New Web based KML & Geo Sitemap Tool Released

Google has long looked across the web for geo signals that reinforce their understanding of your business and its location. Since October 2007 Google has been indexing both geoRSS and KML files for inclusion in the Maps index as user generated content and related that geo information to your business listing.

In the first quarter of 2008 they added support for KML sitemaps to webmaster central to actively alert Google of your geo info and any changes that might occur in your location information. If you want to understand the flow of KML information through Google’s index this flow chart provides an overview the routes it takes into and through the various Google indexes.

KML & KML sitemap use on local websites has been hindered by its complexity and lack of simple tools, web based or otherwise. Creating KML (but not the attendant sitemap) has been possible with Google Earth but it has remained pretty geeky & tedious affair.

At least until now.

Arjan Snaterse, a developer from the Netherlands, has just announced the release of his KML & Geo Sitemap generator. It is a web based tool that makes simple something that was complex and hard to understand.

While still in beta, the tool is a very easy way to create a KML file and sitemap for inclusion on your business’s site. The interface guides you through the process and allows you to add either a few locations and addresses manually or bulk upload a CSV file with multiple locations. It then geocodes the location information, generates the KML & sitemap files and makes them available for placement on your site.

Give it a try at and let Arjanse and the other readers of this blog know what you think.

Disclaimer: I have no personal involvement in the product other than I have helped Arjan debug and polish this tool and have been using it for several months.

New Google UI wiht Local Listing Ads Heatmap

Last week I created a heatmap of the main Google search results with the Local Listing Ads in place. I wanted to compare the results to a heatmap of the new UI with the Local Listing ads. Once again I used AttentionWizard which claims a 75% correlation to human interaction:

New Google UI with Local Listing Ads (Click to view larger):



For easy comparison here is the heatmap with the current UI and the Local Listing ads:

Local Listing Ad HeatMap - Click to View Larger


Things certainly move in different directions and changing what gets looked at initially and subsequently with the local listings and the first ads seeming to be the most affected.

Google New UI + Local Listing Ads – What Does It Mean for Local?

Since the third week of November, Google has been testing a new streamlined interface for its main search page that offers a 3 pane view and a more guided experience. As Malcolm Coles pointed out over the weekend, this new view comes with a significant adjustment in the display of the Local Universal results, downshifting once again and now only showing 5 results instead of the Lucky 7- Pack.

In the new UI, the map is now wider, the local listings are shown below the Map and an obvious pin to a Map centric view is visible along the left menu. In an of itself, the change means more SEO competition for fewer spots. Whether the change will drive more people into Maps is unclear as highlighted Map pin is offset by fewer links into Maps.

Along with the new UI testing, Google is also testing their new Local Listing Ads display. The Local Listing Ads have been rolling out amongst more business categories in the San Francisco and San Diego markets and it seems only a matter of time when the viewable area above the fold on the main Google results page will include both the new UI and Local Listing Ads.

I was curious to see how the combination of new UI and LLAs would be presented on various screen sizes, what would be visible and what would be pushed below the fold.

Screen size 1024 x 768 (click to view larger):

Picture 130


Screen size 1280 x 1024 (click to view larger):
Continue reading Google New UI + Local Listing Ads – What Does It Mean for Local?

New Local Listing Ad Layout & Whatever Happened to the 7-Pack for Web Designers?

Ross Jones, of 2 the Top Web Design, sent along a new layout for Local Listing Ads that he spotted on the search Web Design San Diego. Notice the lack of 7 Pack, Map & Pins and the display of the Local Listing Ads placed completely on the right side of the screen (click to view larger):
Picture 126

Obviously, if there is no 7 Pack, the ads need to go someplace.

The question that many designers, search firms, web hosting companies and advertising agents are asking is: What happened to the 7-Pack for all of those industries? The missing 7-packs have been reported world wide and has affected many internet and marketing related searches. There are two active threads in the Maps forums, here and here

For example none of the following show a Map or Local listing results:
Marketing Firms Boston MA
Local Search Marketing Portland OR
Web Hosting Denver Co
Web Design Los Angeles Ca
Advertising agency NY NY

Google is apparently aware of the issue and has classified it as a bug. It appears that it was related to the previous problem of the OneBox showing too much. Here is Google’s response on 11/18:

Hi Everybody,

This looks like it’s closely related to the issue going on at the thread I’ve linked below. We realize there’s something going on here, and we initially pushed out a fix a while back. There was a little hiccup with the fix, which is probably why the results in Fresno may have gone back up and then back down as addoctane mentioned above.

The team is working on this issue. Stay tuned to the thread below where I will post an update as soon as I hear one.

Thank you all for your persistence!



So now all you web designers and search marketing firms whose heart skipped a beat when you thought that your keyword crammed title had been finally dinged, can now sleep easy and worry another day. 🙂

Google Upgrades Maps Forums – Will It Solve Support Issues for SMBs?

Today Google is changing the category structure and posting process in the Google Maps Help Forum in an effort to reduce miscategorization of topics and improve the quality of the help provided. All posts since the new forum was rolled out in January have been apparently been placed into the new categories:
Problems and Errors —> Map Won’t Load
For Business Owners —> Verification Issues
How Do I? —> Base Map Data

The move, while a big step in the right direction, will not really solve the customer support issues that Google faces in the SMB world.

In the current forums users typically mix questions across the categories and often cross post as they are unsure as to which category a query belongs. This move to upgrade the forums with more granularity has apparently been successful in other Google forums.

Google noted that “We’re hoping to also generate more discussion around the various features of Maps rather than simply providing a forum for transactional questions and answers”.

In the new layout, Google first asks users to identify themselves as either a business owner or not a business owner as to allow a choice to see all posts by business owners only.

The user is then asked to select one of the many new, more specific categories to post their question.   Google’s hope is that this will make it easier for them “to identify issues, find resolutions, and circle back in a more efficient way”.

-Maps User Categories:

Business Owner

Not a Business Owner

Topic Categories:

-Verification Issues
For business owners having difficulties verifying listings in the Local Business Center.

Local Listing Issues
For users with questions about editing, adding, or removing business listings.

-Loading Issues
For users who are unable to use Google Maps because the map won’t fully load.

Feature Requests
A place to share your ideas to help us improve Google Maps!

Base Map Data
For users to discuss the current base map data for Google Maps.

Driving Directions
For users to discuss best practices for getting driving directions, or to report driving direction issues.

My Maps
For users creating personal, annotated, or customized maps.

Street View
Discussions surrounding all things Street View!

Having spent a great deal of time in the forums, I think this change is very positive and will generally improve the overall environment of the groups and their usefulness. In many of the categories it will improve the ability of users to help each other and create more of a community feel as MyMaps users congregate or geeks talk of packet problems or firewall settings in the Loading Issues category.

But there is a limit to this strategy to improve the self help nature of the forums. When it comes to small businesses with problems in the Local Listing & Verification process, it is unlikely to be as successful as in the the other categories in changing the transactional nature of the Maps problem solving cycle. The reasons for this are several.
Continue reading Google Upgrades Maps Forums – Will It Solve Support Issues for SMBs?

Will Google Maps Coupons Rise From the Dead with the New Mobile Option?

Coupons in Google Maps have long been the forgotten step-child with little promotion on the part of Google and even less visibility in Maps and in the main search results. The result has been that they have been of little real value to anyone. Is that about to change?

The Google LatLong just announced that Google has added a new option for Local Business Center users in the US to display their coupons on mobile devices. Additionally, they’ve the display of coupons on your desktop. From the post:

“If you add a new coupon to your business listing in Local Business Center, by default it will now be available on mobile devices. To make your existing coupons available on mobile, edit them and check the box for Mobile Distribution, as shown here”:

On a mobile device users looking at local business listing will see a section that lists the available coupons which if clicked will present specially-formated page which shows all the coupon details.

While a mobile presentation of the coupon might someday offer a useful and popular coupon redemption means, it appears to me that the Google Maps Coupon will remain hidden from potential users for a while. The coupons also do not show in Google Maps on the iPhone which seems like a 10 foot high barrier to adoption in the mobile world. On the desktop due to Google having buried them deep within the interface and on mobile due to lack of penetration and searcher knowledge.

That being said, if you have a coupon in the LBC it is worth going in and upgrading it to present in the Mobile environment. As part of the upgrade and when you modify the coupon, you will be required to add an end date to the coupon if one was not previously added.

Looking for a Legend In All the Wrong Places

Zebedi recently posted this comment on my Get a Virtual Office With a Keyword Stuffed Maps Listing article. I thought it worth highlighting and responding:

As a small business person, I cannot find an SEO that can tell me how to genuinely appear in search results in the areas we genuinely service. Why is it called SPAM if it is genuine?

People like us go to clients, rather than them coming to our workshop. (antique and furniture restoration and custom furniture etc. etc. in case you are curious). We are talking about relatively rare service skills and a large client catchment district to gain the higher class of items which are our niche. This is the way it always has been, since 1983, and the way it always will be. We are in a metropolitan region but not in the major city. Nor are we in the two sister cities that we service. We are in an in-between city area. Our workshop is in between the main city and one of the sister cities, and because of highways, about 1-1.25 hours from the other sister city.

We are not alone in this issue. Lots of service providers are in this situation, particularly if they target the top end of their skill/ items, and even more so if the equipment or the skill is rare. Also, it is not unusual for people like us to have workshops or acreage to handle the noise and the land required for specialist vehicles and equipment and often, economically, we choose in between sites for our business for land price benefits – yet still good access to client catchment areas. Have a look where most industrial estates are. It is no point of chance that it happens to be between cities rather than in them.

SO if you want to catch some work – solve the problem.

Looking for a legendary SEO ….

Here is my response to Zebedi. What would you add?
Continue reading Looking for a Legend In All the Wrong Places

Google Local Listing Ad Heatmap

Like all in the industry, I am curious about how a user might view and respond to the new display that Google is presenting when the Local Listing Ads are included. Between the Adwords, new Local Listing Ads & the 7 Pack organic results have been pushed very far down the page and user behavior is obviously impacted.

Not having a budget for this project I used one of the new algo generated online heatmap products, AttentionWizard to see what the results looked like. According to their own description there is a 75% correlation between this type of heatmap and a real heatmap. So what you see should be viewed with a few grains of salt. That being said, it is interesting. Click the image to view it larger.

Local Listing Ad HeatMap - Click to View Larger

What do you think?

Here is a screen shot of the original search for comparison purposes:
Continue reading Google Local Listing Ad Heatmap

Is Google AdWords Testing a New Local Adwords Display Type?

In July, Google upgraded AdWords to allow advertisers to add the full address to their search ads through location extensions. It appears that they are now testing a new ad layout similar to the one developed for Local Listing Ads.

Tim Coleman of A Second Opinion, sent along this screen shot from last week of a search for “garage door repair denver” that displays a new local AdWords ad type. (Click the image to view larger)


Has anyone else seen this type of Ad?

Google Maps Local Listing Ad Spam & Other Notes

As Google Local Listing Ads rollout it is no surprise to see spam creeping in and potential trademark questions once again coming to the fore. Pierre Kairouz has shared a screen shot with me for the search taxi San Francisco which brought up this Local Listing Ad. It is interesting in two respects, the use of PO Box for the address and the obvious business title manipulation. The domain leads to a website with the business name of Yellow Cabs CA and a whois address in Mountain View. The taxi industry is not a new comer to mapspam but it will be interesting to see how Google enforces its guidelines on PO Box and business name going forward as the ads become more common.

Local Listing Ad Spam - click to view larger

The keyword crammed business titles are notable in this result as well:

Picture 120

The other interesting issue presented by business name keyword cramming and Local Listing Ads is the possibility of trademark violations. This search for computer repair San Francisco Ca brings up the following ad:

copyrightviolatons-LLA (click to view larger)

The ad, while in likely violation of Google’s listing guidelines, is not in violation of Google’s Adwords US Trademark rules as the lister is an active seller of Microsoft products. The ad which goes to the lister’s Places page, does however raise the question of appropriate trademark use in both the business title, categories and descriptions.

It also appears that the Local Listing Ads are rolling out across more and more categories in the San Francisco & San Diego markets including salons, plumbers, auto parts and even locksmiths. However it is not yet available in all categories. Cathy Hillen-Rhulloda recently noted that florists in these markets have not yet been offered the Local Listing Ad opportunity.

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