Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

How Much Does ATT Suck? Let me count the ways

I decided to order a new iPhone 4s today.

I thought that the most hassle free order method was to just go to my local ATT store. It was the obvious choice. There is never a line, the staff is friendly. The affable salesman knows me by first name and is an avid iPhone owner himself. I could be catered to and I wouldn’t have to think too hard. I thought how can I go wrong?

Not to worry. With ATT there is always a way.

The choices offered to me by ATT:
1)I could preorder and wait for 3 weeks for delivery or
2)I could come in next Friday and stand in line or
3)Since I am consulting in Phoenix next Friday, I could stand in line there.

As my son would say: Yea right.

I pulled out my iPhone while standing frustrated at the ATT sales counter & went to the Apple site. It suggested I download the app, which I did. Within 3 or 4 minutes I had preordered my iPhone. I asked my salesperson (who I felt really sorry for) to advise the chain of command of the outcome.

ATT? #fail. I should have known better.

Local SEO: A Free Tool to Build GEO Sitemap and Schema.org Compliant Files

There are two simple ways of telling Google and the other search engines where your business is located via your website. One is to create a KML file and an attendant geo-sitemap. The other is to provide your full business contact information in rich snippet format on the site. Now there is a way to easily do both with one simple creation tool from Michael Borgelt of 51Blocks.

From a single input of your basic NAP + web information, the tool creates a kml file, a geo-sitemap file pointing Google to the KML file and an HTML code snippet in the new schema.org format for your business contact info.

You then paste the code snippet onto your contact us page or into the footer of your website, place the kml & geo-sitemap files in your public html file of your site and then reference the geo-sitemap file from the Google webmaster tools. The KML file can also be uploaded to Google MyMaps to create an embeddable direction and location map for your website.

I doubt that Google needs both signals to trust your site but by doing both you have future proofed your site for any eventuality.

Siri – A Metaphor That Defines The Future Of Local Search (And Everything Else)

This is not a tribute to Steve Jobs directly. Although in the end it may be one of his greatest legacies. Will Siri become the new Qwerty?

I have been in the technology field for over 30 years. I have seen a number of radical changes that became metaphors for how things were supposed to be done. Many, but certainly not all, of these metaphors were created at the hands of Steve Jobs.

QWERTY defined the keyboard. The Apple II defined a generation of PCs. Sony defined what the home video recorder should be. The Mac defined what a Window and Window based programs should behave like. The iPhone defined how touch functions on a smartphone and what a smartphone is.

These defining products and the companies that produce them don’t always win the battle in the market place for various reasons but the idea sticks. The technology becomes iconic and lays the path for others to follow. Sometimes the followers overtake the creators, sometimes the creators win. The market is a brutal overseer.

Siri, the natural language interface for the new iPhone 4s, is one such product. It may not be the product that wins the battle in the market place, it may not be the specific product feature that everybody has to have in their pockets in 2015 but if it isn’t, whatever is there will be like Siri.

Imagine a world where you say to your phone: Find me the best Asian restaurant within 25 miles. Or: Text my wife to meet me at 21. Or: Schedule an appointment for me with Joe the PR Guy and send him a text. Or: Tell my friends on Facebook that our team won!

All of the sudden the only thing that matters is the answer. Nothing else. You won’t be looking at a search box, you won’t be landing on someone’s home page, you won’t be looking at an ad…In fact you won’t be looking at anything.

You won’t need to. Not all of your interaction will be voice driven but depending on your mobile needs a large portion of it could be. You no longer need to look at your phone to enter a query in a search box. You just ask for the answer and it will just give it to you.

The answer can come from a single source or a range of sources. The brand of search engine is no longer important, the brand of phone that you are asking the question on is. Your only relationship is with the phone. Either it works or it doesn’t. Search engines and web brands could potentially fade in importance.

The winner in this next interface battle gets to pick where and who it gets the answer from. If Siri needs three data sources, it uses three data sources. If it needs four, it looks at four. That complexity is all hidden and the user not only doesn’t need to visit multiple websites, the user doesn’t even need a special app. Siri, or something like it, becomes the great equalizer for data sources. An OS for voice as it were. It handles the complexities. You just need to ask it.

Will it do what Apple says it will? There was a time when you couldn’t trust what Apple or any technology firm said. You had to have it proven to you. Even though this is a new Apple, one molded by the demanding perfectionism of Steve Jobs, this is one of those times when you will need to know that the natural language interface works and it works seamlessly.

If it does, it becomes THE WAY that you want to interact with the device. The new QWERTY as it were. Maybe not all all the time but certainly with mobile search and more frequently than not with mobile local search.

It also becomes the great disintermediator in mobile. It may be the greatest disintermediator of all time. If it works.

Decline in Searches at Vertical Sites Giving Way to More Searches At Google & Bing

Comscore has an interesting post detailing a decline in “vertical search” (travel, local, product, jobs) queries for the first time in several years. This decline in searches at vertical sites has been mirrored by an attendant increase of share of searches at the general search sites.

From the article:

This trend is illustrated by the tremendous growth of non-search engine search entities during that time. In August 2011, of the 27 billion searches conducted on desktops in the United States, more than one-third occurred on non-search engines. Search on sites like Amazon, eBay, and Facebook has been growing faster than (and therefore gaining market share from) the core search engines for several years. But in the past year, this vertical search market actually contracted by 6% after several years of strong growth.

Vertical Search Giving Way to Core Search

He went on to conclude that with recent acquistions (like ITA and Zagat) and improved local and travel search results this trend is likely to continue:

As these user improvements manifest themselves in the search results and searchers have increasingly begun to rely on them for their more vertically-oriented search needs, we are finally beginning to see a significant shift in the market. Growth in vertical searches is now actually conceding ground to the core search engines in a reversal of the past few years.

Now, don’t go taking this as the beginning of the end of non-search entities. Their business is still alive and well and will continue to serve a critical function for specialized searching behavior. But increasingly, search engines are improving the quality of their results in a way that is helping to fill the void once created by searches with vertical intent.

What do you think? Will Google and Bing continue to grab share from other local & vertical sites as their search results improved? What does it portend for those sites?

Small Business Influencers 2011 Awards Final Results – Thanks to All!

Anita Campbell’s Small Business Trends announced the Top 100 Champions and Honorable mentions in their Small Business Influencers 2011 Awards.

Small Business Influencer Award 2011

I am happy to say that Lisa Barone AND I were both awarded a spot in the list of Top 100 Small Business Champions. We are in rare company with the likes of Aaron WallJohn JantschInc. Magazine and Intuit and a ton of others, many of whom I am not familiar with but would like to learn more about.

Thanks to all of you that voted for me and better, thanks to those who took my advice to vote for Lisa. 

Groucho Marx once noted that he wasn’t sure that he wanted to be a member of any club that would have him as a member. That is not the case for me in this situation UNLESS they sit me between the Better Business Bureau and Google at the award dinner, both award winners as well. (For those of you that don’t recall, I have offered up criticisms of both over time and I once even managed to criticize both in the same post :) )

Thanks again!

How Much Freeer than Free Can Free Be?

Stever of Axemedia passed this Register.com email solicitation along to me. It is a deceptive ad that attempts to leverage Google Places as a benefit to the package. How much freer than free can free be? I suppose that the offer revolves around some claiming package but is amazing to me that a company of Register.com’s stature would attempt to leverage Google’s good name in such a way.

 

Worse is yet to come though. When you click through to the website, you are offered a Free Website to along with your free Google Places listing. The offer that you thought was $24.95/mo. turns out to be $94.95/month. What you are actually buying, despite the immediate call to action, is not clear nor is there any way to achieve clarification other than calling.

At the end of three years a business would have spent $3418.20. It appears that the business will have received a website of indeterminate size with some keyword laden copywriting, a Google Places listing, a listing at one or the primary data suppliers to the GPS industry and some reporting…. probably Google Analytics. The package could be worth it, who knows. The level of misdirection and slight of hand makes me doubt it.

Small Business Influencer Awards: Vote early, Vote often and Vote for …..


I was recently honored to have been nominated for the 2011 Small Business Influencer award in the guru category. It is an effort by Smallbiztrends.com to recognize those “organizations and people who have made a significant impact on the North American small business market”.  The awards will identify the Top 100 influencers and are decided 40% by a popular vote and 60% by the judges. In the popular voting you can vote for a candidate once every 24 hours.

Whenever I receive this sort of nomination an internal dialog always takes place that goes something like… “ooh, cool… I would like to win ah but I can’t win, oh this is just a popularity contest but there are others more deserving than I … “. By the time the internal chatter has ceased the contest is over and I place 75th or so.

In this contest, since a voter can vote once a day for a given individual, a contestant needs a very large family, a very involved mother, a great bot network or a very supportive industry. I don’t posses a large family, a living mother nor a bot network but do feel that option four (industry support) holds lots of potential.

And this time I have decided to be more proactive, more assertive and more involved and not let my internal dialog slow me down… so I am suggesting that as an industry we get together and we Vote early, Vote often and Vote for ….. Lisa Barone.

Why pimp for Lisa Barone and not myself you ask? Well besides the fact that she has an Italian last name and HAS to have a larger family and active parents, I really think that she deserves the support of our industry for her tireless reporting of industry events, her relentless and smb focused writing and her voice. An opinionated, funny, off beat voice that is a voice of reason and straight talk in an industry that has its share of the opposite. She has done us all a favor and I think it is time to pay her back.

So Vote early, Vote often and Vote for ….. Lisa Barone. Not once but every day for the next 22…spread the word.

Google Officially Ends Support For QR Code in Places

Google is obviously moving strongly towards NFC (near field communications) as their technology of choice for closing the loop of the “last mile” in the local link between consumers and Google. They have built the NFC chip into their new Nexus and they are testing NFC in both a payment and POS environments. They used NFC chips in Places signage in their Portland Hotpot promotion (although they were not very effective).

But their aggressive support for NFC seems to be the death knell for their support of QR codes. Why that should be is unclear but last week QR Codes disappeared from the Google Places Dashboard and yesterday Google provided me with this statement:

Users will no longer find unique QR codes in their Places accounts. We’re exploring new ways to enable customers to quickly and easily find information about local businesses from their mobile phones.

Why Sec 230 of the Communications Decency Act Needs Amending

Yesterday, the All Facebook blog published a story titled Family Sues Facebook Over Photos of Daughter’s Corpse. From the article (bold is mine):

A couple in New York is suing Facebook after a paramedic posted photos of their daughter’s dead body on the social networking site.

Martha and Ronald Wimmer’s daughter Caroline died two years ago. She was found in her apartment, strangled with her hair dryer, according to NBC New York.

Paramedic Mark Musarella posted photos of Caroline’s strangled body on Facebook. That got him fired from his job and stripped of his EMT license. And he agreed never again to work as an EMT as long as he didn’t get jail time. He also put in 200 hours of community service.

Even so, the Wimmers are also suing Musarella and his employer, Richmond University Medical Center, as well as Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano and the Fire Department of New York, in addition to Facebook.

But the Wimmers aren’t asking Facebook for money; they are asking the social media site to delete the photos of their daughter from its data servers. They also are asking for user details about who viewed ad downloaded the photos. Facebook has refused to comply with the Wimmers’ demands.

“We believe this suit is completely without merit and we will fight it vigorously,” Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes told NBC.

 

When I mentioned the suite to Eric Goldman, a lawyer that writes extensively on the legal issues surrounding internet law noted:

Tragic story, but Facebook is clearly immunized under Section 230.

Sec 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the same law that immunizes the search engines if your business listing was hijacked by affiliate spammers and all profits from your business were being funneled to theives. It is the same law that immunizes the major review platforms from any liability if a libelous review is placed on line.

The Communications Decent Act of 1996 was created in a futile attempt to regulate pornography on the internet. Sec 230 of the act was:

.. not part of the original Senate legislation, but was added in conference with the House of Representatives, where it had been separately introduced.. as the Internet Freedom and Family Empowerment Act and passed by a near-unanimous vote on the floor. Unlike the more controversial anti-indecency provisions which were later ruled unconstitutional, this portion of the Act remains in force, and enhances free speech by making it unnecessary for ISPs and other service providers to unduly restrict customers’ actions for fear of being found legally liable for customers’ conduct.

It has also been argued that the law has provided a stable legal environment in which encouraged internet service providers (in the broad sense) to invest in a range of services, functionality and software without fear of being sued for use of their platforms by 3rd parties.

Those were and are important goals. In 1996, 2001 and maybe even 2006 they made all kinds of sense. In 2011 less so.

Continue reading

Cool Tool of the Trade – Capturing Full Screen Search Result Screenshots

I just upgraded to Firefox 4 and was offered the opportunity to try Awesome Screenshot. It solves several problems that I frequently deal with when writing this blog and communicating with clients – capturing a full screen of a Google search result (or any web page for that matter) and easily annotating it (see sample of output to the right – click for larger size).

This Firefox plugin (also available for Chrome and Safari 5) does just that as well as providing quick upload to a public URL for online storage of the image and the opportunity to easily share the image via Twitter, Facebook, Buzz and email clients. It passed the “Mike Test” with flying colors. The “Mike Test” is the ability for me to try, learn and use a piece of software productively in 10 minutes or less.

Here are some sample screen shots of the process using Awesome Screenshot: Continue reading