Google Maps Navigation Demonstration: Why you won’t want to invest in TomTom

This video demonstrating Google Maps Navigation, the free Android 2.0 app from Google. It is clear that the days of the PND are numbered. On his blog, Alex Chitu points out a likely explanation for the recent release of this product: “In the past, this wasn’t possible [to offer turn by turn naviagtion] because of the licensing fees that had to be paid for each user of the navigation system. Now that Google no longer uses data from TeleAtlas in the US, turn-by-turn navigation can be added for free.”

Some features highlighted by TechCrunch:

Search in plain English. No need to know the address. You can type a business name (e.g. “starbucks”) or even a kind of a business (e.g. “thai restaurant”), just like you would on Google.

Search by voice. Speak your destination instead of typing (English only): “Navigate to the de Young Museum in San Francisco”.

Traffic view. An on-screen indicator glows green, yellow, or red based on the current traffic conditions along your route. A single touch on the indicator toggles a traffic view that shows the traffic ahead.

Search along route. Search for any kind of business along your route, or turn on popular layers such as gas stations, restaurants, or parking.

Satellite view. View your route overlaid on 3D satellite views with Google’s high-resolution aerial imagery.

Street View. Visualize turns overlaid on Google’s Street View imagery. Navigation automatically switches to Street View as you approach your destination.

Car dock mode. For certain devices, placing your phone in a car dock activates a special mode that makes it easy to use your device at arm’s length.

Here are Garmin and TomTom stock values on the day:

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Google Local Listing Ads; Report from Users

It has been a while since Google introduced Local Listing Ads and offered a limited test in the San Francisco and San Diego markets. I recently received this note from Tom O’Leary, who specializes in attorney marketing, with some observations about the program. He also put me in touch with two clients currently participating in the program; Brett Burlison, a personal injury attorney in San Francisco & Gali Gordon, a San Francisco immigration attorney.

Hi Mike. Tom here – Enjoy your blog. I wanted to send you a quick note about what I am seeing with the new Google Ads program.

I have two clients (law firms) in San Francisco that are participating in the new Google Local Ads program.

They are getting calls, but sometimes the calls are from potential clients looking for legal services that they do not provide.

For example, my two clients are set up for the following terms – Personal Injury Attorney and Immigration Attorney.

If you search for san francisco personal injury attorney, the result is spot on. I’ve seen no issues at all.

But if you search for san francisco immigration attorney, it appears Google is having some minor growing pains – although the issue has almost disappeared.

Over the past two weeks (for the immigration search term), I’ve seen not only one, two or three immigration attorneys, but occasionally a bankruptcy attorney that is participating in the program will show as well. I’ve also seen my injury client show up as well. But again, the result for the immigration search term is providing the correct result almost every time now.

Here is where the problem really is – doing a search for san francisco injury attorney (deleting the word personal) will usually show no injury attorneys. The only results I’ve seen are employment, bankruptcy, and immigration attorneys.

Here’s another – do a search for san francisco attorney. Again, it’s a mixed bag of law firms.

What do you think? No law firm has requested that search term so Google drops other law firm participants in the program in that spot?

Tom
www.the-attorneys-atm.com

Here are the additional questions that I put to Brett Burlison and Gali Gordon as conveyed and answered by Tom:

Me: Can you share any info about the pricing?
The Personal Injury Category is $70 a month with the first month free.
The Immigration Category is $50 a month and also had the first month free.

Can you have multiple Ads?
Only one Ad per Google Local Business Listing. One of the attorneys does have another Local Business Listing for another URL. He attempted to set up another Google Ad using that URL, but his application was rejected. Although he has multiple physical addresses, he used the same address for the already approved Ad. It took two days from the date of application to be rejected on the second Ad.

Were the ads placed in the narrower category for personal injury attorney or a broader category?
An extensive list of options are shown – but only one category was able to be chosen.

Can you create a custom category?
No “create your own” options were presented.

In the contract, did Google indicate how frequently they could raise the “fixed” price?
None were noticed – although we did not review the agreement in its entirety. We did not make a copy of the agreement.

Any idea if the GoogleVoice call tracking is optional?
It was not optional – An introduction from Google is made once the call is answered – then the caller is connected.

I also wonder if the call announce is optional: “this is a call from Google”
You are not given an option.

What questions would you ask of participants in the program? Do you have personal experience with the program that you could share?

GoogleVoice now allows use of an SMB’s primary phone number, is call tracking far behind?

Late yesterday, Google announced that GoogleVoice can now be used with an SMB’s existing phone number. This announcement, while noting the loss of several features as a result of this capability, removes the final barrier for many to SMB’s to move GoogleVoice.

This announcement also seems to insert Google forcefully and directly into the discussion over call tracking of business listings in Local. The time for reckoning is upon us in the debate on whether a call tracking number can and should be used for tracking the response to local listing placements.

As David Mihm has pointed out, there have been instances where Google effectively penalizes, or worse mischaracterizes, records that use multiple phone numbers for this purpose. Gib Olander of Localeze, one of Google’s primary data suppliers, has been a strong proponent of why you need to maintain integrity of your NAP (name, address & phone #) across the local ecosystem.

At Greg Sterling’s blog last week there was an interesting post by Bill Dinan of Telmetrics, clearly laying out the case for call tracking in Local. As I pointed out, while the goal is worthwhile, until such time as Google, working together with other industry leaders, develops a system to not penalize businesses using call tracking then it should not be used. Most folks involved with Local have first hand experience with this problem of listings loosing visibility, completely disappearing or worse.

Google, though, seems to be lobbing salvos at the call tracking industry. First by using Google Voice as a tracking mechanism in the Local Listing Ads and, once again today, by allowing GoogleVoice to used with an SMB’s existing phone numbers.

The new capability, announced late yesterday at the GoogleVoiceBlog, will provide every small business the final motivation to use Google Voice as an effective, free and powerful virtual PBX. This feature, in and of itself, will not cause problems with your Google local listing as it still uses your primary number.

However, it is not a huge step to envision Google provisioning additional numbers for your Local Listing Ads, your PPC ads, your website, your local listing, your YP placements and your local newspaper ads so that for the first time SMBs will be able to cheaply & effectively track every medium in play. Clearly, one of Google’s principal aims, has been to differentiate their advertising products with accountability.

Before that happens, Google, Localeze, InfoUSA, Bing, Yahoo, the major IYPS and directories need to establish a standard that allows call tracking numbers to be used while maintaining integrity of a business’s basic listing information.

I seem to be saying or thinking this just about every day but, the world of local just got a lot more interesting.

Merchant Circle: How are they profiting from your business name this week?

hotelsbycitylinks

Merchant Circle has made a fine art out of leveraging the very long tail of local search by returning results in the main Google SERPs on virtually every U.S. business’ trade name. They have carefully optimized their pages and link structure so as to be frequently highlighted in Google on “business name + locale” type searches. They are so good at getting these pages indexed and ranked that it can be used as a tactic to help a new business that needs exposure show up quickly in Google’s index.

They have, over the years, developed a number of models to profit from this form of search arbitrage, some less savory than others, some not very savory at all.

Their newest “tactic” seems to fall into the less savory category. Merchant Circle has apparently replaced the primary display number for many of the hotels in their US business listing index with an #800 for HotelsByCity.net. HotelsbyCity.net is a affliate model hotel booking site that is a member of Priceline’s Partner Network. Rob Mauer, Partner Relations Manager at Priceline, confirmed that this relationship was initiated by MC (that was just before he ended our phone conversation, go figure).

One presumes that Merchant Circle is getting their share of the 20-30% of the hotel reservation that HotelsbyCity.net receives. It is not exactly clear, exactly on how many hotels MC has added this number, but it appears to be most of them, and that is a very large number. Google unfortunately, stops displaying results at a thousand but shows a total of 84,900 for a search on this particular phone number.

It is not clear, if once a listing is claimed, the number is still replaced. It is does appear that the Hotel category is the main recipient of this affiliate “strategy”. I did not see it in the floral industry but it could very well be on listings in other industries.

Do you think that MC has the right, legal, ethical or otherwise, to replace a business’s phone number in their business directory with a number that provides them with a commission on every booking at the expense of the hotel?

Regardless, if you are hotel or represent a hotel, I would suggest that you head right over to Merchant Circle and claim your record.

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Google Places Pages & IE8 Display Bug

Apparently we are not the only web design firm that gets indigestion making pages compatible with the many versions Internet Explorer.

There are a number of reports (here, here, here, here) in the Google Maps forums detailing a display bug when viewing Google’s recently introduced Places pages in IE 8.

The bug, first identified & detailed in the forum by EHG, prevents a user from seeing some details of the listing. Apparently when viewed in Firefox and Chrome the information is able to be viewed.

GoDaddy Provides a Neighborhood Level GeoDomain Finder

GoDaddy has introduced an interesting geo-domain locator tool, GeoMapDomain, using Bing Maps for the backend. It provides an interesting way to find whether specific towns, villages or neighborhood domains and variations are available via a mapping interface.

From the Bing Blog post:
The GeoDomainMap takes your location input and finds nearby neighborhoods. Then, it takes your keywords and appends your keywords, sans white space, and creates a domain name. It then checks the GoDaddy database of available domain names and returns those that are available.

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Let the neighborhood domain gold rush begin!

What Would a Local SEM Do?

This tale of woe was posted anonymously to several threads yesterday. We have no way of knowing, given the poster’s intentional anonymity, the veracity of the post. She left no email address or other identifiable information. For all we know, the story is totally fabricated.

But if it were true, I am curious how you would have counseled this person if they had come to you at some point in the process.

Here’s “Out of Business’s” story in his/her own words and no editing:

Let me tell you a story of how Google local put me in debt. First we have to go back… 2 years ago, Google gave my Local Business listing the #1 place for my service and location. Today, I wished they never had and here’s why:
Continue reading What Would a Local SEM Do?

Google Maps: LBC Now Provides Direct Link to Business Listing

Barry at Search Engine Roundtable was the first to point out that Google has added a link to the Local Business Center that allows a business to locate the particular listing in the Maps index.

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It is a simple upgrade, that has long been requested, that hopefully will indicate to new listers and businesses unfamiliar with Maps how to find their listing once it has gone live. It will increase confidence levels amongst users and decrease postings in the forums.

The only question now, is, when the link leads to nowhere, how do you find where your listing went? I have recently seen/heard of cases where the listing is in fact missing in action and this link nor any other search seems capable of dragging it out of the index.

I was also curious as to the parsing of the URL that is generated by the link so I asked Barry Hunter, mapper extrodonaire….
Continue reading Google Maps: LBC Now Provides Direct Link to Business Listing

LBC: Canada & Australia Get Data Rich Dashboard

I heard yesterday that the Data Rich Dashboard in the Local Business Center was rolled out in Australia. Today it seems that it has finally made it to Canada as well.
Canada may very well be the last major industrialized nation to have gotten the dashboard although we have yet to hear from Denmark.

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Usually Canadians dance in the streets when a hockey team wins some sort of cup or another, but I hear that tonight Jim Rudnick and Joan Van Hilten will be joining Dev. 🙂

Hey keep it down up there! Some of us are trying to sleep.

Google Maps: Will We Ever See Sunrise?

Update 10/22 about dawn: Sunrise will occur at its regularly scheduled time and place today. Google has located the lost village of Sunrise Fl. Word is that champagne is being opened for breakfast. Mimosas are being served all around.

The say that it is always darkest hour just before the dawn. The seems particularly true for the businesses of Sunrise, Fl whose town seems to have been misplaced by Google for the second time in two years. As Sherry Tannozzini, owner of Flowers from the Rainflorist, noted in her blog: Google….the amazing search engine can find a gnat’s pahtootie in Mozambique but can’t keep two cities in Florida, located on opposite sides of the State and spelled differently in their right location.

Whenever a user searches for a business in Sunrise, FL, located on the east coast of Florida, the results are returned for businesses in Sarasota, Fl. which is on the west coast of Florida (Sunset, FL?).

The change, which was fixed at one time during the pre TeleAtlas times, seems to have reverted to bad data as a result of the recent Google Maps switch from use of TeleAtlas base map data to using their own.
sunrise-gone-wrong

The error was reported via the Google Maps Report An Error link and via the forums. It will be an interesting test to see how quickly Google is able to respond to serious Map errors.

In the Google Maps Report a Problem FAQ Google notes:

In some cases we might not be able to immediately confirm a solution to your problem. Please be patient. As more people tell us about the issue, we’ll have more information that we can use to verify the fix we need to make. Remember, if you sign in and let us know you want to be kept updated, we’ll keep you posted on any changes to the status of your issue.

I only have one question for the folks of Sunrise:
Are residents called Sunriseans?

I have one question for Google:
How exactly are towns misplaced?

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