Why Google has Trouble Getting it Right

I roundly criticized Google’s product (a less than fully functional Local Business Center) and their process (erratic and inconsistent customer support for same) in my post: Why the Google Local Business Center Fails. As is Google’s fashion in these matters when a complaint starts spreading across the internet, they very often solve the specific problem. Google has in fact responded and solved the posters problem that I spoke of.

Last night though, a poster to this blog, Steve, ripped into me for having an obvious anti-Google bias and eagerness to disparage that company. He also noted: you appear to have really jumped the gun in order to make a point. You strike me as a Google gadfly or a Google hater. (You can read his full comments here.)

I was somewhat shaken by the vitriol in the response and composed several answers before deciding to say nothing. I awoke at 2 am with his post still ringing in my ears. The response seemed disproportional and I decided to check, in WordPress, the poster IP address: Author : Steve (IP: 216.239.45.4 , 216-239-45-4.google.com) 

Last month, I called out MC in a post Merchant Circle has trouble getting it right where I noted that they had made stealth comments and I accused them of being tacky marketers. Well I guess, fair is fair. Obviously Steve doesn’t follow my blog so I will repeat my comment to MC almost verbatim:

My note to Merchant Circle Steve at Google:

You are welcome to come and discuss the issues in Local on my blog. You probably have a lot to contribute. But when you come, come as you are, don’t be skulking around. I can accept warts, I have a few myself. I just can’t abide you using my blog to surreptitiously promote your services berate me.

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Loci 2008: The year in Local from Michael Jensen’s Point of view

Michael Jensen- @mdjensen on Twitter, is co-founder of SoloSEO.com, an SEO toolset and project management platform.

Michael has a strong interest in local and mobile search, and blogs about Local Search and Local SEO. Michael is also behind LeaveFeedback.org, a free service for local businesses to help improve online customer feedback, customer reviews, and local search rankings.

One of Michael’s hobbies is developing Twitter tools such as LiveTwitting.com, TweetMarks.com, and TweetBeep.com. TweetBeep.com is like Google alerts for Twitter, and is a free service used by thousands of users for tracking conversations about you, your interests, your websites, your products, and your company. Since developing TweetBeep.com, Michael has consulted for both large and small companies in using search marketing and social media for online reputation management.

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How to Create Effective Local Business Landing Pages
by Dev Basu (@devbasu on Twitter)
Best practices for landing pages for local.

Some Yellow Pages Usage Data: Print v. IYP
by Andrew Shotland (@localseoguide on Twitter)

Bulk Update Your Yellow Pages Data or Pay Someone Else To Do It?
by Andrew Shotland (@localseoguide on Twitter)

IYP Reach in the US (according to Google)
Very awesome numbers that show who the big players are (City Search, YP, SuperPages, Yelp, Local and who’s not.

Search Engine Optimization Means Business
About a local DUI specialty practice employing online tactics to bring in tons of clients.

Local Search – How to Totally Own in Google (Notes and Slides)
A great list of things to do if you’re going to do local.

The “BCS” for Local Search Engine Optimization
by David Mihm (@davidmihm on Twitter)
David rocks, period. Another home run (or should I say touchdown).

3 Things Your Local Business Can Offer That the Internet Can’t
by Miriam at Solas Web Design
Thorough discussion on local businesses’ edge over Internet only stuff

How to Use Yahoo Local to Rank in Google Local and Vice-Versa
by Andrew Shotland (@localseoguide on Twitter)

Local SEO (Local Search) at Small Business Marketing Unleashed (Conference notes)
by Will Scott (@w2scott on Twitter)
Great notes, and everyone loves Will. Everyone should know Will.

Why Local Is Different (Notes from SES NY 2008)
by Lisa Barone (@lisabarone on Twitter)
A great read with some good nuggets in there. Pre-Webuildpages days for Lisa.

Why the Google Local Business Center Fails

Update: Be sure to readthe related article at SEO Igloo Blog » The Local New Year’s Resolution I Wish Eric Schmidt Would Make by Miriam Ellis.

Google Maps is marching towards dominance in the mapping world and the Universal Local results often generate traffic and  sales for those businesses able to achieve Local 10 Pack Status. It offers the promise of a single resource where a business could turn to achieve local marketing success.

Yet in so many ways the Local Business Center continues to fail in its promise and the possibilities remain unfulfilled.  It is still bug ridden, the interface & process is hard for most people to learn, and it seems to be a poor step child in the pantheon of Google products. Despite its importance in the marketing plans for many bricks and mortar business the LBC receives little in the way of upgrades and less in the way of support.

I think that most small, medium and large businesses with a local presence could forgive the technology failings if at the end of the day, there was some way to reach a human and get an answer to the sticky problems that often arise. Most would gladly pay to have a consistent, helping hand while Google works out the technical problems with the Center. Many businesses have come to depend on Google in general and the Local Business Center in particular and Google as a whole seems incapable of living up to the responsibility.

Here is a posting in the Google Maps Help Group: How Do I that encapsulates many of the frustrations heaped on one poor fellow tasked with the job of getting his local business listing squared away:
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Google Maps Support Groups Switching to New Platform

Google rolled out a new forum platform in early November with the intention of moving their support groups over to it. They have just announced the pending move of the Google Maps Help Group to the new environment. The Google Mobile Group moved to the new platform at the end of November. Here is the announcement from Maps Guide Adam:

Howdy folks,

We’re in the final stages of moving the Maps Help Group from Google Groups to a new platform that offers a number of features our users have requested. The Google Maps Help Group will be closed to posting once we’ve made the switch, but will still be available as an archive of all the great information you’ve shared.

Some of the features the new forum will provide:

– Question & answer format to help you find answers quickly – Public recognition of Top Contributors and frequent posters – Better spam detection and prevention

I’ll make sure to post another announcement as soon as the new forum launches, but wanted to give you all a heads up so that the change doesn’t take you completely by surprise.

Thanks in advance for your patience as we work to build a community in the new Google Maps Help Forum. We hope you’ll come visit and post often!

Maps Guide Adam

It was noted in November that the new forum  features include:

  • improved search results, including posts from current and new forums
  • the ability to designate especially helpful forum members as “Top Contributors”
  • a reputation and ranking system
  • the ability for users, Top Contributors and Googlers to mark questions as answered
  • easier access to Help Center content
  • expanded user profiles that highlight your forum activity

New Local Search News Site

Steve Espinosa, the world’s biggest Chicago White Sox fan, local search expert and a frequent speaker on Local at the many conferences, has just rolled out a new local search site called Local Search News. It will be an everything local site with both tactical and strategic information on Google Maps, Yahoo Local, Local SEO, Mobile and Local Search.

It looks to become a staple in the world of Local Search.

Would you get marriage counseling from this woman?

longest-names

A Local 10 Pack in Google Maps is a coveted position for any business. I am always fascinated by the lengths and lack of discretion (think Boob Job San Diego) in attempting to game the system. 

This listing though, has got to take the cake for best effort. Interestingly, she showed in at least 8 10 Packs for her 12 various activities.

 

rubberchicken

Fortunately she did not show up for either psychotherapist or marriage counselor with a 10 Pack. It is not clear to me that this would be the woman you want helping others to make those sorts of life decisions. Seems that it would take a touch more decisiveness.

I am not sure this is the longest business name in Maps but it sure must come close. Her business name has 210 characters. I wonder how she answers the phone?

So to start off the new year, I am offering any reader that submits a longer, more outrageous or more keyword stuffed business name that you find in Google Maps a very cool, Rubber Chicken Keychain that actually simulates laying an egg upon squeezing. There can be more than one winner and I will be the final judge of all entries. So act quickly so you don’t miss out on this demonstration of how Google manages to get us to modify our behaviors.

Loci 2008 – Andrew Shotland’s Top Articles in Local

Andrew Shotland runs Local SEO Guide, a local search engine optimization and web strategy consulting firm.  He has worked with some of the biggest and some of the smallest companies in the local search world. Andrew got his start in local seo when he was head of product & business development at InsiderPages where his biggest achievement was “losing two million monthly visitors overnight by screwing up the SEO”.  He is a regular speaker at the Kelsey Group conferences.  According to Andrew, his proudest SEO accomplishments are that he regularly ranks at the top in Google Image Search for “soup nazi” and “larry craig“.

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The more time I spend in local search the more I am convinced it’s not much different from non-local search. Sure there are maps and centroids and things like that, but that’s what I read your blog for Mike!

Most of the following posts are not local-specific, but they are all relevant to anyone considering local marketing on the Web.

How Important is Branding to Search Engine Marketing?
Aaron Wall, SEOBook

This is one of those simple ideas that Aaron blurts out every other day that crystallized something I had been messing around in my brain for a while. A quick read gives the impression that businesses with brands should spam the search engines because they can get away with it, but what it underscored for me was that any business, even a mom & pop, can redefine its brand through search.

Local Search Ranking Tactics
Steve Espinosa

Steve is a relatively new voice in local search and he quickly made a name for himself with this post. No philosophy or rantings, just a nice meat and potatoes approach to improving the local rankings for your pages by clever cross linking and use of other sites’ authority. Unfortunately Steve’s blog blew up a few days ago and the article no longer existed. Good thing I liked it so much when he published it that I basically ripped it off on my own blog (no self-promotion intended).

Small Business Reputation Management
Matt McGee, SmallBusinessSEM

Let’s face it, most small businesses are in the dark when it comes to online marketing. Matt’s post on why it’s important to keep an eye on your business’ online profile is effective in its simplicity. Most small guys are not going to take the time or spend the $ to do SEO or PPC right, but if you show them someone talking smack about them on Yelp, or show them that their contact info on a big Yellow pages site is out of date, they are going to want to do something about it.

Planet Chiropractic Blog
Michael Dourasch, Planet Chiropractic
Twitter: @chiropractic

Sometimes the best way to learn is to watch a star athlete do his thing. Mike is a Santa Monica chiropractor cum search/social media junkie who seems to live online. If you want to see want to see how a real small business guy who gets web marketing does it, you could do worse than to get all Web 2.0 with Mike.

Twitter: Ultimate Time Waster or Great Tool
Chris Winfield, 10e20

If you are hearing about this Twitter thing and how it might help your business, Chris’ presentation is one of the best around.

Twitter Case Study of a Commercial Non Big Brand
Rae Hoffman, Sugarrae.com

I love it when people show me step by step how it was done. I often refer to Rae’s post about how her company used Twitter to build up a non big brand’s brand. If you have a product or service that others need but don’t know about, this one should be pretty inspiring.

Bits of Destruction
Fred Wilson, AVC.com

I could have picked almost any post by Fred. He is great thinker and an even better writer. This is one of his latest on the “creative destruction” brought about by the information age. Every business, small and large, could benefit by thinking about the ideas he discusses here. Oh yeah, and the guy has great taste in music too.

Loci 2008 – Will Scott’s Best Articles of 2008 in Local

Will Scott of Search Influence, is a search marketer that focuses on helping SME’s in all aspects of traditional and local search. He has an extensive background in online local directories. He writes at his own blog, Website Promotion is Not Vodoo, and does guest appearances elsewhere. In the New Orleans tradition he is both a gentleman and (at least after I called him out) a scholar and is a great sounding board.  I can’t think of a better way to start off the new year than with Will’s great summary!

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Best of 2008 – Continuing Education in Local (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Blog)

I’m old and a little scatter-brained, so blogging doesn’t come easy for me. We can’t all be as young at heart as Mike :).

So just one quick caveat, obviously this list isn’t comprehensive. It represents who and what I read — who inform my understanding — and, to a great extent the work of my friends.

Search Influence has been in business since 2006 but 2008 is the year I realized there is a community of like-minded folks and engaged with that community.

I made an offhanded comment on Tim’s blog for which Mike called me out and the rest is history.

I had the good fortune to meet David and Alex at SES ’07 in San Jose and David has been kind enough to prod me from time to time.

No review of Local in ’08 would be complete without David’s seminal work “The Local Search Ranking Factors“.

So, David asks, I contribute — surely not as knowledgeably as some and it leads to one of the most valuable events I’ve attended: The SLOMO Local Search Sit Down as chronicled in David’s conference recap. Talk about some heavy hitters — the biggest names in Local Search around one table for the evening.

The Boys & Girl of Local Search

I’m still trying to figure out why those Utah boys were the tannest of the lot, but that’s another story altogether.

But before that, way back in April we sponsored SBMU where I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the one and only Matt McGee in person.

His presentation there is one of the most thorough reviews of local search I’ve ever seen. It could practically have been a survey course.

OK, so to a slightly more structured list: Continue reading

Loci 2008- Greg Sterling’s Significant Developments in Local in 2008

Greg Sterling is a widely respected industry consultant in Local, Local Search & Local Mobile. He writes prolifically at his blog, Screenwerk, Local Mobile Search and SearchEngineLand where is a contributing editor. He plays a significant role in organizing SMX Local and the local tracks at the other SMX conferences.
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I’m not a “search practitioner.” I write more about the “industry” and the business side of “local search,” among other aspects of online marketing. My perspective is therefore somewhat different than Mike’s other invited list-makers. There are lots of great tactical and advice pieces in the lists that David Mihm and Matt McGee presented.

I’m going to take a somewhat different approach here and mention posts (some by me) that identify important issues or broader developments in the segment.

But first, Local Search Ranking Factors and Mike’s own Cracking the Code are perhaps the two most significant local search marketing posts of the year.

In terms of developments, I would say that Google opening up Maps to community editing was also highly significant from several perspectives. But it brought with it numerous problems. Mike has thoroughly documented the challenges Google has encountered with mapspam and hijacking that have come in the wake of opening up Maps.

While the local segment isn’t synonymous with “small business,” small businesses continue to struggle with online marketing and search marketing in particular. This is a significant issue that will persist for some time to come.

The most popular post to date on my blog, from late 2007, is No Yelpers Says One Local Café. It points to the growing challenge of local user reviews and how to deal with them. Another popular and somewhat controversial post on my blog was The End of SMB Websites, which asked whether stand-alone websites are necessary or whether rich landing pages could more effectively do the job for small businesses.

Another significant event, that hasn’t quite happened yet, is the coming of precise location awareness to the browser and the OS. Chrome has it today and so will the next release of Firefox. Windows 7 the forthcoming successor to Vista will also employ various strategies to get at user location. This “baked in location” will eventually be meaningful for SEO and SEM – SEO in particular.

Interestingly nobody (so far) has said anything about mobile. Arguably mobile is the most significant thing that is happening right now in the local space. The iPhone has gotten everyone’s attention and made “mobile search” a reality. And though it’s still a somewhat “embryonic” segment, mobile will become of equal or greater importance to local over time.

This short piece I wrote for iMedia makes the case for mobile marketing and argues that mobile marketing today is somewhat analogous to search several years ago.

Happy New Year.

LoadedWeb.com Provides geo based blogging directory

For those of you that are suggesting hyperlocal blogging as a marketing strategy in the coming year, there is a new blog directory that tracks blogs by their location – LoadedWeb.com

The directory has over 1000 location based entries in over 500 cities with plans for expansion into the UK, Australia and New Zealand shortly and western Europe in January. There is clearly demand for geographic view of the world’s blogs

Here are some details from on their linking policy:

We have updated our Linking Policy: http://www.loadedweb.com/linking-policy.php. We are the first blog directory that uses dofollow. Provided you link back to LoadedWeb.com, we link to your blog and also your blog posts. As stated before, these blog posts appear on the state/province page, city page, tag pages, and on your own blog listing. The blog posts links are targeted as they use your post title. You can get linking HTML from here: http://www.loadedweb.com/linktous.php

Developing Knowledge about Local Search