Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

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:

(click to view larger)

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.

Infographic: Citations – Time To Live

The local ecosystem is a complex web of interrelations with Google having positioned themselves at its center. Given this complexity, just how long does it take for data to move through the various parts before it makes it into Google’s index. And from the main index into their local index and the cluster of data they have about your business? Just why does fixing error or changing a listing detail at InfoUSA take so long to impact your Google listing?

David Mihm and I have been working on detailing the time it takes for any given citation creation to impact the Google cluster for your business.

Chart Explanation

Our goal is to provide a broad stroke as to the range of times it might take for citation data to show up in a desktop Google search. The ranges are estimates only based on our experience and do not reflect comprehensive empirical data. As such, you might find discrepancies with our assessment of any given citation tactic. That being said, we think that the information is broadly accurate and provides insights into the delays at various points in the local ecosystem.

Depending on where the data enters the system it can take more or less time to finally make it into Google’s cluster of data in their local index and depending on where it hits in any given cycle along the way it can make it there more or less quickly.

For example, in the case of Infogroup they might take 2 months cycle to vet a new listing and another month before the data is fed to one of their customers for display in a local directory. Thus the range of times, depending on when the data hits their cycle could be as long as 180 days before (blue) the time for it to first appear live on the web. Depending on the importance of the page and its visibility where that data is shown it might take anywhere from a day to sixty days for Google (orange) to include the data in their main search engine. From there Google then needs to re-build their local index and include the new citation data into the Google+ Local cluster (Green) which occurs every 4 to 6 weeks.

The circle thus represents an educated guess as to the average time to inclusion in the Google+ Local cluster for data that started at any given point.

Discussion

Historically, as I have noted previously, a listing that went through a list broker, onto a primary list supplier like InfoUSA and then off to Google had a number of time delays before it would hit paydirt in the business cluster in the Google local index. This data could, if it hit every cycle just wrong, take as long as 9 months from beginning to end.

Continue reading

Upcoming Local Universities

Getlisted Local University is in full swing for this fall with a range of events in Minneapolis, NYC and Tarrytown, NY. Hopefully I will see you at one of them. If you are a reader and do come, be sure to take a moment and introduce yourself.


 

MN SEARCH PRESENTS LOCAL UNIVERSITY – TWIN CITIES, MINNESOTA
Friday, September 28
Deluxe for Business, Google and the Board of Directors at MN Search has invited the Local U faculty to the Twin Cities for a presentation to their clients and membership, respectively.  The event is most definitely open to the public, however, and both the agenda and tickets are available from EventBrite using the link above.  This event offers the basic 4 hour intro session in the AM and more detailed topics in the PM so a you can come for either half or the full day. To receive a discount use the code MB2012.


LOCAL UNIVERSITY ADVANCED AT SMX EAST – NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Monday, October 1
Super-excited to present another Advanced edition of GetListed.org Local U the day before SMX East with David Mihm, Matt McGee, and all the other regulars!  Like Seattle the day is chocked full of advanced content …we also added birds-of-a-feather roundtables to allow for more 1-on-1 questions from attendees–ask your questions & get a look at real client issues directly from Google +Local’s support guru Joel Headley!

There is no discount code available for this one. Seating is limited to 50 but there are still a few seats left if you are thinking of coming


LOCAL UNIVERSITY – TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK
Tuesday, October 2
 The following morning, in conjunction with Google and Progressive insurance, we’ll be presenting our standard small business-oriented edition of Local U at the Doubletree Hotel in Tarrytown, NY for businesses in Westchester County and Northern New Jersey.  This is a morning only session and speakers will include myself, David Mihm, Joel Headley from Google, Mike Ramsey, Mary Bowling and Ed Reese. If you know of SMBs or those new to the Local SEO field that would benefit from this crash course give them my discount code of MB2012.


For more information on any of these events feel free to email me (mike@blumenthals.com) or visit the Local University site. If you have a group of clients that you would like to bring or a number of staff members we can provide a group discount as well.

We are now in the process of working out the winter/spring schedule for 2013 and if you are interested in helping to sponsor an event in your market we would love to hear from you.

Local Search: Geo Keyword Creation Tool

When building a website for a regional business, it is often desirable to build out pages targeting the services to the many surrounding towns. David Mihm estimates that 30% of all searches have local intent and from research by Hanns Kronenberg of Systrix we know that post Venice only about 6% of all searches show pinned Places search results. That leaves a lot of purely organic opportunity for a regional business website to cover, a lot of pages to create and and a lot of towns to look up if you are going target them correctly.

Local Keyword Research Tool from Local Marketing Source makes part of that process easier. It does one thing and it does it very well. You give it a list of your keywords and a distance around your business and it auto-creates a list of geo targeted keyword phrases with all of the cities within the specified mileage radius of that business.

It has some options to add phrases and or additional cities outside the specified boundary before or after the phrases and it also allows you to specify zips or cities you do not want in your list.  After it generates the list you can export it to a .csv file.

I like free and I like simple and this tool is both. Despite the fact that the name implies more than it does, what Local Keyword Research Tool does do, it does very well. My compliments to the chef and thanks to Nigel Kay (@KMarketing) for showing me the tool!