Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

Big G vs. The Trip Advisor – Smackdown Continues in The Review Ring

Ah yes, the rancor in the review industry does continue and in fact it seems to be turnin’ into a wrestlin’ match. The actors players competitors wrestlers have staked out their corners and the taunting has begun for the match later this evening.

Google has been throwing reviews around like ring side chairs. Reviews from tripadvisor.com have been coming and going from Places Pages faster than an Elbow Drop off the Top. Google seems to be attempting to not show them as much, per TA’s request but in their stead we are often seeing the very same reviews form Tripadvisor.ca or .ie. In some cases, we are even seeing the TA reviews on the Places Page from actual owner website via the TA review widget. (Thanks to Steve King from SimPartners)

The real winner in this match appears to be a site called TravelPod.com. They are a site that synidicates TripAdvisor reviews and in a quick survey of hotel Places Pages for major cities, they are showing prominently on the main SERP and the Places Page for sites that had TripAdvisor reviews. Their review totals often match TA’s exactly. Clearly, TA’s efforts to block Google from summarizing content from their review corpus is not going to be a successful tactic.

One then has to ask why TA has gone on their very public PR tear. Posting at their blog and across twitter via the #AskSteve hashtag, their CEO continues to answer (albeit at a trickle) questions about the tiff.

I found TA’s answer to a question that I asked interesting:

Q: @mblumenthal – How does the hotel benefit by TripAdvisor pulling their reviews from Google?

A: For hotels to thrive on any site, consumers must have a great user experience. We’ve pulled our reviews because Google Places doesn’t offer a good consumer experience.

Now where have we heard that refrain before? It seems that Steve pulled a play from Google’s playbook when answering that one.

Effluent always seems to run down hill. And it seems that wherever an SMB might stand in this current match is by definition, down hill.

TripAdvisor Reviews and Google Places – the Saga Continues

Su from the Inn at Tanglewood Hall, a bed and breakfast in York Harbor, Me alerted me on the 20th to the fact that TripAdvisor reviews were once again missing from Google Places. Today she sent me this missive from the CEO of TripAdvisor, Steve Kaufer inviting questions via Twitter about the TripAdvisor-Google battle over review content in Google Places. I am reprinting his message in full:

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#AskSteve on Twitter: TripAdvisor Talks Google Places and Invites Questions

With more than 70% of all searches in the U.S. alone, Google is the world’s  dominant search engine with considerable power over displaying what users see on the web. With Google Places, it is abusing this power.

The success of any website relies on two crucial elements: how useful it is to the consumer and therefore how highly it ranks in search engines.  With both of these elements, Google is manipulating its systems and position to promote Google Places over other competing sites.  Links to Google Places appear at the top of the ‘natural’ search despite being an inferior product to sites that are dedicated to review collection and therefore more useful to the consumer.  Google is also forcingTripAdvisor to allow its reviews to be on Google Places, and as the world’s largest travel site with more than 40 million reviews and opinions, become the key content provider in Google Places for hotel and other accommodation reviews.

While we expect competition in the travel planning sector, we expect the success of the competition to be decided by the consumer.  The EU Commission is currently investigating claims of how Google is adopting unfair practice; Google Places is another example of how they are abusing their dominant position in search.

As the situation continues to unfold, we know that many of you may have questions about Google Places and how we at TripAdvisor are approaching it, and I want to get those questions answered.  Over the next couple of days, we’ll be asking you to share these questions on Twitter, and I’ll be answering them right here on the TripAdvisor blog.  Follow us at @TripAdvisor for additional details on how to submit questions and join in on the conversation.

Steve Kaufer, CEO, TripAdvisor

Guidelines for submitting questions:

  • I’ll only be answering questions about Google Places.  Questions on other topics will not be responded to at this time.
  • In order to have your question included, please be sure to use the hashtag #AskSteve.
  • I will be answering ten questions.  Answers will be posted here, on the TripAdvisor blog, and shared on Twitter. Follow @TripAdvisor for updates.

To see the Twitter question stream…. Continue reading

Loci 2010 – Gib Olander

Gib Olander currently serves as Director of Business Development for Localeze and frequent speaker at search marketing conferences. Localeze is a leading provider of merchant content management services, which includes; collection, organization, validation and distribution of merchant content. This content is widely used in the local ecosystems and the data is the foundation of place information at a large number of sites including Bing, Facebook and Twitter amongst others.

From this vantage point, Gib sees the industry dynamics from the inside out, providing useful insights to many in the industry.

***

2010 was a transformative year, I struggle with calling it a year of convergence or a year of fragmentation. Convergence because everywhere we looked a local component was added, we’ve had: social local, mobile local, local search, local commerce, mobile Local search, social mobile search, ETC. Or was it a year for fragmentation with traffic being driven to businesses from a wider variety of sources than ever before, I don’t think 2010 answered many questions but it certainly built the infrastructure for where the space is going in the future, it’s never been a better time to be involved in the Local search ecosystem.

This early in the year article set the tone for the change taking place in the internet space in general. In February you heard major Local publishers declare that Facebook was the leading source for traffic to their site over Google with Facebook growing at an incredible rate it was only natural that they launch a local initiative.

By 2011 it’s expected that 80% of mobile devices are going to be GPS enabled which changes everything. This location based service patent by Apple is an example of the innovation going on in mobile. There are now more than 6000 Location based or at least location aware apps for the iPhone alone. 2010 was the year of Mobile & Local with great innovation from companies like Foodspotting and in the advertising world of Local & Mobile new initiatives like Where Ads were launched creating a new revenue models to fuel the growth.

With foursquare usage continuing to grow and dozens of services, games, applications, networks adding check in functionality it is a trend to watch. One of the most impactful presentation’s I witnessed this year was from Michael Metcalf from Yahoo, he really gave me an understanding of how important our personal Location History and our Spatial Network are, it’s about so much more than the next badge you are going to win, it’s just a matter of time before the value gets unlocked to its fullest.

Local as an important layer of context really emerged, Twitter embraced that concept with their places announcement showing that the context of a clearly defined place is a powerful tool.

Google as friend or foe became a hot topic again in 2010 first with Yelp then with TripAdvisor,  resulting in Google launching its own service/platform to create the content it wants.

Google continued to amaze with the amount of innovation they rolled out during the year with the most notable being the self-described search refinement of Google Place Search resulting in the ever increasing importance of establishing, monitoring and managing your business identity with a standard and consistent Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP)

From the Localeze perspective I felt like we had an amazing year of progress  Here is a list of our press releases in 2010

Thanks for a great year, I can’t wait to see how things emerge in 2011!

Loci 2010 – Matt McGee

Matt McGee needs little introduction to most readers here. He has been involved, perhaps longer than I, in the local space as a consultant, practitioner and writer and was one of my first virtual friends in the space. I have had the good fortune to have had Matt become a real friend and we often “tour” together with GetListed Local University. He maintains his own blog Small Business Search Marketing, is Executive News Editor at Search Engine Land and a moderator and editor at Sphinn.

His sense of internet marketing is keen and one that I listen to and trust even if having him in my social graph at Hotpot skews the results to pizza.

***

I’ve been enjoying the previous articles in this series. I don’t agree with all the opinions on what was most important in 2010, but that’s surely part of the fun. I do agree that 2010 was a big year for the local industry. Marissa Mayer, one of the most important people at Google, was “promoted” to a position overseeing local and mobile. Google launched Places Search, a whole new take on local search results. Bing made some very cool upgrades to its maps product. Facebook took a real step into the local space with Facebook Places. And so much more. 2010 was a BIG year for local/mobile.

But for all the progress, I’m still struck by how undeveloped the space is as a whole. So, at the risk of having you call me “Debbie Downer” (that’s a Saturday Night Live reference, Professor), I’d like to list 10 things that are still missing, broken, or unsolved in local at the end of 2010.

1- Google Places is still filled with bugs, from merged listings to problems with reviews and so much more. I have a gut feeling that spam is somewhat better than it’s been, but there are so many more problems for such an important piece of the local puzzle.

2- It’s still borderline impossible for the average person to track local/”pack” traffic in Google Analytics. There have been several articles that teach semi-complicated methods for doing this, but those articles shouldn’t be needed.

3- On a related note, the Google Places business dashboard remains mostly useless. The data is several days old and the stripped-down referral keyword list remains often frustrating. It would be better for Places to integrate directly into Google Analytics.

4- Bing still doesn’t offer any stats in its Local Listing Center. Nor does Yahoo.

5- Google still appears to be much more interested in acquiring small businesses (as Google users) than they are in actually supporting the ones already in the fold.

6- We still can’t manage multiple Places listings (for different clients) from a single interface. (Bing and Yahoo also don’t offer this functionality.)

7- There’s still no effective SEO/visibility solution for businesses without a location or for businesses that need to hide their location. Google’s product for those businesses seems to do more harm than good, and Bing doesn’t even have a product for them.

8- Neither Google, Bing, nor Yahoo allow a local business to integrate their Facebook and/or Twitter content into local business listings. I think Citysearch is the only local provider that has this functionality. Why?

9- There’s still no real solution to the call-tracking dilemma. SMBs want/need to track calls, but multiple phone numbers wreaks havoc on the trust of your primary business listing.

10- Neither Google, Bing, nor Yahoo provide any review management tools inside the business listing dashboards.

I’ll stop there with a “thanks” to Mike for letting me contribute to this series, and a “thanks” to you for reading. Hopefully we’ll see some or all of these things improve in 2011.

Loci 2010 – David Mihm

David Mihm is the President & CEO of GetListed.org, in addition to running his own Portland-based search engine consulting business. He’s a Search Engine Land columnist and a frequent speaker at the SMX, SES, and Kelsey Group conference. He has created a number of tools to assist the SMB in navigating the rough waters of local more easily and publishes the annual survey of Local Ranking factors. More importantly he cares about the state of local search and how it impacts SMBs. He brings that sensibility and an astute mind to his list of articles that  stood out for him in 2010.

He thinks through the issues top to bottom and whenever I have a question, he is the one that I call.

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The Local conversation this year was once again dominated by Google, and in particular, its decision to completely reinvent its Local interface, moving away from the 10/7-pack and into a blended organic/local SERP.  (Btw, it bothers me that we still do not have a conventional term for this type of result two months after it launched!).  So a couple

Looking ahead to 2011, I think it’s going to be all about reviews, reviews, reviews this year as the differentiating factor for most Local SMB rankings.  Google’s extensive–though not quite exhaustive–push of Hotpot here in Portland these last couple months only goes to show how much stock they’re putting in reviews.  So I want to bring people’s attention to a couple of your posts in this arena.

Then, a couple of conceptual / theoretical posts–one by Chris Silver Smith that highlights an often-overlooked fundamental principle of Google’s Location Prominence patent, and one by Carolyn Johnston of Microsoft addressing one of business owners’ and marketers’ biggest frustration: why is my business data wrong, and what’s with all of the duplicate listings?

And, one tactical post–in my opinion the most actionable post in our industry over the course of the entire year–hats off to Garrett French.

Localization, Unique Data Sets & the Future of Search -
Few people follow the economic side of Google’s UI decisions as closely as Aaron Wall.  In this article he lays out some of Google’s less altruistic motives behind Place Search.

Dead Fingers Walking -
Andrew Shotland’s darkly satirical commentary on the same Places UI upgrade (pre-dating Aaron’s article by several months thanks to your own publication of the beta Place Search interface, Mike).

What Are the Implications of the New Integrated Local Search Results? -
Your own commentary on this seismic (or catclysmic, if you ask Andrew) shift in the way Google returns results for Local Intent searches.

Review Services – Do Positive Only Reviews Have a Place? -
Perhaps not one of your greatest literary epics, Mike, but I see this debate raging for many years, particularly as Google begins to incorporate self-generated testimonials and hReviews into its Place Pages.  It’s an extremely important question to ask both the search engines and the marketing community.

Principles for a Review Plan: Considerations in encouraging customer reviews -
You pretty much nail the matrix of important considerations in this easily-digestible column.

A New Behemoth Emerges in Google Maps: Wikipedia -
Chris Silver Smith highlights the importance of the highest-rated referring Place-related document as part of Google’s Location Prominence patent, here pointing to Wikipedia as a very highly-rated source.  Perhaps not actionable for most businesses but I think the concept behind this discussion is incredibly valuable.

Why Local Listings Data Is Tough -
A great “Q&A” posed from the perspective of the marketer/SMB to the search engine that is very illustrative of the difficulties in getting accurate data to flow all the way through the Local Search Ecosystem.

Phone Number Co-Citation Analysis for Local Link Builders -
Garrett French’s terrifically efficient strategy for making sure you’ve got your competitive bases covered when it comes to Local listings.

Loci 2010 – Sebastien Provencher

Sebastien is Praized Media’s co-founder and VP Product Management. He has more than 12 years’ experience in local search, interactive entertainment and online media. Sebastien co-founded Praized Media in 2007 to help local media companies tap into the growing potential of online word-of-mouth and social media. Praized Media recently launched Needium, an innovative social media lead generation service for SMBs. He writes about traditional media, local search and social media on his blog at  and tweets at @sebprovencher.

When Sebastien speaks I listen. You should too.

****

From my point of view, here are what I think the important events in
“local” in 2010.

1) The launch of Twitter Places:
http://techcrunch.com/2010/04/14/twitter-places-geo-tweets/ and
http://blog.twitter.com/2010/06/twitter-places-more-context-for-your.html
More ways to geolocalize your tweets means more local/social opportunities. More and more people think Twitter’s future will be “local”.

2) Foursquare went from less than 1M users to more than 5M users in 2010. 2M check-ins daily.
http://techcrunch.com/2010/12/08/foursquare-hits-2-million-check-ins-25k-new-users-daily/
Still curious to know how many of those are “active” users (same metric as Facebook) but nonetheless, Foursquare is now a key player in the local/social ecosystem.

3) Facebook launches Places
http://blogs.praized.com/seb/facebook/facebook-places-will-be-huge-capturing-stories-about-places/.
Not as big as bang as I expected but a much needed “local” infrastructure in Facebook. 2011 will probably see growth and better integration.

4) The launch of the iPad. Seen as a savior by many newspapers before the launch, I’m not sure those expectations were met
http://mashable.com/2010/10/19/ipad-newspaper-savior/.

Undoubtedly, on another level, the iPad is a resounding consumer success, creating a new space. What Apple did for smart phones, they’re doing it again for tablets.

5) The rise of Groupon and the daily offer space. Incredible revenue growth. High popularity. New local ad vehicle. ‘Nuff said.

6) Groupon rejects Google’s purchase offer. Worth a bullet by itself. Rumored $6B offer. Wow. Again, ‘Nuff said.

Google Mobile Instant Suggestions – Search Results Before You Search

I have only been tangentially following the development of Google Instant on Mobile. As Barry pointed out upon its release in early November, on the iPhone it is not a natural search strategy and thus I only use the Google search field on my phone occasionally.

Yesterday, though, I noticed a result that made bells go off given the on going dispute raised in the recent WSJ article about Google sending traffic to itself. I am with Lisa Barone on this issue of whether Google is or should be Santa Claus, they are not. This is capitalism boys, stop your whining. Its a tough game that puts demands on all of us but particularly on stock held companies. If you don’t like it, join me in the revolution.

In the meantime it was still striking to see this Google result on my iPhone that provides not just a link to themselves as a result but as a suggestion. How long before Google starts showing Places results as a suggestion? Talk about search results before you search… this is certainly a step in that direction.

TripAdvisor Reviews Now Showing in Places Again

Do you remember the old SNL skit “Point/Counterpoint” (named after the 60 Minutes Segment) which featured Dan Akroyd making scurrilous attacks on Jane Curtain?  Not sure who is whom in this current remake starring Google and Tripadvisor but it sure is taking on the same tenor. :)

The recent “its a technical issue, no its intentional” discussion between TripAdvisor and Google has taken one more turn with TripAdvisor reviews once again showing up in Google Places. Many of the businesses that initially reported disappearing TripAdvisor reviews (herehere ) are now showing those reviews again.

Su at the Inn at Tanglewood Hall in York Harbor, ME. sent me an email today that hers and other TA reviews in Kennebunkport had returned. And upon checking, those reported missing in the forums had also returned.

Now if I could just get Google to find the 25 or so missing from my Places account, the heavens would be in alignment.

Guest post: Top 10 local UK business directories compared & rated

This is a guest post by Myles Anderson of Brightlocal.com. Brighlocal is a London-based local SEO company that is building local SEO tools for marketers, web-designers and local businesses. He has also written an excellent companion piece:  Top UK online business directories – comparison of audience figures 2009/2010. In November, I wrote up Brightlocal’s Review facilitation tool, ReviewBiz.

Last year, David Mihm did an excellent piece on UK directories, The Guide to UK Citations for Local Search. He offered up a comprehensive list of citation sources from the professional SEO point of view. I thought that this was a good companion piece to David’s in that it approached the issue from the SMB’s point of view and offered some good, actionable advice as to prioritization of efforts.

Top 10 local UK business directories compared & rated

Online business directories are an important & powerful marketing tool for local businesses. Whether you’re a builder, a hairdresser, a dentist or a driving instructor you can attract new customers and grow your business using an online business directory.

More and more people are turning to the internet to find best local businesses. Online business directories provide a quick & easy route to identify the best businesses.

Recent research shows that people use online directories when they have an immediate need for a local service but they don’t know which business to call. Theyíre ready to buy your services but they’re looking for guidance on which business to select. Over 50% of directory searches result in either a call or visit to a local business. You need to make sure that local business is your business!

Many online business directories offer a free listing and it’s important to get listed in as many directories as possible.

Paid-for listings will often appear at the top of the directory results but there are other ways to get your business to the top of a directory without paying for it (see our article on ‘Perfecting you online business directory listing’)

Top 10 UK online business directories

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What is The Real Reason that TripAdvisor Is Limiting Review Content To Places?

It appears that TripAdvisor is in fact currently limiting what and how Google can display TA’s review content on Google Places pages.

Yesterday, a statement from them appeared at TNooz.com, a travel industry news blog, that indicated that was the case. I wanted to confirm this with TripAdvisor.  I asked their PR department the following via email:  “I am attempting to get clarification of comments made on the information in the following article: TripAdvisor Blocking Google From Reviews?. Are you currently syndicating reviews to Google? Will you continue? Is/Was it just a technical glitch as Google has noted?”

Their reply:

Hello Mike,

Google frequently makes changes to Google Places, and while we’re continuing to evaluate it, we don’t think it benefits users at this time with the experience of selecting the right hotel.  As a result, we have currently limited the TripAdvisor content available on those pages.

Best,

Amelie

I asked for additional clarification but was told that the above was the extent of their statement. Given TripAdvisors unwillingness to add any real information to the story, I can give you my speculation as to what I think their reasoning is. (Isn’t that the best thing about blogging? In the absence of facts I can speculate.)

If you recall on November 15th, Google added booking links directly to every hotel Places page, interjecting themselves directly into the hotel booking process. My presumption is that the statement from TripAdvisor that “we don’t think it benefits users at this time with the experience of selecting the right hotel” refers specifically to this new process.

Google Places Booking Capability

I assume, but do not know, that Google’s move could be perceived as a direct threat to a TripAdvisor affiliate income stream. Google is sending users to some of  the same booking sites from their new tool as TripAdvisor.

What are your thoughts? Do you think that is the reason that the two are “fueding”?