Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

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.

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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

Continue reading

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”?

A Reason Not to Move to Canada?

Since starting blogging I have made a number of very good friends and often times get to meet these folks in person. The other benefit (?) is that I occasionally receive unsolicited gifts in the mail. Google sent me a very cool Nexus Phone and a coffee mug. Once I even got a box of 40 count potatoes (the source of all potato jokes… how big was it?…) from your favorite Idaho internet marketer.

Today, in the mail, this Mountie Hat showed up. Obviously a Canuck reader was trying to convince me that while there are possibly good reasons to move to Canada there are also reasons not to. To see why …. Continue reading

ReviewBiz – Making Reviews Friction Free

I am a big fan of an ethical review solicitation process that smooths the path between customers and creating reviews. If reviews are going to reflect the overall impression of your business accurately, a broad sampling of your customers needs to participate and it needs to be easy.

I think that the opportunity to easily leave these reviews should be available to all customers not just a select few. In the past, I have suggested that visitors to your website should be provided direct links to leave reviews at a range of popular review sites. I am also a big believer in free tools that make the job of the SMB and their web designer easier.

Brightlocal.com has just introduced such a tool: ReviewBiz. The tool automates the process of locating the relevant review site pages, generating the correct url for leaving the review and creates a widget so that these review links can quickly and easily be included on a website’s testimonial/review page. The tool is an admirable replacement for Michael Jensen’s Leavefeedback.org that unfortunately died in a server crash and was never revived.

The process as outlined on the BrightLocal site to create the widget for your website is quick and easy:

1. Select the country you are in – UK or US (it shows review sites for both countries)
2. Enter your business name & zipcode
3. Review the returned business listing details & confirm that they belong to your business
4. Choose the ReviewBiz widget style that you want to appear on your website
5. Pick the review sites that you want to include
5. Copy & paste the ReviewBiz code into your website

The result is a widget, offered in a choice of widths and two styles; one that offers a window shade drop down and the one shown below that provides a full view of the selected review sites:

Review 'blumenthals.com' with ReviewBiz local SEO tools from BrightLocal.com

As a new product, it still has a few minor quirks but generally works well. For example it sometimes included sites that I explicitely asked it to exclude (like Merchant Circle) and it could do a slightly better job of auto generating the URLs to take a user slightly closer to the actual input screen to leave the reviews. Myles Anderson of Brightlocal has noted that both issues would soon be fixed.

These are minor criticisms. It is valuable product that is presentable, facilitates customers leaving reviews and it is free. For the web designer it is a useful, readily usable product that significantly shortens the time to get the job done. For the SMB that is maintaining their own site, it automatically generates the necessary code and makes the job adding these links to your website easily doable.

As designers and small businesses let me know what you think of the tool. To test it simply select my Google link above and leave a review. :)

Google Places Search to IYPs – What is the Message? Go Microformats, Young Man!

There has been a lot of discussion* (David Mihm, Greg Sterling, Chris Silver Smith, Andrew Shotland) in the local search community about the meaning and impact of the new Places Search organo-local blending of results on IYPs, directories and Review sites. All interesting and all of value. Clearly there will be winners and loosers, clearly Yelp made out better than Superpages. But is Google passing judgement directly on the IYPs and their future?

I would contend not. To me the message from Google to all of these (and other) sites that want to be included in the Places Search results: Send us unique review content about local places. Google has plenty of directory information, they pretty much have figured out location information…. what they want now is reviews.

When you combine this “message” of more reviews with the recent announcements around supporting Rich Snippets in Places and supporting testimonials marked up in hReview format as reviews, the message becomes even more nuanced and is no longer directed at just the IYP sites: Send us your reviews about local places in semantically marked up syntax.

This message applies as much to the up and coming reputation management company that focuses on presenting microformated reviews like Customer Lobby as it does to the small real estate website that has taken the time to properly mark up their testimonial page. Google is saying that everyone, big and small, directory or newspaper, local or national can now play in this arena.

Google has democratized the sourcing of unique review content around Places and has highlighted it front and center with a link. All comers are welcome. You no longer need a unique special relationship with them like CitySearch or DemandForce have. Everyone can play.

But is this just about reviews? I would contend that going forward it will be about other unique, high level information about local businesses…. coupons, sales events, specials… as microformat standards evolve and as microformatted content becomes widely available.

If you are building a site that deals with local, include microformatting as an integral part of the plan now and for the future. Go deep rather than wide as quantity about specific businesses is what will land you on Google’s front page. Keep track of the rapidly evolving world of microformats and be sure to apply it to unique content whenever possible.

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* Others that have provided excellent high level overviews of Places Search but didn’t address the questions of Google’s “message” to IYPs:

Miriam Ellis – New Integrated Google Local A Game Changer
Matt McGee – 5 Quick Impacts of Google’s New Local Search Results

Time to Reexamine hCard to Solve the Call Tracking Issue in Local

The Problem:

Call tracking is a valuable tool for business. With the advent of VOIP it has become very low cost and its benefits are available to even the smallest business.

The problem is that in Local it can cause much more harm than benefit in the current ecosystem. The use of call tracking numbers at directory or IYP sites can destroy a local business’s primary tool for gaining customers, Google Maps ranking. The negative affects can persist for a very long time in the Maps index. Thus most Local SEO practitioners strongly advise against its use.

The New Landscape:

The evolving semantic web has finally hit escape velocity. Google, providing real world validation of the concept, has announced their of support of hCard and microformats as a means of understanding which business a given web page is about. In that, lies a solution to the nagging problem of using call tracking numbers in Local.

The Solution:

The idea of using hCard to clarify and categorize a business phone number is not new. Chris Silver Smith  has already suggested it as a way to identify a canonical phone number using microformats that would work well.

A slight variation on the idea would be to add a specific definition to the hCard Standard to specify a number as a call tracking number. The hCard format has a property (tel) for telephone number to be defined as part of business listing. The standard also already supports a type product for further refining the type of phone number that is being referred to. Here are the current types of telephone numbers currently defined in the standard:

tel type: VOICE, home, msg, work, pref, fax, cell, video, pager, bbs, modem, car, isdn, pcs

It would seem that it should be a trivial task to indicate to Google and any other search engine scraping semantic content that a number is a call tracking number and not the main number and that it should be construed as such. The semantic markup could make it perfectly clear that the telephone number associated with a given business listing is not the canonical phone number and should not be used to categorize that particular listing. A simple additional type such as “ct” should do the trick.

<span class="tel"><span class="type">ct</span><span class="value"> +1.415.555.1212</span></span>

Regardless of the specific syntax, the difference now is that any solution suggested and agreed upon would be immediately able to be implemented and useful if Google buys into the idea. As Chris Silver Smith pointed out to me this does not solve all of the data integrity problems in Local:

One other aspect that this doesn’t solve is the issue of people using different tracking numbers for different directories which feed Google and other partners via delimited files — not HTML. So, it’d be cool to come up with an industry standard for that aspect of the issue as well.

Thus the use of a call tracking number in certain circumstances could still confuse Google. But one step at a time as they say.

The way forward:

According to Wikipedia the system for creating an add on type for the standard is very open:

Neither CommerceNet nor Microformats.org operates as a standards body. The microformats community functions through an open wiki, mailing list, and Internet relay chat (IRC) channel.[4] Most of the existing microformats were created at the Microformats.org wiki and the associated mailing list, by a process of gathering examples of web publishing behaviour, then codifying it.

Realistically this means that 1)there needs to be some industry input from both Local SEOs and Call Tracking industry at the Wiki to define the specifics and 2) the standard needs to be implemented. Google never likes to “predict a market” but if there is general agreement and usage Google needs to publicly acknowledge that they would read, understand and support the new type.

This simple addition to the standard would allow the keepers of primary local information to keep the record straight, it would open up the world of call tracking to be used by more businesses and in a greater range of situations and it would encourage the Local call tracking industry to refine and develop useful products for even the smallest SMB.

Now that Google has finally adopted rich snippet standards, it is time to make it work for everybody.

Yelp.com & Unique Vistors: Would the Real Number Please Stand Up

While there may be some dispute about the origins of the saying: “there are three kinds of lies, lies, damned lies and statistics” there is little disagreement about its general truthfulness. It seems particularly appropriate in regard to Yelp’s unique visitors.

Yesterday Yelp.com announced at SMX East that they had 38 million uniques on the desktop and it picqued my curiosity. Yelp.com has done a great job of generating reviews and adding value around them and I have been following them over the years as both a user and a professional, watching thier efforts to move from a niche restaurant site in the major markets to a broad based general site. Have they moved out of the niche and into the mainstream? Certainly 38 million uniques would indicate so.

But I was curious for some verification of Yelp’s numbers so I went to Quantcast, Compete and Comscore to see if I could independantly confrim them. The results, far from enlightening, illustrate the many ways that unique visitors can be counted.

Source Yelp Uniques Chart (click to view larger)
Yelp 38 Million
ComScore 24 Million
Quantcast 12.6 Million
Compete 10.1 Million

Your thoughts?