Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

The Disconnect Between What SMBs Use Facebook For and What Consumers Use it For

Last week at Kelsey it was reported that an “astounding 41.7% of SMBs surveyed by BIA/Kelsey say they see Facebook most importantly as an acquisition tool”. Astounding is right. That is a huge disconnect with reality.

My recent survey of how consumers find lawyers tallied that 2.1% of the US adult internet users would start their search at their favorite social network. 32.7% indicated that they would start their search at a search engine or elsewhere on the internet. In other words a consumer looking for a lawyer is almost 16 times as likely to start their internet search for a specialty lawyer anyplace BUT Facebook. They indicated that they were 5 times as likely to start their search in the printed Yellow Pages than on their favorite social network. Granted this is lawyers but it is likely that these percentages hold roughly true for other industry segments as well. We have seen a similar disconnect at our Local University presentations where SMB attendees have reported that 68% Have Facebook Pages but only 28% have claimed their Google Places Listing.

Facebook is an incredible platform for retention, community building, awareness but I see this huge disconnect amongst SMBs that think that it is prime territory for client acquisition. If any of you have clients that have missed this critical point, I am reprinting last week’s graph sideways so that it is more obvious. (The number on the far right is Facebook.)

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This disconnect could actually lead to annoyed customers rather than new customers. Facebook is social. Direct customer acquisition activities is just the opposite. My wife said to me the other day that she DID NOT want her lawyer, doctor or dentist interacting with her in that environment. Certainly there are some business types that she wouldn’t mind interacting with, for example the local cupcake bakery, but even there interacting needs to be more social than anything. I don’t think her atypical. I think Facebook runs a grave risk of losing their core users if client acquisition becomes the standard operating mode there.

What Makes for a Good Author Photo in the Local Results? (Part 1)

What makes for a good Author photo in the Local results?

Author photos are increasingly showing in Google’s local search results. Since first appearing in local results in February of this year, author photos have slowly and steadily increased in frequency. In most markets you may only see one author photo in the local results but in some markets a preponderance of results display them. This blended result from a legal search in the Orlando market, with its variety of images, put the question front and center as to what makes for a good avatar in local results.

The interesting variety in the array of photos in this particular search result – some old, some young, no women, bordered, without borders, bright colors, muted colors, looking left, looking right – immediately elevated for me the idea that click through rates AND conversions would in all likelihood be influenced by differences in these photos. In looking at the results perviously, I had encouraged my client, Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law, to use an open, friendly close up photograph. But after showing these results to several people I realized it likely that there was more to avatar photo preferences than met the eye. And that the role of an author photo in local might be different than in general search results.

I wanted to better understand the issues with these photos so I embarked on an effort to learn how other experts might address the situation and how consumers might evaluate these photos. I invited Cyrus Shepard, who has done thorough testing of his own author photo, AJ Kohn who has written extensively about authorship and Matt McGee, an editor at MarketingLand that has written broadly about social (and who has the best avatar of all time), to give their opinions as to which of these photos were most effective and why.

The second prong of my effort to understand how these images might influence results was to create a consumer survey using the Google survey tool to ask 1500 adult internet users the question: If you were selecting a lawyer based on these images, which would you select? The results of the survey with comments from Cyrus, AJ and Matt will be published in the very near future.

My goal in doing this exercise was not to profile the ideal avatar photo but to start a conversation to get myself and others thinking about what questions we should ask when creating these photos, how might the role of avatar photos for local differ than that of regular author photos and how to get started advising a client as to the direction they should take. In other words, what is a good starting point for your local author image.

I gave Cyrus, Matt and AJ the following charge:

1) Which avatars in the above search result do you prefer and why?

2) What makes for a good avatar. Are there design principles or other general guidance to use when creating one?

3) I am going to do a Google survey and see what consumers say about this specific group of photos

4) And then show you the results of the consumer survey so you can comment and add additional insights

Before I share the initial, pre survey impressions of Cyrus, AJ and Matt with you, take a moment to examine the avatars yourself and decide which ones you like best, which ones you think would perform best in the real world and why…..

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Nokia HERE Maps Sucks (Significantly) More Than Apple Maps

Nokia, with the help of Navteq, is a seasoned mapping company. Arguably they are in the top tier of digital mapping. Their new product, Nokia HERE Maps for the iPhone, should show Apple what good mapping is all about. It doesn’t. In fact basic interface issues prevent the product from being a serious contender in the iPhone navigation market. Apple can now proudly say that there is a mapping product for the iPhone that sucks more than theirs.

Visuals: When I read reviews online about it being blurry, slow, ugly and lacking turn by turn, I couldn’t believe that Nokia would put out an inferior product. Now is the time to strike while Apple is still recovering from their Maps fiasco and come out with a great product. I thought Apple fan boys were just ranting. I particularly could not understand a map that was blurry. But sure enough the maps are totally fuzzy, hard to read and annoying. The ONLY thing clear on the map was the “here” brand name. And as Andrew Shotland pointed out even that can be confusing in the context of a map.

Basic Interface Screw Ups: My first search was for 1 Riverside NY, NY. A search that both Apple Maps and Google Maps understands. Apparently Nokia HERE does not understand common abbreviations like NY for New York. When searching for NY it turned up a foreign airport who knows where. When I searched on SF, CA it turned up Santa Fe, New Mexico. Forcing users to type out every word on an iPhone is a big hurdle from the get go and not understanding common naming short cuts is a deal breaker.

Kludgey Interface: Generally the interface for anything other than basic directions is confusing. Certain tasks like looking up nearby business are totally opaque and often non functional. I searched for nearby Grocery stores and was shown a department store.

Business Listing Quality: As far as I can tell other than certain categories like food, entertainment and shopping these are missing altogether.

Routing: I do not live in a big city so my tests typically reflect testing a product’s familiarity with back roads and short cuts. I figure if the product can get these back country roads correct far away from urban centers then the chance of getting the more important stuff right is far higher. Apple and Google both gave me a choice of routes although Apple gave the better choices and in its current iteration, a better way to select the route. HERE offered no such options and offered no alternative routing. It was their route or the highway so to speak.

Things Nokia HERE Has: It does offer public transportation routes which Apple does not. For me that is not enough to get by the egregious interface issues. They also offer the option to save a map for offline use, although the many warnings and caveats were discouraging. A map can take up to 13 mbytes of storage.

Bottom Line: Don’t waste your time or bandwidth to download the product unless it is for a case study in the decline of Nokia as a force in the mobile world.

Some additional screen shots comparing Apple Maps & HERE Maps output (click to see images at full resolution): Continue reading

NetMarketShare: Mobile Market Share Passes 10% for First Time

Netmarkshare is reporting that aggregate mobile usage has passed 10% across all websites for the first time. The bulk of that usage is attributable to iOS which comes in at ~60%. Obviously not all of that usage is truly mobile as the iPad has become an early evening and late night alternative to desktop browsing. It is now time for tablets to be tracked separately from mobile phones so that the market can better understand the distribution of usage.

It is also interesting to note that Google has a market dominating 89% share in the mobile search market. So while usage on mobile devices might be moving away from browsing Google’s domination in the market makes it obvious that focusing your mobile ranking efforts there is a no brainer.

Is Siri Sick (of Local Search)?

Siri has been making lots of stupid mistakes lately in local search. Mistakes that it’s younger sibling, Apple Maps, is not making. These are simple mistakes that were not there when Siri was the only game in town. Is she just looking for some more attention? Is she thinking of heading in some new direction or is Apple Maps just sending her the wrong way?

Here are two example searches that return totally crazy results that Apple Maps gets essentially correct.

Note that Siri can not even find one jeweler in or near Williamsville and returns results that are 26 miles away while Apple Maps returns relevant results:

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I have found these types of results to be fairly widespread while I was traveling last week. Here is another example (Hotels Allegany NY) :

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GPSBites Interview

I did an interview in GPSBites where I was asked to muse on my background, the current state of mapping,  the fate of PNDs & mapping companies and the near future of the intersection of mapping and commerce. Here is a snippet of a much longer interview:

2. You recently published your own survey which was designed to gather feedback from users of the new iPhone map application for iOS6.  You stated that you did not believe the recent Apple maps issue was going to affect Apple sales, and in our view Apple must share a similar view as they went so far as publishing an apology on their home page which even recommended customers use rival solutions in the interim. 

However, they certainly are facing some challenges.  If you were heading up Apple’s cartography division, what recommendations would you make to the company on how they could improve the experience and application moving forwards?

I am not sure that I agree with the premise of the question. It assumes that Apple does not understand cartography and mapping. And that I have significant insights to provide to them.

Assuming that Apple is stupid or just uneducated is a dangerous assumption. Taking potshots at funky maps is an easy target. Remember it was not that long ago that Google was losing whole towns, repeatedly.

Mapping is hard. Apple knows full well how hard mapping is and they knew full well that they were going to have difficulties coming into this. When they announced Apple Maps in June 2012 I can not imagine that they would blow that marketing opportunity by announcing that their new Maps product had a “few” problems. NO they went ahead and presented it as the most innovative mapping product ever. Whether it is remains to be seen but  in some ways they are where Google with mapping was in 2008, in some ways ahead of that and in some ways behind it. But to assume that they need my advice is to ignore a lot.

Apple has been a late starter in several industries that they ultimately succeeded in leading or developing a very strong market position. They came to the already existing MP3 player market with one device. Over the years as they developed the necessary skills they came to dominate that market. When they entered the phone business NO ONE thought that they could succeed. But their smart phone still sets the standard and has significant market share. They continue to grow their PC market share to a healthy position after being at death’s door in that market. So they know how to succeed as an underdog, how to build out the capacity AND knowledge, and plan for the appropriate growth when they enter an existing and competitive market.

Mapping is in some ways different but in many ways the same.  It takes time to build up the institutional knowledge and the people necessary to compete head to head with the likes of Nokia/Navteq and Google. This knowledge can not be built over night and you can’t ramp up all the necessary efforts or staffing in one fell swoop.

Apple could have taken an easier way out of the mapping dilemma and their conflict with Google if they had partnered with TomTom or Mapquest, both of whom already had turn by turn apps working well on the iOS platform. They didn’t. Apple chose to go it alone. The real question that we need to ask (of Apple) is how much of the stack are they intending to own and of the parts that they don’t own, how are they going to get them up to the world class standards that they surely know that they need.

In choosing TeleAtlas, they chose a company with incredible underlying technology but limited resources. Apple has a history of making significant investments in their partners to gain a competitive advantage. By giving TeleAtlas access to the massive amounts of geo data generated by the iOS6 crowd Apple may just have provided TeleAtlas the information that both TeleAtlas and Apple need to compete.

We live in interesting times and Apple’s foray into Mapping promises to make it even more so.