Loci 2008: David Mihm’s Significant Local Posts of 2008

David Mihm, a web designer and search marketing practitioner from Portland, writes for Searchenginland and has his own blog, Mihmorandum, that focuses on local search. David, for me,  epitimomizes the ideal of learning through cooperation and collaboration. He created the well received Local Search Ranking Factors project and was a key contributor on the research for the Cracking the Code – Local Search Ranking Factors study.

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Mike, how’s this, in no particular order:
 
Local vs Traditional SEO: Why Citation Is the New Link 
Not that the article itself is necessarily earth-shattering, but during the course of thinking about Local and researching 10-pack rankings, I came to two very important personal conclusions — 1) In Local SEO, not all links matter.  2) “Links” that matter for Local SEO aren’t necessarily links.  This mindset has guided my thinking about Local Search for client work for the remainder of the year.
 
It was very rewarding for me personally to get the perspectives of so many top minds in Local.  I probably had more fun putting this together than the average SEO or small business owner did in reading it!
 
The first of Eric Enge’s interviews with the men in charge of the two major players in Local Search.  An absolute must-read when you get the kind of (even if the interviewee was not entirely forthcoming / intentionally misleading).
 
The second must-read interview from Eric Enge on Local Search, this time with Yahoo Local’s main men.

The first major quantitative study of Local SEO ranking factors, led by Mike Blumenthal.  The search community gained a deeper understanding of how the main ranking factors interact with each other based on availability of data and competitiveness of market.
 
Mike takes things one step further here and dives into Google Maps’ patent on ranking.  Pay attention to the concept of Location Prominence in 2009!  It’s only going to become MORE important, IMHO.
 
The IRS should send out a notice that makes Miriam Ellis’ fantastic series required reading for small business owners.  The government could increase its tax revenue by 20% on the profits of SMB’s who read it!
 
A non-Local-Search-marketer, Dr. Pete Meyers, opens our eyes to the central importance of Local Search as the world goes more and more mobile.
 
I could have chosen any number of press releases from the Yellow Pages themselves to fill this slot, but this is one of the more egregious examples of self-promoting puffery coming from an industry dying almost as quickly as the Big Three (at least on the print side).  A terrific analytical look at YPA data by Chris “Silver” Smith.
 

Loci 2008: Matt Cutt’s Important Local Articles of 2008

Matt Cutts from Google is well….Matt Cutts. He doesn’t need much introduction (nor link juice) from me :) .
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Here you go:

Just to reiterate, this is my personal opinion. I would say that in my mind, one main story of Google Maps/Local this year is how it opened up more this year. Overall, that’s a good thing and Google’s service has gotten better as a result:
http://searchengineland.com/google-maps-opens-up-editing-to-everyone-13590
http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/03/18/google-maps-everyone-can-create-a-business-listing/

But it’s not just editing listing and claiming listings. Google also opened up with Google Map Maker, which has let people around the world contribute a phenomenal amount of data that helps everyone:
http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2008/06/making-your-mark-on-world.html

The articles that have been the most important to me personally are the ones that point out areas that still need work, although other people might not pay as much attention to them, e.g.
http://searchengineland.com/searching-for-small-businesses-coming-up-frustrated-15112
http://searchengineland.com/google-local-business-hijacking-microsoft-acquires-yahoo-becomes-escort-service-15313

But then again, I tend to dwell on the negative reports or articles that give feedback on ways to improve. I think an average person is more likely to care about traffic conditions:
http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2008/04/google-maps-predicts-traffic-conditions.html
or that Google Maps provided great voter guide information:
http://blumenthals.com/blog/2008/09/20/google-maps-to-provide-complete-voter-information-for-upcoming-election/

I sometimes dwell on the negative feedback that we get, but the Maps/Local products have really improved a lot this year, from much more Street View coverage
http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2008/12/double-coverage-double-fun.html
to Terrain Maps:
http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2008/04/last-summer-somewhere-in-adirondacks.html
to a new UI:
http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2008/11/google-maps-has-new-interface.html

Matt

Loci 2008: Matt McGee’s Favorite Articles in Local Search

This is the first of many posts in the Loci 2008 review that details who is reading what in Local Search. Up first is Matt McGee and over the next week you will hear from David Mihm, Ahmed Farooq, Matt Cutts, Martijn Beijk, Will Scott, Greg Sterling, Danny Sullivan and more.

Matt McGee has a long pedigree in Local Search. His well known blog was an early beacon promoting the benefits of local search, he has worked extensively in Local, consulted broadly in local, writes for SearchEngineland on Local Search, is a leading authority on hyperlocal blogging and is a general all round decent fellow. He was one of the first people I met when I came to this neighborhood. Here are the articles that  have influcenced him this year:

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Oh, this is an easy one to help out with since I’m in the middle of organizing SEMMYs stuff. :-)

Local Search Ranking Factors – David Mihm, Mihmorandum 
To me, this is far and away the best piece of local search content anyone put together in 2008. It offers plenty of How To help, but it also shows some of the unusual vagaries involved in local SEO and how things differ when you throw an address into the mix. It was an honor to be one of the contributors.

Ranking Factors in Google Maps – Mike Blumenthal, Understanding Google Maps
Another great peek into ranking factors. I already felt bad enough missing SMX Local, then you had to go and post your slides from what was obviously a terrific session. :-)

Local SEO’s Share Geo Location Tips From Around The World – Lucy Langdon, Distilled
I like this particularly because I haven’t had the challenge/pleasure of doing local SEO on an international basis. It was an interesting read.

How to Optimize Local Business Profiles for Free Local Directories – Steven Brier, SearchEngineJournal
Steven Brier did a great job going through the process of making sure your local business profiles are as optimized as they can be.

Microsoft’s listing in Google Maps Hijacked (oops by me) – Mike Blumenthal, Understanding Google Maps
I don’t think any year-in-review list would be complete without getting into the clusterf–k that Google Maps (and Yahoo Local to a lesser degree) has become with respect to spam and hijacked listings. So many posts to choose from on this matter, but this one shows how irresponsible it is for Google to take a “wiki-like” approach to business listings and let anyone edit listings that are unclaimed.

Thanks, Mike!

m2

Loci 2008: Important Articles in Local Search

loci with pronunciations

1. Particular postions, points or places
2. Centers of activity, attention, or concentration

Loci 2008 is a year end review of articles in Local Search that will be appearing over the next week(s). For me, collaboration, cooperation, review and research create the path to increase our understanding of the world. That is even more true in the nascent industry of Local. In that vein, I wanted to share the articles that others in the industry have found significant from 2008.

I have gathered these articles from a range of people, people whom I respect and who are knowledgeable about local search.  Each in their own way is a center of activity around local and each has their own particular perspective on which places in Local over the past year are the most important. Their voices, some more prominent in the industry than others, are voices that should be listened to as they are intimate with the many different facets of local.

Here was the charge that I gave them:
Would you be willing to share the 3,5 or 10 articles that influenced your thinking or actions the most over the past year? The articles could be yours, or from others and could cover any topic that you think relates to Local ie local mobile, phones, mapping, Local VC, Local companies, Google, trends, marketing, best practices etc….but articles that you found of importance in one way or another throughout the year.

Join me, over the next few days as we look at what others in Local have read and think important from the last year.

Google Not Liable in Adwords Case – What does it mean to Local?

Barry Schawrtz reported out in SearcheEngineLand about a recent Court decision that held that Google Is Not Liable For Bad Products Sold Through AdWords. Here is a more detailed summary of the case from MediaPost: 

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Google for allegedly displaying fraudulent ringtone ads.

District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose ruled that the federal Communications Decency Act immunizes Google from liability for pay-per-click ads created through the AdWords platform.

“Providing third parties with neutral tools to create Web content is considered to be squarely within the protections of (the law),” Fogel wrote. “Even if a service provider knows that third parties are using such tools to create illegal content, the service’s provider’s failure to intervene is immunized.”

Let me repeat that: “Even if a service provider knows that third parties are using such tools to create illegal content, the service’s provider’s failure to intervene is immunized.” Hello? Since when are accessories to a crime, not culpable? 

This outcome pertains directly to the reality that Google has created in Local. The specifics are slightly different in Local but the implication is clear. Think about what it means if this logic were to apply to Local business listings: Google, even if they knew of illegal hijackings of business listings that caused losses to business owners and even if they had not taken action to stop the hijackings, would be immune from any legal responsibility in the matter. 

In the current banking debacle, we have re-learned what happens when the fox is allowed to guard the henhouse. The Communications Decency Act seems to create a similar unregulated and wild west situation in Local. If the outcome of this act is to immunize the likes of Google from profiting from illegal activities then we have come to a sorry state, indeed.

In October I wrote an article at SearchEngineland about the continued hijackings due the community edit feature. I blithely advised in the article that business owners should Claim Your Google Local Business Listing Before Someone Else Does! and noted that only by laying claim to your record could you prevent hijacking abuse and potential thefts of your income. But the reality is much worse than that. Hijackings are still occurring, even on claimed listings. Thus we are all vulnerable to theft of services even if we have followed best practices as recommended by Google.

Historically, in our society, there has always been recourse in this type of situation. It appears that in the new age of the Internet, the Community Decency Act and Local Business listings, this may not be the case. Caveat Emptor!

Most Read Posts of 2008

Most Read New Articles in 2008

Here are the 10 articles (who picked 10 as the appropriate number, anyways?) written in 2008  that received the most readership during the past year. Readership and traffic have moved up significantly compared to last year, growing along with the broader interest in Local. My Top 10 most read stories of 2008 were viewed a total of 19206 times compared to 11337 Top 10  viewings in the 2007. Pageviews and visits increased ~107% year over year.  As you can see from the numbers on these, the most popular articles, my readership is still a niche. 

But Local is a a growing & exciting niche and one where much of the future of the internet lays. On this blog I write to the professionals and aficionados within that niche. That allows me to interact with the many people in the Local space that are forging much of what Local will be. It has been an incredibly fun year meeting and engaging those Localites in person, on the phone and on my blog. To these many folks that have shared their ideas with me and the readers of this blog, sent me visitors and contributed to the local space I say: Thanks for a great year & thanks for helping me understand and learn as much as I have!

Article Title Original Date of Publication Times Read
Microsoft Listing in Google Maps Hijacked! oops by me
2008/10/30 4867
Google Maps to provide complete voter information for upcoming election 2008/09/20 2579
Google Maps: New Local 10 Pack Now Live 2008/01/22 2124
Google Maps: Category Mystery Now solved (Part 3) 2008/02/07 1407
Google Maps Announces Quality Guidelines and Reinclusion Option 2008/09/16 1339
Google Plus box: Where Does the Wrong Data Come from 2008/03/06 1218
Google Maps: Local Business Center Updated with New Interface 2008/06/13 1183
Google Maps: Local Business Center Updated with New Interface 2008/08/04 1141
Google Maps: KML for Authority and Ranking 2008/08/07 1042
Google Maps now Using TeleAtlas Data Exclusively 2008/09/19 900

 

Most Read New Articles in 2008 from Previous Years

Articles in the blogosphere often have a very short shelf life. Sometimes, you spend countless hours in research and writing an article and it seems to barely cause a blip in the scheme of things at the time it is published. The 10 Likely Elements of Google’s Local Search Algorithm was one such article. But it manages to find readers 18 months after it was written and it still has relevance. Here are the 5 stories from a time long, long ago that were the most read this year

Most Read New Articles in 2008 from Previous Years Original Date of Publication Times Read
10 Likely Elements of Google’s Local Search Algorithm 2007/02/16 2101
First Case of Large Scale Abuse at Google Maps 2007/07/27 1247
Which On-line Directories Provide Details to Google Maps 2006/11/21 908
Google Coupons Now has Searchable Interface 2007/10/27 883
Extraneous Results from the Restaurant Review Research 2006/12/14 709

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.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search