court is the best link generating scheme ever conceived of. And it appears that he is still running a Yelp deal. Hmm…

Local Weekend Update

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What Else is New Dept: There is a new bug with the Google Report A Problem for SABs: If a user selects the report a problem link via Maps or G+ Local they get a “This page won’t load…We’ve tried everything” message. At least its cute. Although that sad face icon is eerily reminiscent of my first Mac when it had a hard drive failure.

Can You Imagine That? Dept: This came to via me Google Forum  Top Contributor (an unsung hero who you should be sure to follow in the forums) Treebles. “Google received an ultimatum Thursday from German consumer organizations that want it to start answering questions from its users via email. Germany’s Telemedia Act requires businesses to provide an email address to allow customers to contact them quickly. But, said Elbrecht, “It is not enough to just provide an email address that leads into emptiness, you also need to be able to communicate over it.” Responding to users attempting to get their questions answered with automatic replies, as Google does in Germany, is not sufficient, she said“.

Maybe There will Be A Local Competitor to Google Yet Dept: Apple Insider reported that Apple’s iOS Passbook app was used to drive a successful coupon campaign for a UK restaurant chain. “The campaign allowed customers to get £5 off their bill when spending £30 or more. Harvester issued almost 16,000 vouchers in two weeks of campaign operation. Of those, almost 700 were redeemed during the course of the campaign. Overall, the campaign had a cost per action of £3.41. The solution gave a frictionless consumer experience, as with two-clicks a unique voucher code was delivered straight to their device, within Passbook. The voucher was then redeemed whilst  paying the bill, directly from the EPOS terminal, giving the restaurant additional insight into campaign effectiveness.

Thank God for Small Favors Dept: Google, in the fine print of the T&C’s for Glass Developers, are apparently banning ads in products for the new Glass product. Its hard to imagine relevant ads with an always on wearable eye glass computer. Its not so hard to imagine irrelevant ones.

Google Maps 1.1 for iPhone Not Well Received

reviews-onlyEarly last month, Google released a 1.1 upgrade to their iPhone mapping product that was faster, integrated Google contacts and included more countries. Apparently though the upgrade has not gone over well with users as the bad reviews seem to be flowing into the App store at a significant clip.

Since its release 5 weeks ago there have been 1,179 reviews of which a great many were negative. The initial release was greeted with instant savior status and 10′s of thousands of positive reviews. Complaints about the new version included high levels of data usage, increased difficulty of use, screen dimming issues, directions failures and usability problems.

There is more than a little irony in this. I suppose that there is some possibility of a review smear campaign, although that seems unlikely, it does point out how hard mapping is. Even when you are Google.

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Local Weekend Update

Several items of interest.

Dates & Scores No Longer Showing on Google Reviews. Chris Campbell on Twitter and Jack Thornburg on G+ pinged me that date and scores on individual reviews on the business G+ Page had stopped showing. It had been reported on April 4th in the forums. Google has said that they are looking at this. It could be a bug or it could be a new feature. Always hard to tell with Google. Update: These seem to have returned. Here is a screenshot of what they looked like over the weekend.

Google Review Filter Turns the Screws Once Again. A bug or an update, again it is not clear. But there have been numerous reports of reviews having gone missing since April 5th. We have not seen this many complaints in the forums since the filter was relaxed in late January.

Canadian Businesses May Show Up in the New Dashboard. Last week Google noted that the new Places for Business Dashboard was US only. There were however several reports from Kerry Fager of them showing up for Canadian businesses. Google’s Joel Headley made this comment at Linda Buquet’s forum:

New users — with US-based IPs — may be granted access to the new interface as it rolls out more broadly. If these users happen to have a non-US business already created in Google+, it may appear in their dashboard; however, new listing creation is limited to US-based addresses. 

Also, Offers and AdWords Express may not be ready for prime time for non-US listings. If you’re seeing issues, feel free to send us feedback by clicking the Send Feedback link at the bottom of the page. We’ll review all these reports for any potential bugs.

Better Business Bureau Sucks – So What Else is New. This came to me via David Mihm: Why the Better Business Bureau Should Give Itself a Bad Grade.  Apparently Time Magazine has figured out that besides outright corruption that there is an intrinsic conflict of interest involved in the way that the BBB is paid for by businesses but theoretically handles complaints as an independent agency from consumers. Review sites can not put these guys out of our misery soon enough.

How Consumers Find a B & B

We recently completed a basic Local U seminar for bed and breakfast owners attending the MidAtlantic Innkeepers Conference in Baltimore. To augment the seminar I decided to create a large scale consumer survey using Google Survey as to how consumers find a B & B and what online resources that they use to do so. The survey mirrored the specialty lawyer survey that I conducted on behalf of Moses and Rooth last December.

During the last week of February, 2013, we surveyed a representative sample of ~1300 American adult internet users that were 18 and older to better understand their behaviors when making a decision about choosing a B & B. The methodology created survey results with a margin of error of less than +/- 2.8%.

We asked three questions that moved from the broader question of where visitors started their search, offline or online, and examined their behaviors as they moved through the decision process. The specific questions were:

If you were looking to book a Bed & Breakfast where would you start your search?

If you were to search for a Bed and Breakfast on the Internet what would be most important to you?

If you searched for a Bed & Breakfast on Google, what would you do first?

Where do consumers start their search for a Bed and Breakfast

It seems self evident that the bulk of activity when looking for a bed and breakfast starts (and likely ends) at the search engines. The decline of print is articulated in these results as is the low usage of Facebook and other social networks. Like in the lawyer study, Facebook usage for this task was more than 10 x less than the use of search. More interesting to me is the apparent importance of “pimping out” your Google listing as searchers are much more likely to look the visuals and map at Google and at not just the reviews. One possible tactic suggested by the survey would the use interior StreetView to gain a visual edge in conversion optimization of the Google business listing.

You can find the complete study at LocalU’s blog and download a PDF of the study there as well.

These results offer an interesting contrast to the lawyer survey. To a certain extent these two industries are at the opposite ends of the local search spectrum. In one (the lawyer search), consumers need to develop knowledge about truly local resources while in the other (the B & B search) consumers need to develop knowledge about a distant local resource.

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Siri: When did you start working?

Siri

Last night I was driving to Baltimore for an upcoming LocalU seminar. I heard the ding of a received text while listening to a podcast and I was curious. I asked Siri to read it to me. She did. She asked if I wanted to reply, I said yes. She sent my response flawlessly.

A while later I was heading down the highway and glanced at my email and wanted to send off a quick response to one ( I know, I know…it’s dangerous. Do not try this yourselves). I dictated, she understood me and inserted my response correctly into the email.

At 9:30, just outside of Williamsport and dog tired, I pulled over to the side of the highway and asked her to recommend a few nearby hotels as I couldn’t see any signs off  of the exit. She asked me which of the several choices I wanted and if I wanted to call one or get driving directions. I indicated that I wanted driving directions and  she guided me to the next exit and through a maze of service roads to a decent night’s sleep.

Hmm… it wasn’t until this morning that I realized with a start that she was 4 for 4. Was it an aberration and the Siri brain farts will start again today? I think she was showing off.

Slowly, ever so slowly, it seems that Siri is getting smarter. When did that happen?

Loci 2012 – Andrew Shotland

Andrew Shotland is a well-known SEO practitioner and author of www.localseoguide.com and the trendy new applemapsmarketing.com.  His proudest achievement on the Web can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipkSRwgVtpA

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When reflecting on the year, I like to think about it less in terms of specific niches like “local seo”, “seo” or even “local search”.  It’s not that 2012 wasn’t a watershed year for a lot of this stuff, but rather that the forces that are shaping the landscape of these niches are often the same that are affecting the Web as a whole.  So here’s what caught my attention in 2012:

1. 2012 – The Year We Start Paying For It

In 2007, Radiohead released it’s new album, “In Rainbows”, online and offered it at whatever price you wanted to pay for it.  Many opted to pay $0 while some paid more. It was a big success.  In 2011, Radiohead release “The King of Limbs” via their website and this time charged $9.99.  It too was a success.  And there was no record label between Radiohead and its fans.  In 2012, it seemed as if more “creators”, particularly media creators, were experimenting with getting their customers to pay for these creations, thus avoiding business models such as advertising and using distribution middle-men.  My favorite examples of the past year include Marco Arment’s “The Magazine”, Louie CK’s “Live At The Beacon Theater”, show, The Oatmeal’s Operation BearLove Good, Cancer Bad and Andrew Sullivan’s soon-to-be-independent Daily Dish (technically announced in 2013, but the deal was cut in 2012 right?).

While each is an example of a strong voice with a loyal following tapping into their fan-base, I was particularly impressed with the launch of The Magazine, as it stood in direct contrast to the failure of News Corp’s “The Daily”.  It’s a classic story of an independent Web developer who understood the medium and his audience to produce a low-budget, high-quality service while a media giant spent $30 million doing the exact opposite.

And let’s not forget about the millions raised for new projects by Kickstarter.

For me, this trend, along with the continuing shift of our time spent on the Web to mobile and tablets, is critical to my thinking about how I am approaching this year, and how I am approaching SEO for myself and my clients.  After Google’s Farmer (AKA “Panda”) Update in 2011, I wrote a piece entitled “Are You Radiohead?”, where I wondered aloud that with today’s SEO, you need to be the Radiohead of your particular niche to succeed. If I were to write that piece today, I might change the title to “Are You The Oatmeal?”  In other words, ask yourself is what you are doing so great that people want to support it?

And I think this is going to be a key philosophy driving Web strategy, and not just to rank #1 for “Viagra”.

2. Mobile Customer Loyalty Apps Are Da Bomb
Let’s get a bit more down-to-earth on this one.  Sure Google Places + Local had a lot of drama in 2012.  Yes, Apple launched maps, Facebook launched Nearby.  There were a lot of big events.  But to me, the fact that my local burrito joint started texting me with points everytime I bought the kids an Itty Bitty Beanie Burrito and the local butcher shop had a tablet near the register that I could use to check in, was a telling signal to me that this stuff was suddenly everywhere.  For those of you who are not on the local SMB text messaging bandwagon, you are missing out on one of the most cost-effective, high-growth ways to keep in touch with your customers.  That said, I think we are going to see a shake-out of the hundreds of start-ups that are operating in this area, while at the same time, I don’t think we’re going to see any one platform become dominant.

3. Local SEO ToolSets Become All The Rage
As I mentioned in my SEL piece “SEOMoz + GetListed: Let the SMB Toolset Death March Begin”, last year it seemed like everyone I knew was developing some kind of local SEO tool.  That trend is only going to continue in 2013.

4. Google+Local Keeps On Iterating & Irritating
I’ve got to mention Google right?  For SMBs and SEOs that serve them, Google+Local 2012 was an absolute train wreckStill is in many ways.  That said, it seems like Google is slowly starting to improve things.  From actual phone support to the G+ page management you recently reported on, I think we are going to see a continual gradual evolution of the service.  It will still have plenty of bugs.  Data will continue to disappear.  SMBs will continue to be frustrated.  And SEOs will still have a lot of work to do.

5. Apple Maps Will Sneak Up On Us
While my recently launched Apple Maps blog may bias my thinking, Apple Maps’ launch last year was perhaps one of the most significant events in the local search world.  Say all you want about how screwed up the service is, the fact is that even with the Google Maps iOS app out there, I bet millions of people are still using the Apple Maps app.  And the fact that it is baked into all iOS apps that use maps means it’s not going away.  In the long-run, Apple Maps is the biggest threat to Google when it comes to local search.  I expect Apple to quietly improve the service significantly this year and towards the end of 2013 I wouldn’t be surprised if they announced a big update that stimulates a lot of people who switched to Google Maps to retry the app.  It’s still going to be a rough go for businesses that want to optimize for Apple Maps, which of course means more fun for SEOs who figure it out.

6. 2012 – Great Year For Local SEO
I think Aaron Wall said that SEO is getting so tough that in 2013 we will see a lot of consultants exit the business.  In some ways he is correct.  I already see a number of my colleagues moving away from Google Places SEO services.  But 2012 created so much opportunity to help and educate marketers that I see nothing but green field in 2013 for those that have the enthusiasm and think of themselves as the Radiohead of SEO.  Stay thirsty, my friend

Loci 2012 Important Trends in Local – Ted Paff

Ted Paff is the owner of CustomerLobby.com, a solution to help local businesses to get, manage and publish customer reviews. He is more familiar than most with all of the realities of SMBs and reviews as he lives and breathes them every day of his business life and most of the rest of his day as well. I know for a fact that he loses sleep pondering the many issues that affect him and his clients in the local space.

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Here are a few articles that influenced my thinking in 2012 with respect to Google, local search and some of the emerging trends in local:

Google
The main story line in 2012 for local was that Google+Local is a train wreck. In addition to countless bugs, the complexity of managing the page makes most time-starved local business owners stick their head in the sand. Mike, your review solicitation guide is an instant classic and joins David’s annual magnum opus as a must-read.

Nyagoslav got me thinking with this article about the impact of privacy on review solicitation in various different industries. However, not asking for reviews reduces both quantity of reviews and the average ratings.

You presented data that pointed to the importance of a local business’ total web presence (in question 2) and broad review distribution (in question 3). It is still a little surprising to me how poorly understood the buying cycle is for most local businesses.

I don’t think Google+ will replace Facebook as my social destination of choice and that leaves me unclear what role Google+ fills in the ecosystem.

Hope springs eternal for a local search alternative
Based on how embedded Google products are in my life, this article got me to think about the risk of relying too much on any one service provider. In addition, Google’s move to prioritize profit over completeness/quality of search results with merchants, makes me wonder about Google’s future monetization strategies in local.

As a result, I am hopeful for the creation and evolution of local search alternatives. Facebook is an obvious possibility with lots of cool ways to build a local search business. Go Facebook go!! Apple’s Passbook along with their new-found interest in maps has real possibility to jumpstart their local offerings. Go Apple go!!

Emerging trends in offering digital products/services to local SMBs
Building a business serving local small/medium businesses (SMBs) is hard. There is so much truth in here, it hurts. However, businesses are being built in local.  But stories like this and this lead me to wonder if local SMBs understand the ROI of their marketing spend.

Speaking of ROI on marketing spend, Groupon has issues. The stock market knows it and its employees know it. However, there are some very smart people working at Groupon and they have a lot of cash. They are busy reshaping Groupon by buying/building/integrating a POS systemscheduling systempayments system and yield management system.

Viewed as an arc, Groupon’s acquisitions point toward a different type of digital marketing business emerging to serve local businesses. Digital marketers that integrate marketing services into the operational workflow of local businesses solve a lot of problems for local businesses and clarify the ROI of marketing dollars. Intuit/DemandForceConstant Contact and Avvo are good examples of this trend. Even Google is at the edge of this trend.

Mike, thanks for lovingly tending to the best forum for all things Google and local. Many of us would be much worse off without you. To your many readers, thanks for leaving amazing comments to Mike’s posts.

Keyword Not Provided Passes 70% as Chrome Makes ALL Searches HTTPS

My keywords not provided passed 70% just as Google Chrome has started switching all searches to secure search (https) for all users. Obviously the technical nature of my readership puts my site at the vanguard of this new reality.

But the Chrome switch to HTTPS, which started on December 10th, presages a big jump in not provided numbers for all websites. The secure search occurs in Chrome whether you are logged in or whether you are logged out and searching in in cognito mode. It was only on August 2nd, that my blog passed 60% for not provided traffic from Google. The trend was accelerating even before this most recent change to Chrome.

Of my 15,228 visitors over the past 30 days that came via Google search, 10,661 of them, or 70.009%, did not show the keyword data.

I should have written this post last week as my keywords not provided hit 69%. It would have made for a better title.

 

 

Google Map for iOS Ships

Late yesterday, as you probably already  know by now, Google Maps for iOS appeared in the app store. The product includes, turn by turn directions, transit directions, traffic information, street view and the ability to sync your searches and directions with your desktop.

The early (and frequent) reviews are predominantly and overwhelmingly positive. The legitimate criticisms offered include:

  • the inability to do offline navigation,a feature in iOS maps and critical with spotty cell service,
  • no iPad app yet
  • a lack of bicycle routes
  • slowness, choppiness and performance issues (definitely on the iPhone 4 but perhaps others as well)

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In my initial test, compared to iOS Maps, Google Maps is significantly faster at generating maps. Its ability to disambiguate and find locations is superior. And I assume that its database of places is better but I have yet to test that.

It does not however integrate with SIRI which from a car based “workflow” point of view is a huge drawback. Not necessarily Google’s fault but a typical use case for me is to ask SIRI about a location and from there get directions. It is mostly hands off and very easy. Speed of map generation is not as important as the convenience of getting directions in a mostly hands free way that is critical. All in all Google Maps appears to be a great mapping product.

Amazing what Apple had to do to get Google to provide turn by turn on the iPhone. One wonders though, even with the hoopla how many iPhone owners will take the time to download and use this product instead of Apple Maps or whether Apple Maps is “good enough”.