PanzerMike receives year end pardon – allowed back into Maps

On May 7th of this year, Michael Ehline aka PanzerMike, an LA personal inury lawyer, was banned from Google Maps for spamming. It was the first known Google Maps banishment for Maspam and at the time there were neither listing guidelines nor a reinclusion procedure.

PanzerMike has now informed me, via email, that he has once again been allowed back into the index. It has been over 7 months since he was banned.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Google Help
Date: Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 11:10 AM
Subject: Re: [#341190868] Your Google Maps reinclusion request
To: “Law Offices of Michael P. Ehline, P.C.”

Hi Michael,

Thank you for your note. After reviewing your history, we’ve reactivated your Local Business Center account. Please note that you may need to re-add your listings at this time. We appreciate your patience and your taking the time to comply with our guidelines in the future.

Regards,
The Google Team

Find answers, ask questions, and share your expertise with others in the
Google Maps Help Group at http://groups.google.com/group/Google-Maps

Listing guidelines  and a reinclusion request were announced in September.
mapspamreports
It is not clear whether the quality of Maps’ business listing data has improved over the past 7 months. Since the thread to report Mapspam began, postings have averaged 38 per month in the group with a high in October of 50. There were only 21 in November and December has postings 32 month to date.

As David Mihm noted in his SearchEngineland review of the postings, not all of these reports are specific instances of Mapspam but the numbers might give a rough idea of the trend. I too am surprised at the relatively low & declining number of reports and wonder whether Google’s action have led to an improvement or it is just the relative obscurity of the reporting mechanism. Whether the lower number of reports in November and December actually reflect a long term trend in Mapspam reports is yet to be seen.

Do you think that PanzerMike’s banishment was appropriate? Have the Google’s listing and banishment policies improved the Maps index? Have their policies had an impact on the volume of Mapspam?

TomTom rolls out new mapping product, announces 5 millionth user edit

TomTom, owner of TeleAtlas, has rolled out a new web based (beta) mapping product and announced their 5 millionth user generated edit of the their map data. What does this mean long haul for Google?

Google’s growth over they years has been typically predicated on leveraging internal technology acquired through development (i.e. search) or purchase (i.e. YouTube). Google Maps is an exception in this story of growth as they don’t own the principal underlying mapping technology/data set needed to make it work in Europe and the U.S.
Continue reading

Merchant Circle has trouble getting it right

I have in the past criticized Merchant Circle’s marketing tactics. However, my recent interview with Chuck Bruce of Central Valley Vacuum and Sewing Center, allowed me to see them from the merchant’s point of view and, for a moment anyways, allowed me to see them in a different light. I figured that if they could make Chuck happy and help him in his retail struggle, they couldn’t be all bad, despite the many Merchant Circle complaints amongst search professionals. If Chuck said that they were a stand up company than who was I to proclaim otherwise. Maybe I just needed to adjust my point of view.

That attitude didn’t last long. I had re-judged them too soon. They are in fact tacky marketers. They have been actively posting stealth comments in my recent In The Trenches interview.

New comment on your post #1750 “In the Trenches: the reality of SMB Marketing- Bruce’s Sew Handy Interview”
Author : Local User (IP: 64.105.141.242 , mx.merchantcircle.com)
E-mail : tom.johnson64@yahoo.com
URL : http://www.merchantcircle.com/business/Bruces.Sew.Handy.559-641-7300
Whois : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=64.105.141.242
Comment:
182 Page Views a Month from the MerchantCircle listing. Clearly generating some traffic from there.

They didn’t just post once but have done so 3 times with three different identities. 

My note to Merchant Circle:

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.

Google’s StreetView hits Cow Country

When Google announced the “doubling” of Streetview coverage in the LatLong Blog a week ago, I didn’t think much about it. I presumed that it meant that they were now covering the top 100 metro markets instead of the top 50.

When I saw the StreetView of Devil’s Tower, I expanded my expectation to include well known tourist stops. I didn’t expand my expectations to include the rural hinterlands of the United States, including the low density cow country of upstate Western New York and NW Pa. I was wrong! 

They don’t cover just the city of Olean, a small rust belt town of 15,000 in rural upstate. The expanded Streetview covers  many of the small burgs on the lonely drive from Buffalo, NY to Dubois, Pa (pronounced Dew Boyz), and many of the back roads through Allegany State Park and into the Allegany National Forest.  My 10 minute drive into work along a rural ridge of the Allegany foothills is always a pleasure. I never expected to be able to share it with you.


View Larger Map

To see my daily commute, just head North (to the right) in the StreetView above.

In the Trenches: the reality of SMB Marketing- Bruce’s Sew Handy Interview

The Local Search Marketing industry is in its infancy. The following interview covers the good, the bad and the reality of SMB Marketing and how far there is still yet to go for SMB’s to take advantage of its power. 

Chuck Bruce of Bruce’s Sew Handy, caught my attention when he gave a testimonial for Merchant Circle in the November email newsletter that MC sent out. I was curious if he was for real or just another Merchant Circle marketing fabrication so I gave him a call. In the third week of November, we had an extensive conversation about his market, marketing strategies, his relationship with online local listing services and the tough economic times that he is suddenly confronting. To use one of Chuck’s phrases, he is a stand up guy.

Continue reading

The Cat that almost stole Christmas

In my never ending quest to ferret out interesting tidbits about Local Search, I receive a number of Google alerts. Their news algo is pretty good and turns up a number of things that I would otherwise miss and my life would be the poorer for. Occasionally it will turn up news stories that are outside my specific query but have some interest none the less. Here is one recent example: 
****
Google News Alert for: free 411

Owner: Bobcat that clawed Santa Claus rabies-free
Newsday – Long Island,NY,USA
AP An exotic cat that drew blood after biting a volunteer Santa Claus at a charity event in
Atlantic County has been vaccinated.
See all stories on this topic

****

It noted in the story that “the man playing the jolly elf said the cat named “Benny” appeared terrified because dogs were nearby at the Santa Paws photo event for an animal-rescue group in Hamilton Township.”

I am happy to report that Santa Claus IS NOT going to die due to Rabies and he will be making his appointed rounds albeit with a bandage on his arm and he may need some extra help.

Now what was that bobcat doing at a charity event? And why are rescued dogs being used in a publicity stunt? Weird times.

Google Business Group Survey – Not from Google

Update 12/11/08: Cathy has pointed out, and I believe correctly, that this survey is NOT from Google. 

If you were the “Lord Ruler of Google” what would you do to improve the local search results? In the Google Maps for Business Owners, Someone Google (NOT…this is my error …) has invited users for feedback on their Local business listing efforts. The survey, which is very short, is available here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=00w8nd9ZZr2HXyWmnsR_2fkA_3d_3d.

The survey had some interesting questions pertaining to the importance of business listing accuracy and spam. There were several questions that stood out (notice in the last one the question about paying for local):

Continue reading

SMB PPC Ad Spend Drop

Noa Gertin of Palore has recently completed some interesting research on SMB PPC ad spends. They looked at over 3000 SMBs who advertise online, on different websites, out of which they focused on 300 businesses who also advertised on search engines in the past 5 months. They filtered out nationwide chains and all SMBs with more than one office location and only looked at PPC advertising, not longer term advertising commitments. That not withstanding, the drop is significant.

Average Monthly Search Engine Ad spend

Their methodology does not allow one to extrapolate all SMB spending in all internet mediums but gives an idea of the rapid contraction in a certain sector of the advertising economy amongst a clientele (the one store operation) that can make these quick decisions. I would love to see a plot comparing these 300 with the other 2700 businesses that were surveyed to see the difference.

Google Maps: MyMaps Missing In Action – Google remains Quiet

Updated 12/10/2008 7:00 AM:Last night, Lior of the My Maps Team posted below that the problem has been fixed. Maps Guide Adam noted it as well yesterday mid afternoon. There was a sigh of relief in the groups that was audible even in western New York.

Today in the Google Maps Troubleshooting Group there were numerous complaints about serious problems with lost MyMaps.

Here is a sampling from today’s topics:

* Map missing ?? – 2 messages, 2 authors
* Problem Updating and Editing in My Maps – 2 messages, 2 authors
* My map has disappeared. HELP! – 3 messages, 3 authors
* TO GOOGLE MAPS — PLEASE UPDATE US ON THE VANISHING OF OUR WORK
* PLEASE HELP – MANY MONTHS OF WORK SEEM LOST – 2 messages, 2 authors
* Saved map gone! – 5 messages, 5 authors
* My Maps – Data Missing From My Custom Map – 1 messages, 1 author
* Google maps I created have disappeared – help! – 1 messages, 1 author
* My push pins went missing and I cannot save new ones! – 3 messages, 2 authors
* Sorry, we’re having technical difficulties. (Error code 22) – 1 messages, 1 author
* Any update on lost work?! – 1 messages, 1 author
* My Map data has disappeared – 1 messages, 1 author
* HELP! My custom Map Won’t Load – 1 messages, 1 author

Lots of folks have committed a great deal of work to Google MyMaps and now their work seems to be missing. The lack of communication from Google is leading to a strong sense of despair amongst MyMaps users. For a large, smart company, Google can act awfully dumb sometimes, particularly when confronted with this sort of PR problem. The problem was best summed up in this plaintive post:

===================================
TOPIC: PLEASE HELP – MANY MONTHS OF WORK SEEM LOST
===================================
Continue reading

Developing Knowledge about Local Search