Local Links of Interest

Adwords Appearing for Competitors in Embedded Maps – Martijn Beijk, martijnbeijk.com

Martijn points out that embedded Google Maps on your website could very well now include Adword ads to your competitor’s website. I presume that this is part of Google effort to push more ads out of late but their appearance on embedded Maps seems inappropriate.

In Lean Times, Online Coupons Are Catching On – Claire Miller, NY Times

Have on-line coupons finally caught on? The NY Times seems to think so. I wonder if Google ever will.

Write a Bad Review … Get Sued – Matt McGee, smallbusinesssem.com

Consumerist today tells the story of Chris Norberg, a guy who left a negative review on Yelp about Dr. Steven Biegel, a chiropractor in San Francisco.

It looks like Norberg deleted his negative review from Yelp after getting some kind of cease and desist letter from Biegel’s attorney, but Norberg did leave this review/comment on Biegel’s business listing summarizing some of his complaints and explaining why the original review is gone.

Google Maps Redesign allows easier reporting of inappropriate Streetviews

The recent StreetView upgrade to Google Maps to more closely resemble the functionality of Streetview on the iPhone, has also improved the ability to report inappropriate Streetview scenes. In the Google Support Groups for Maps, the invasive StreetView scenes were a common complaint.

The link from StreetView takes the user to an interactive form that allows for a detailed complaint to be filed and a precise location in StreetView to be identified:

Privacy concerns with StreetView have been common and at least one German city has claimed that they will deny Google permission to take StreetView images. I wonder if this improved complaint capability is a (minimal) response to these concerns?

The form expands and allows selection of a number of specific concerns related to the above categories:
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Google Updates Google Maps API TOS to calm the storm in Great Britain?

With Google’s last upgrade to the API TOS on November 12th, a storm of protest and complaint was unleashed in Great Britain. The Ordnance Survey had essentially pulled all of their publicly available data from use with Google Maps due to the TOS and the Guardian and BBC jumped into the fray on each side of the fray. Some API developers suggested the need to pull down their Mashups.

Google has released a new Maps API TOS this evening that appears to deal with the problems. Here is Google’s take from the Google Geo Developer Blog:

That format change appears to have called attention to the “License From You to Google” – section 11 in the November 12th update. That content license has always been part of the Google Maps API Terms of Service, because it is contained in the Google Terms of Service. Both the original and the November 12th updated Terms of Service relied on that provision to ensure Google received a sufficient content license to provide the Maps API service and to promote the service, including by highlighting excellent mashups as we did here. That section does not provide Google a license to all of the content on your Maps API site to use for any purpose, nor is that how we have treated the content from existing Maps API sites that were developed under the terms that existed prior to the November 12th update. Section 11(b), which we initially included in the November 12th update, created a lot of confusion among our API developers who are publishing licensed content. In 11(b) we were trying to be clear that we wanted a broader license from Maps API developers for use of business listings information. However, given the confusion that resulted, we removed that language from today’s revision of the terms.

Here is the new section 11:

11.1 Content License. Google claims no ownership over Your Content, and You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Your Content. By submitting, posting or displaying Your Content in the Service, you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute Your Content through the Service and as search results through Google Services. This license is solely for the purpose of enabling Google to operate the Service, to promote the Service (including through public presentations), and to index and serve such content as search results through Google Services. If you are unable or unwilling to provide such a license to Your Content, please see the FAQ for information on configuring your Maps API Implementation to opt out.

11.2 Brand Features License. You grant to Google a nontransferable, nonexclusive license during the Term to use Your Brand Features to advertise that you are using the Service.

11.3 Authority to Grant Licenses. You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above licenses.

It seems to clearly delineate that Google DOES NOT HAVE a perpetual license to the data and should, if I understand the bulk of the conflict, ease the Ordnance Survey’s concerns. That being said it still requires that map creator have a license to the content. Barry Hunter of nearby.org.uk and a map developer, noted to me in an email that it doesn’t solve his problems with the Nov 12 update:

My initial reaction is – good but not far enough. It might quell the OS’es issue with it – not sure. But pretty sure it doesnt quell mine.

The main issue to me (and perhaps the Os) is that Google wants a specific licence to the content – I am still unable to give that in the case of the mashups on nearby.org.uk and geograph.org.uk . Its not my data so how do i give google a licence to it?

Although the wording does more specifically say *your content* which might be a get out, if i dot have any content of my own – its all third party – then I dont give a licence to it.

From where I sit, this last issues of guaranteeing to Google that you have the license is a CYA tactic on their part to avoid YouTube like lawsuits as it allows Google to push any copyright issues back down to the Map developer.

MapQuest: “We’ve Come Out Of Hibernation”

I have recently had an extensive interview with Mark Law, VP of Development & Mark Law, Vice President of Product Development and Christian Dwyer, Senior Vice President & General Manager, at MapQuest, Inc, It is now published at SearchEngineLand: MapQuest: “We’ve Come Out Of Hibernation”

Mapquest, the long time leader in mapping has been on a recent upgrade warpath as it were. They have added a number of new features all the while attempting to keep their very loyal user base happy. Do they have what it takes to make it a competitive race in Maps and Local? Let me know what you think.

Search Trends for Mapquest & Google Maps –

Many folks in the search marketing world, myself included, have noted that, in most Hitwise reports on Map usage, Google Maps was gaining on on Mapquest and would soon surpass them in user visits. In a recent interview (soon to be published at SEL) I asked Mark Law what he would say about the Hitwise reports of Google Map’s market share gains?

Mark: We see Google Maps in many ways an endpoint of a Search query and because of that, their growth is inherent to their business.  The people that come to MapQuest are here for the explicit purpose of finding Where is it, How do I get there and What’s nearby.  Google Maps may be gaining ground in terms of UVs but our user engagement and value proposition is very different than Google Maps.  Visitors to MapQuest are far more engaged as we’re actually a destination website.  

Consumers actively look and search for MapQuest.  In fact, MapQuest is the 8th most searched term, according to Hitwise.  Google Maps is 57th.

MapQuest also has a deeper level of User engagement as demonstrated by 113% more pages viewed per visitor per month than Google maps and visitors spending 78% more minutes (13.8 compared to 7.8 minutes) on MapQuest verses Google Maps. 

I was curious about his response and wanted to explore the idea of what people were in fact searching for and did the trends bear out Mark’s optimism. Google Trends, while not a perfect source for data, seemed a reasonable source of the information and a good proxy for user intent if not action.

It appears that in North America, Mapquest is very strong and has not given an inch to Google Maps on the search front. World wide that doesn’t appear to be the case. The following chart was generated in Google Trends using the branded phrases: Mapquest, Map Quest, Google Maps and the more generic phrase: Maps.

Search Trends – Mapquest, Map Quest, Google Maps and Maps – US Only

This search seems to reflect the fact that Mapquest has very strong brand equity and loyatly in the U.S. The chart for Canada shows very similar trends. The trends for the phrases Mapquest & Map Quest, have shown consistent strength and even some upward direction over the past 4 years. The search on Google Maps, after the initial spike, has not had a dramatic upswing and does appear to be moving in a direction to overtake Mapquest.

The charts worldwide however show a dramatically different trend that very much mirrors the Hitwise charts.

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iPhone users now see a mobile optimized blog


I recently looked back at my Google Analytics to get a sense of mobile traffic and saw the beginnings of mobile access. This chart, created to correspond with major iPhone rollouts, shows that iPhone usage, while still only .5% of my traffic, is on a healthy upswing.

While the iPhone could view my blog reasonably well, it seemed to make sense to optimize their experience. That is even more true for the Window’s Mobile users and other mobile devices attempting to visit. Frank Fuchsrecently suggested the MobilePress plugin as an easy way to deal with both.

It couldn’t have been easier to install and configure and it seems to work well. I viewed it from an friend’s iPhone and the default design was functional and fast if not pretty. It does allow for easy access and configuration of custom mobile themes as well.

If you have tried viewing this blog with either the iPhone or Windows Mobile, I would love to hear your feedback on MobilePress and your thoughts on providing a different interface to mobile users.

Google Voice Search: A distinctly American voice

Over the weekend, I downloaded and demonstrated Google’s new Voice Search and StreetViews to my friends that have iPhones. The Streetview feature (once I found which icon to tap) is incredibly fast and functional, much more so than on my aging PowerBook 12″ laptop.

The Voice Search worked very well for me with a 95% success rate on searches. I was careful to remove any extraneous words from the search and use a cadence that I had perfected with Goog-411. Friends and family were seeing 60-70% success rates so it appears that some mutual training needs to take place.

Apparently though, if you are British, there is a slim to none chance that the Voice Search will return a meaningful result. According the Telegraph (via Local Mobile Search):

Here’s a formal statement posted on Local Mobile Search that Google offered regarding why the voice search app has trouble with British accents:

The acoustic model for Voice Search was trained, in part, by using data from GOOG-411 which has only launched broadly in the US. Since the acoustic model was trained using mostly American accents, the tool currently works best when receiving queries with American accents. While you can still download the Google Mobile App and turn on the Voice Search here, we’ve turned off the voice functionality by default when the app is downloaded from anywhere outside of the US. We don’t have any specific launches to announce at this time, but we think this is exciting new technology and the speech recognition and understanding will only get better for other accents and jargon as we keep working on it

Maps in times of trouble

Internet usage in general, goes up during disasters. A large number of internet searches quickly follow catastrophes and major world events. Google, for example, reported that searches for news-related sites increased 60 times over normal levels on September 11. The London bombings in July 2005 showed a similar search peak according to the Google Zeitgeist for 2005.

In Google Trends there appears to be similar peaks in maps searches during these crises as well. It is probably safe to infer that there was dramatically increased map usage as well when the catastrophe was location based.

Search: London Map, Paris Map

Search: Madrid Map

The peaks are very short lived, lasting one or the most two days:

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Google fixing lost “saved locations” problem in Maps

There have been numerous reports in the Google Maps Troubleshooting Group over the past few days of missing locations in Maps. Here’s Sparky description the problem:

I’m an avid user of Google Maps, and have between 50 and 100 saved locations, that auto-complete when I type in the search box, in addition to being able to edit them using the arrow link to the right of the search box. 

As late as last Friday the 7th of November, I was using my saved locations to get directions, etc.  This evening, I clicked a “Map This” link from GMail to add another saved location, and it was the only one present in the list.  I was using Firefox 3 at the time, and have since closed out, and signed back in, both with Firefox 3 and IE 6, but much to my dismay, the only location available is the one that I just clicked on from the e-mail.  My default location is no longer set, and none of the old ones appear, even when using the “Edit Saved Locations” link by the search box. Also, the “Save locations automatically” box is still, and always has been, checked for me. 

Google has acknowledged the problem and promised a fix in an email sent this morning by Maps Guide Mike:

We’re currently fixing a problem that has caused some people to lose
access to their saved locations (addressbook) data. The data should be
accessible again shortly – our sincere apologies for this outage.

Microsoft Azure catches Google’s PlusBox Blues

Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing initiative, is at the moment vaporware, more ideas and flows charts than a product. Perhaps the reason for its yet unfinished status is that the office is but a corner table at a cafe in Freeport, ME.

Or at least according to the Google PlusBox, that is the case. When you  search for Microsoft Azure on Google, the PlusBox for the Microsoft Azure Website takes you to the Azure Cafe, near the L.L. Bean store. It may be terrible for Microsoft’s productivity but it is great for morale and lunch breaks are a snap!

Reader Maarten Oosterink caught this example of Google’s mistake in their PlusBox assignments and pointed it out to me. As I told Maarten, the PlusBox is a weird beast algorithmically. It predates the Local Business Center and relies on signals from across the web that Google uses to assign it to a search result, often times erroneously. This is great example of exactly how weird and error prone can at times be.

Fixing a erroneous PlusBox is no simple matter as Google offers no formal mechanism for correcting their mistaken assignment. Continue reading

Developing Knowledge about Local Search