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?

This season has been temporarily interrupted to bring you this important announcement:

Upstate NY is known for its roast beef on wick, salt rising bread and its colorful display of fall foliage. Some here think that the fall leaves are as good as or even surpass Vermont for beauty.

The peak season for viewing this annual pageant is usually the few days before and after the long Columbus Day weekend.

However, this year the colors have suddenly been somewhat muted by…. Continue reading This season has been temporarily interrupted to bring you this important announcement:

Local Listing Ads: When do the Blue Pins Show on the Map?

Update 10/21: According to Joel Headley of Google: The blue pin is there – it’s just hiding behind the “D” marker.

My curiosity was piqued when I noticed that the blue pins for some Local Listing Ads were not showing on the Local Lucky 7- Pack Map.
Listing-ad-San-Diego

So what was up? Continue reading Local Listing Ads: When do the Blue Pins Show on the Map?

Local Listing Ads Using Call Tracking with Google Voice

This morning, I was looking at a screen shot of a dentist that had both Adwords and a Local listing ad. It was obvious that the later was using a call tracking number. I was thinking that it must be a Google Voice number but I had no way to confirm.
local-Listing-Ad

Well, this afternoon in Google Q3 conference call my question was answered: All the calls generated via Local Listing Ads “go through Google Voice” (i.e., call tracking).

I am curious, will the client be able to retain use of the Google Voice phone number after their advertising ceases? Will the SMB be required to set up and configure a Google Voice account or will it just be a Voice number with none of the trappings? Does it have a simplified interface as well and can the SMB “pick” their phone number?

Additionally, SVP of product Jonathan Rosenberg spoke at some length about Maps and noted: “Everything is finally in place to enable small businesses to connect with customers online”.

In a related observation, this particular iteration of the Local Listing Ad display, shows the Blue Pin placed next to the ad but it was not showing on the Map. Continue reading Local Listing Ads Using Call Tracking with Google Voice

Google Maps Adds UGC Feedback to Front Page Display of the OneBox

Whether this upgrade to the display of the Authoritative OneBox is a test or permanent is not yet clear but Google is now offering up to the searcher the ability to confirm the accuracy of a businesses listing information.
OneBox-1

OneBox-2

It is not clear how this information will be used by Google as the option is available on both claimed and unclaimed listings. What level of trust will be placed in this information? Will listings be pulled if too many people contest the accuracy? Will the LBC owner of a listing be notified of the notation?

There are usability issues with the new capability. As one reader pointed out to me

Also, the phrasing is ambiguous…the call to action is, “Is this accurate?”, but yet when you click on it, it reads “This address, phone number, map or business info is not accurate. Confirm. Cancel.” Not sure why it reads ‘not accurate’. Either they should remove the word ‘not’, and follow with ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Cancel’ – OR, change the call to action to read “Is this inaccurate?”

These Google product folks need to brush up on their User Experience skills.

Tectonic Shifts Altering The Terrain At Google Maps- an Interview with Mike Dobson

Of the many new features in Google Maps of late, none seemed more important than the recent change in underlying data providers and Google taking over these tasks themselves. This change shows in Maps visually with the inclusion of new land & property parcel data, the change of the copyright message in US maps and a new 30 days to fix, “Report an Error” capability easily accessible from within Maps. These changes were significant in their own right.

However, they also carry with them a mirror of all the technological, competitive and societal dynamics associated with the rising importance of geo-spatial data in our lives. And of course, with that, the continuing rise of Google to dominance in gathering and managing these critical foundational data. It is this change that so intrigued me.

You can “read all about it” in a new piece at SearchEnginland, Tectonic Shifts Altering The Terrain At Google Maps, where I interview Mike Dobson of TeleMapics, a mapping industry veteran.

The bottom line? Google is succeeding in mapping the planet. This information, gathered in a range of different ways, is enhanced, in typical Google fashion, by users the world over. The article explores both the technical basis for these technologies and the competitive implications of Google’s moves.

Geospatial information is the building block for the whole next generation of user experience from smart phones to virtual reality. Hopefully the interview will help you form an understanding of this important technology. I know that it did for me.

Let me know what you think.

Google Maps: Six reasons why your listing might “go South” & some tips to cope

It has been a time of great change in Google Maps with new technology and processes rolling out at a torrid pace. Part of that change has apparently resulted in some shakeups in the rankings. I have received a number of inquiries as to why a certain listing has dropped or disappeared from view in the Local One Box  or Maps.

It is the kind of query that requires some study and reflection and usually can’t be answered in a Twitter stream nor as a comment in the blog. Minimally it requires an in-depth contextual understanding of the listing, its history and the exact nature of the problem.

That being said here are 6 possibilities that I consider when looking at a record that has “gone south”…. Continue reading Google Maps: Six reasons why your listing might “go South” & some tips to cope

Flagged Waiting for Content Check Redux

Now that the message “System Error – We’re sorry, but we are unable to serve your request at this time. Please try back in a few minutes.” has ridden into the sunset (does that seem to be a too terribly clichèd metaphor?) I can focus on my second least favorite error message in the world (yes the world not just the LBC). It appears on a business listing in the LBC for using abusive, sexist and racist words and occasionally it seems to appear just for fun: Flagged – Waiting for Content Check.

When you parse the message grammatically is has two major components:
1-Flagged
2-Waiting for content check

Lets deal with the second part first. While not as misleading as “Please try back in a few minutes.” (which essentially meant never) it is not particularly reflective of any known reality. Given that the LBC is algo based and customer service is virtually nonexistent, it is not clear, when or if, a content check will ever occur as part of some on-going listing approval process. I have heard of one (yes one) patient soul who finally had his flag checked after 6 months.

The only others that I know to have ever been checked in the forums were highlighted by forum top contributors (i.e. me) and specifically pointed out to the forum staff. They usually required a few pings and followup as well. So it is safe to say that “Waiting for Content Check” is a bit of a misnomer and not a welled oil approval machine.

So when your listing is Flagged, the best bet is to buckle down and follow the brute force method outlined previously. It can help point out some interesting (for example you can’t use the word Google anywhere in the listing even if you have a Google Sites website ) and humorous (a scaffolding company was prevented from using the word erection) specifics.

Sometimes though even the brute force method does not clarify the problem. I recently ran into a case of John, the LASIK Surgeon, who was struggling to get his listing unflagged. I knew that the LBC did not like too many caps so I suggested that he remove them from his listing. He claimed to have done so. Even so his listing remained Flagged. As a top contributor I alerted Google who intervened and yet it still it remained flagged. He desperately and persistently posted again. How many folks just give up?

He assumed that just because Google offered up the primary category “LASIK Surgeon” as a choice that it wouldn’t trigger the dreaded message if he was so bold as to actually choose it as his category. He also didn’t understand that, while it might be the trigger, he could override the default category with a custom category like “Lasik Surgeon”. But trigger the message it did and override he didn’t. After numerous struggles, he succeeded in getting his listing approved.

OK, I understand that Google perceives a need for secrecy in what causes a flagging, otherwise the listings would more quickly descend into pornography or worse as the scammers carefully studied which “nasty” words that Google had forgotten to flag and tested which ones brought more clients.

Perhaps though the message should read: “Flagged – Guess what the problem is if you can….Mhahaha”…or “Flagged – you are the 3,734 lister in queue. Estimated time to content check 167 days”.

Besides refining the message, would it not make sense to be sure that default categories not trigger the problem? And if they are going to offer up the possibility of a content check, could they not offer up a meaningful timeframe?

Visitation Stats Showing Gains for Chrome and Severe Share Loss for IE Amongst the Local Crowd

I know that I have a skewed readership (in more ways than one…). As my programmer said to me: “Wow. Go IE! Go far, far away!”

It appears that Local Geeks don’t use IE but I still find these browser stats telling none the less as I like to think of us the “vanguard”:

1.

Firefox

September 12, 2009 – October 12, 2009

9,974

48.20%

August 12, 2009 – September 11, 2009

6,795

49.10%

2.

Internet Explorer

September 12, 2009 – October 12, 2009

6,002

29.00%

August 12, 2009 – September 11, 2009

4,536

32.77%

3.

Chrome

September 12, 2009 – October 12, 2009

2,479

11.98%

August 12, 2009 – September 11, 2009

1,230

8.89%

4.

Safari

September 12, 2009 – October 12, 2009

1,792

8.66%

August 12, 2009 – September 11, 2009

1,001

7.23%

5.

Opera

September 12, 2009 – October 12, 2009

211

1.02%

August 12, 2009 – September 11, 2009

140

1.01%

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