Guide to Choosing a Smart Phone for Local

In early January, Miriam Ellis of Solas Web Design asked the Local Chumps (an email salon whose members vary depending on the weather but that day included myself, Miriam, David Mihm, Matt McGee, Andrew Shotland & Will Scott) what smart phone should she buy. In doing her due diligence, she wanted to know which had the best features, the lowest price, the highest performance, the comparative benenfits etc etc….but mostly wanted something that would browse the internet well. All the reasonable questions that a conscientious consumer would typically ask about buying a piece of technology

Initially, many of our answers were single “phone” answers. The more complete answer, in the end, was that the choice needed to really include considerations about the service provider. The conversation took a “which cell provider sucks least” bent. (“Mine sucks less!” “No mine sucks less!”)

Picking a phone is not a straight forward technology purchase but a complex dance between choosing the service provider, your data and communication needs and picking the right smartphone.

It is impossible to choose a phone in the US without also choosing a provider and a (not so good & expensive) plan. Picking the phone should be the hard part but in reality it is picking the plan that requires a degree in systems design, accounting and social theory.

So with that in mind I have developed this scientific flow chart to help confused consumers in today’s marketplace pick a smart phone that browses the internet well:

I will leave it to Miriam to divulge to the world which phone she purchased (but I will say that she is the proud owner of a shiney new toy). Now, if we could just get her onto Twitter….

Google Maps: Now Adding Reviews from News Sites, Hyperlocal Blogs and Other Non Traditional Review Sources

What’s New in Reviews at Google Maps:

With their newly implemented sentiment analysis, Google Maps is apparently now reaching across hyperlocal blogs, local portals and news sites and retrieving blog entries, general editorial reporting and even blog comments for inclusion as reviews on their Places Pages.

This change portends a dramatically changed review landscape where both the volume of reviews for some types of businesses will rise and the dynamics of reputation management will change. It could very well shift  the balance of power away from centralized review sites and could be one more impediment to any recovery of the IYP sites.

With the advent of Places, Google Maps started including more meaningful review snippets on the Places Page and recently they added the ability to parse reviews into finer categories for a better understanding of reviewer’s perspectives about that Place. It appears that this new sentiment analysis capability is now also being applied to general web content to both identify and categorize these new reviews.

Google Confirms this new capability:
Carter Maslan, the Google Maps Product Manager, has confirmed this new capability to add reviews from any web source. He noted in an email conversation that “In this case (noted below), for example, we want to surface posts like this that reference Von Ray at his business”.

The First Example:
The new types of review were first spotted by Michael Cottam, shortly after the first of the year, who noticed this review on his client Von Ray’s V-Shape Fitness Places Page:

Von Ray is awesome. If you live in Portland and you need a trainer, you should call him to talk…

Von Ray is awesome. If you live in Portland and you need a trainer, you should call him to talk about your options: 503 421 5577. In the last year I’ve quit smoking, lost 10 pounds, done a triathlon, and can regularly do 300 push-ups as

This review was retrieved by Google from this blog post on Matt Davis’s Portland blog about his personal trainer. The blog, while very locally focused, is not review focused. Note that with little context other than the language of the post, the business name and phone number Google was able to attach the information as a review to Von Ray’s Place’s Page and highlighted the review like language from the post.

Some Additional Examples: Continue reading Google Maps: Now Adding Reviews from News Sites, Hyperlocal Blogs and Other Non Traditional Review Sources

Google Maps Also Showing Display Ads for LBC

Google Maps has been active both on-line and off promoting the Local Business Center. I noted last week that Google was increasing their trade show presence as well.

This weekend while visiting Sebastien Provencher’s blog I happen to notice this Google Display Ad showing on his site:

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It would be interesting to know the increases in LBC uptake amongst SMB’s since the Places campaign was rolled out last July.

How Often Did a Map Show on Google.com in December? 868 million times?

According to Comscore, in December 2009, Americans conducted 14.7 billion core searches, with Google Sites accounting for 65.7 percent search market share, virtually unchanged from 65.6 percent in November. Thus Google was searched 9.65 billions times in the US.

Google has noted in their official blog that “Proportion of Google result pages that show a map in search results: 1 in 13” ( based on our U.S. weekday traffic).

If we do a little back of the envelope calculation and estimate that 85% of searches never leave the front page, we can estimate that the map showed 1.15 times for every 13 front pages shown which means that is shows roughly 9 times per hundred searches.

If any of this is even remotely correct then a map was shown roughly 868 millions times during the month (9%) of December searches. This number is lower than the usual estimates of local searches and as Greg Sterling points out, many searches that show no local intent in fact are.

Loci2009: Greg Sterling: An Explosion of Interest in “Local” in 2009

I’ve been watching what we now call the “local online market” or “local search market” for about a decade. And finally in the past year we’ve seen an explosion of interest in “local.”

Strangely, the mobile handset arms race and growth of the mobile Internet this year have made the concept of local more accessible to people. It’s always been empirically clear that people use the Internet for research but mostly buy offline. I always say, “Local is where the money changes hands.” But mobile is now providing a more transparent connection between the digital and the real worlds that helps illustrate the power of place for people.

There’s a ton of great writing about local SEO and search marketing, as well as the future direction of the local market. Much of it happens on Mike’s blog. He brings a kind of passion and near-relentless attention to a host of practical issues that are critical for small businesses and local search marketers to understand.

Mike asked me to collect my favorite or “top posts” pertaining to local this year. That’s very hard to do. Instead, I’ve selected several articles and posts that capture what I think are important issues or developments in the local space from the past 12 months.

I don’t present them in order of importance; this is more like stream of consciousness:

Local Listing Ads: A New, Simplified Ad Unit For Local Business

Google has tried for a long time to find a way to sell directly into the small business market. In the recent past it has relied on a reseller strategy. Now it’s making a bigger direct push with Local Listing Ads and Place Pages. These flat-fee, no keyword ads could be a breakthrough product for Google with SMBs. We don’t know yet.

Link: Google creates a new simplified ad unit for local business

Local Results without a Geo-Modifier

In March, 2009 Google started showing local results (map + 10, then) in categories where there was no geographic modifier. This move was a reflection of what Google had been observing for several years: consumers often don’t include a geo-modifier in a query when they have a “local intent.” Yahoo later followed suit.

Link: Google Maps now showing local 10 pack on broad non geo phrase searches/

Location Everywhere: the Twitter GeoAPI

Twitter released deeper support for geo in August with an API that will enable developers to associate any Tweet with a lat-long. Twitter later bought MixerLabs, which had its own GeoAPI. Facebook has also been working on something more elaborate with location around status updates. It may also be preparing to release its own location API. The larger point is that most content and almost all user-generated content will soon be associated with location, unlocking many interesting possibilities for the PC and, more specifically, mobile users.

Link: Location Location Location

Local Search Ranking Factors Part II

I didn’t participate in this survey but many of the best local SEO folks did, including Mike. The David Mihm coordinated project is a must read guide for any practitioner trying to figure out how to get maximum exposure in Google local results.

Another important post from David Mihm, which led to an extensive debate on a couple of blogs was his Be Wary Of Call Tracking Numbers In Local Search

Link: Local search ranking factors

Link: Be wary of call tracking numbers in local search

TeleAtlas Gets the Boot; Google Goes It Alone

Deciding that mapping was so strategic that it wanted to own the entire value chain, Google fired its mapping data provider TeleAtlas and now uses its own internal resources for Maps data. This is a big, if obscure, story and Mike wrote a good post about it last year.

Link: Google replaces TeleAtlas data in US with Google data

RX for the Yellow Pages

Chris Silver Smith wrote two significant posts about the yellow pages. One discussed how yellow pages directories and other local publishers were getting squeezed off the first page of Google SERPs because of the greater frequency of the Map’s appearance. He also offered 10 prescriptions to “save the yellow pages.”

Link: Brave new world for Yellow Pages – Google nabs marketshare & strangles local directories

Link: What can save Yellow Pages industry

SMBs and the ‘New Local Product Suite’

Marchex unveiled a powerful reputation management tool for SMBs this year (the first of more to come), reflecting the growing importance of social media and the challenges of dealing with it at the local/SMB level. Related to reputation management is a broader portfolio of tools and services that address the cluster of local business needs in the local space. I called this the “new local product suite.”

Link: Marchex releases powerful SMB reputation management tool with search inside

Link: The local product suite now in focus

Mobile & Local

I end as I began with mobile. Any number of posts and articles could go in this category. Mobile is an absolutely huge story, only getting bigger. And local is central to the entire mobile user experience. Google has been remarkable is adapting to the changing marketplace and the advent of the smartphone camera as a search tool. Google Goggles and “augmented reality” are examples of new ways that “local search” on mobile devices is evolving away from the PC model.

Link: Google visual search – Augemented Reality 1.5 and beyond

Link: Augmented reality is also a form of search

Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker got everyone’s attention late last year when she proclaimed (as others had before her) that the mobile Internet would be at least 2X the PC Internet. Since that time Gartner has said that the mobile Internet will be larger than the PC Internet, on a global basis, by as soon as 2013.

Link: Morgan: Mobile Internet to Be 2X the PC Internet

No doubt there are omissions here, maybe even significant ones. Seb Provencher, for example, has written quite a bit about the convergence of local and social and I agree with him. The so-called real-time Web will also have its local angle.

Regardless, I think this year we saw a lot more people wake up to the importance of location and the connection between the Internet and the offline world.

Google Maps Adds Events to Places Pages

Update: Here is Google’s LatLong Post on the new feature: Make Google Place Pages your business’ megaphone

A nod to the Tenacious Frog for first spotting this one….Google Maps is now integrating events and the opportunity to display time sensitive information into your Places Page. Businesses can now add events, specials & time sensitive activities to their listing

The information immediately updates the business’s Places Page in real time:

Claerly Google has long had an interest in gathering additional and more granular information at a local level. The ability to create local event information is a feature that Google has included in their Map Maker for some time. The implications of this move are not yet clear.

For this to have an impact and generate significant interest on the part of SMBs, the information has to be visible and actionable. If it is buried like the Coupons, after an initial trial, most businesses will move to other means of announcing events. Currently the information is only visible from within a business’s Places Page. It is not visible from the 7-Pack, the business Onebox, the List view with Maps nor from the top level view within mobile. Since Places Pages are not currently in the index and exist at least two clicks away from the main search results, the information as it is currently displayed will not get much exposure.

Unless Google pushes this data to a more visible level, it will languish in the nether lands of Maps, away from public visibility and will quickly fall from favor. An API would be the ideal compliment to this information as would a mobile app that allows a user to see the what, when and where of these events.

Google has a strong incentive and the power to incent businesses at the local level to share this information. If it is shared and is actively displayed it could alter the playing field for event promotion but if it ends up like coupons it will have little if any affect.

GetListed.org Local University Inaugural Event in Spokane

As you know, I think that all searches, like politics, are local. Knowledge should be as well.

There is a huge disconect between what is happening in “local” and many of the businesses on the street that really need to leverage the possibilities for marketing that come from that knowledge. We hope that Getlisted.org Local University can start to fill that gap.

Our first event is scheduled in Spokane, Wa. for February 4th. The event, with a choice of morning or afternoon session, is targeted to businesses that are beginning to explore the possibilities of online marketing. It will be jammed full of information with presentations from David Mihm, Matt McGee, Mary Bowling, Ed Reese of Spokane, Ari Bezman & Ryan Howard of Google and myself.

The seminar costs $129, but you can use the coupon code “mb2010″ to register for only $79. (I am hoping to gather more sign ups than either David or Matt 🙂 ) There are only 100 seats in each session.

A little background on the Local University…
Continue reading GetListed.org Local University Inaugural Event in Spokane

Google Maps partners with eFax to Promote Local Business Center

Since early summer, Google Maps has been actively promoting the Local Business Center to SMBs. This is a positive development as the LBC needs relatively high adoption to truly succeed and provide the promised benefits. Until this summer, Google was all too quiet about its existence. There have been a number of relatively high profile activities that Google has embarqed upon to promote the LBC of late:

-The initial rollout of the Places campaign in large metro areas in July
-The Favorite Places posters to 190,000 businesses in December
-Their appearance at the National Retail Federation Big Show in NYC this week
-Their sponsorship of the newly announced Getlisted.org Local University seminar series*

Taylor Cimala of Digital Third Coast recently alerted me to a new LBC marketing effort, noting this email he received as a result of Google’s partnering with eFax to promote the LBC:

Continue reading Google Maps partners with eFax to Promote Local Business Center

Semmy’s: Honoring Search Articles from 2009

The Matt McGee‘s annual Semmy Awards have been announced and 3 of my articles published this year have been nominated. My thanks go out to Matt (and his many minions) for all of his effort in recognizing the many great articles from throughout the year. It is a monumental task to track, collate and order the content. Its an honor & pleasure to have these articles included in the process.

In the Analytics category, Martijn Beijik’s excellant piece tracking the results of a 7-pack placement was nominated:

Tracking Local search Traffic with Analytics

In the Local Search category my article explaining one of Google’s patents was given the nod:

What is Location Prominence?

And in the Google Category, my article about Google’s approach to creating business listings was annointed:

Google Maps, Small Business & Society – who’s crazy?

Loci2009: Gib Olander’s Important Trends and Directions in Local

So not all of these posts were explicitly about local but I think they all discuss leading trends and toward solving problems that local is dealing with or will be dealing with in the near future.

Here are eight posts from 2009 that sum up the year and point toward where we are going in 2010.

1) Battlelle sums up a trend early in the year (March 2009) that made me think about the importance of social media as a traffic source, and there have been several other articles about this topic since, but this particular article captures the reality of the change taking place. I think the implications for local are still playing out, but it’s a trend that will impact local in 2010.

The Conversation Is Shifting

2) Danny Sullivan has been all over the newspaper/Google conversation and back in April 2009 I ran across this article on his personal blog. Again, this isn’t exactly local and the authors opinions are his own and not necessarily mine or my company’s, but I think it’s interesting to see how newspapers are struggling to monetize their content and I think that concept will impact local more in 2010.

Google’s Love For Newspapers & How Little They Appreciate It

3) Sebastien Provencher always has great thoughts, plus I am a huge Gladwell fan, so this is a natural for me. Social and local remind me of those 1980’s REESES PEANUT BUTTER CUPS COMMERCIAL’s Hey! you got peanut butter on my chocolate, Hey! you got chocolate on my peanut butter. Most of your social network is relevant to where you are, and where you are is your location or something like that. Anyway, Sebastien clearly frames the opportunity here in April 2009.

Malcolm Gladwell: “Re-Framing” the Yellow Pages Industry

4) Greg Sterling, as always gives everyone in the industry a compass to follow. I found this recap of all the iPhone apps important not only because it was informative but sort of shocking to see just how many local apps already had some success by mid-year 2009.

Survey of Local Apps for the iPhone

5) Mike you gave us this terrific illustration of the proliferation of locksmith spam in February 2009 and it has increased the profile of claiming your business listing, stunning at the time and has led to significant change in the industry.

Google Maps Proves More Locksmiths in NYC than Cabs

6) David Mihm’s – thoughts on categorizations – he touches on many of the interesting and difficult questions concerning business listings today.

Thoughts On Categorization In Local Search

7) Of the things I wrote this year, this one summarizes the core concepts that the aforementioned trends, articles and posts led me to think about: Business Owners: Are You Sabotaging Your Own Local Listings? The key concept is that a business location’s information can be accessed, shared, researched, judged from so many different places, platforms and applications that a SMB needs to establish an anchor and from my perspective that anchor should be a well defined, consistent representation of your NAP (name, address phone).

Enjoy 2010. As a former boss Jeff Herzog from iCrossing used to say, “search will be everywhere”. I think that’s becoming more and more true and as Greg Sterling points out in his post: Location Will Be Everywhere, local search just might be everywhere by the end of 2010….

Gib Olander’s bio….
Continue reading Loci2009: Gib Olander’s Important Trends and Directions in Local

Developing Knowledge about Local Search