Twitter Contest to Win a free pass to LocalU

One of the nicest parts of working on Local University has been the opportunity to meet with great local search practitioners that have helped us put on the sessions in each market. In Spokane, it was Ed Reese of Sixth Man Marketing & in Minneapolis, it was Aaron Weiche of Five Technology. The two of them jumped in with both feet to help make Local University a success. It has been a pleasure seeing and learning from the tactics and techniques that they have put together, on the ground, to make it work.

In Cleveland, we have teamed up (among many others) with the Karcher Group’s Collyn Floyd to help with logistics and marketing. For the past few months when she is not “scouring town/thrifting for the ultimate fashion bargain” she has been helping organize and plan the next Local University on June 30th.

Today, she put together a plan for Twitter contest to give away one free pass for the event. The plan was a joy to read and will be a pleasure to implement. It is simple but spells out the necessary steps to engage in the contest. It provides enough detail in clear language that will make it easy for the local, non-Twitter savvy Chamber partners as well as more sophisticated sponsors to execute. Here is a short excerpt of the guidleines for the event and they are dead on easy to follow:

The event sponsors will post numerous tweets regarding the contest asking those who want to win a free pass to retweet the message with the hashtag #localu. The hashtag will help us track who is interested in winning.

The contest will end on June 15 and a random Tweeter will be awarded a free pass to the June 30 conference at the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County.

Collyn included not only specific instructions for the contest but sample tweets as well:

Join @Google @Bing for Local Search Workshop in NE Ohio http://getlisted.org/neo RT w/the hashtag #localu 2B entered to win.

Help promote http://getlisted.org/neo Local Search Conf. RT w/the hashtag #localu & be entered to win a free pass

Spend a day at http://GetListed.org/neo‘s conference on 6/30. RT w/the hashtag #localu & you could win a free pass.

Join Anita Campbell of @smallbiztrends 4 http://GetListed.org/neo conf. RT w/ hashtag #localu & u could win a free pass

Join Local SEO experts @davidmihm @mblumenthal in CLE on 6/30. RT w/ hashtag #localu & u could go 4 free. http://getlisted.org/neo

Join @clevelanddotcom & others at http://GetListed.org/neo conference on 6/30. RT w/the hashtag #localu & u could go 4 free

Hear SEO tips along w/@NEOSA_nellis at http://GetListed.org/neo’s conf. RT w/ hashtag #localu & be entered 2 win a free pass

Here is a copy of both her planning document and the sample tweets that she put together that will make participation so easy for all. The documents can serve as model documents for Twitter contests that you might run in your local markets:

GetListed.org Twitter Contest Guidelines & Instructions

Sample Tweets for getlisted

I am not being totally altruistic in sharing these two documents. Besides providing you with a great document that you might be able to use for your own event, I am hoping that you will Tweet away the opportunity for folks to win a free pass to Local University Cleveland on June 30th!

TomTom – When is a Lifetime not a Lifetime? When it refers to TeleAtlas?

Its tough being TomTom. They are in an industry that is being cannibalized on the hardware side by low end devices and their very expensive purchase of TeleAtlas is being quickly deprecated on the software and underlying data side. That being said does that give them permission to be low-lifes in promoting their geo products? They have done so before but still I think not. I received the following ad from them yesterday:

The word Lifetime was used 11 times in the ad and it caught my eye. Just like it was supposed to do. Lifetime means just that: a lifetime…lifetime of what though? My lifetime? No that is too expansive. Lifetime of the equipment purchased? Now that makes sense but no…

If you follow the * to the fine print (and the fine print of the fine print – could they go one more layer deep?) you will discover which lifetime they are referring to (bolds are mine):

*You receive non-transferable traffic data and up to four non-transferable map data updates per year until the product’s useful life expires or TomTom no longer receives map or traffic updates from its suppliers, whichever is shorter. Details and terms at www.tomtom.com/legal.

It would seem that a product’s useful life could mean many things but it certainly doesn’t mean the lifetime of the product other than by their definition. But the limit, imposed by TomTom, of no longer receiving updates from its suppliers seemed particularly suspect…they own the supplier, no? Perhaps it was an unintended irony that comes out of legal but then again maybe TomTom knows something about its “suppliers” (ie TeleAtlas) that it is not telling us?

Does the Separation of Google Maps and Google Local Portend a Divorce from infoUSA?

Ancient History
In 2004 Google Local was released as an independent entity on Google.com. In April of 2006, when Google merged Local into Maps, the competitive scene was much different than today. Google’s main competitors on the mapping and directions side were Mapquest and Yahoo and on the IYP side Superpages, Yellowpages and Yahoo.

Google Maps leveraged their local audience to augment their direction customers and vice versa on their way to develop a very high rate of consolidated growth in both arenas that buried all comers. This compares to Yahoo’s strategy of keeping the local, yp and mapping mostly separate. If nothing else the combination gave Google monthly bragging rights in the many public comparisons made by Hitwise & Compete.

Google effectively outmanuevered Yahoo, the IYPs, Citysearch & Mapquest in local and mapping and by combining Local and Maps into a single product (and adding ongoing innovation), was able effectively compete and ultimately surpass them all.  It is obvious where that has led. By February of 2009 they had gained a dominant and virtually unassailable market share in both arenas for general local search.

Recent History

It appears though that the marriage of Local and Maps is now entering a new era where Local will once again be split from Maps and take on more of a life of its own in the pantheon of Google products. Here are my reasons:

Continue reading Does the Separation of Google Maps and Google Local Portend a Divorce from infoUSA?

Google Maps: New Guidelines for Dealing with Multiple Listings & Duplicate Listing Removal

Barry at SEORountable has just posted that Google is changing their recommended practice for removing duplicate listings of your business from Maps.

Here are the new guidelines from the Google Places Help (bolds in body are mine):

Duplicate listings for my business

Duplicates listings for a single business are often issues in both Google Maps search results as well as within a user’s account. Since there should only be one listing per business represented in one’s account and on Maps, we recommend the steps below to rectify the duplicates.

Do multiple results for your business appear in Google Maps search results

If so, you can fix it by following these steps:

  1. Make sure you’ve claimed one of the listings in Google Places. Verify that there’s only one active listing in your account by logging in to your Google Places account.
    1. If there’s more than one listing in your account for the same business, you’ll first need to fix that problem by following the steps in the section below.
    2. If you don’t have a listing for it at all, you should claim your business.
  2. For every extra result for your business, go to its Place Page, click the Report A Problem link, and select “Place has another listing”. If you can, include a link to your claimed place page in the comments section.
  3. Google will review these reports and fix duplicate business listings.

Are there multiple listings in your Google Places account for the same business location?

When you log in to your Google Places account, if you have multiple listings for the same location, that can be a violation of the content guidelines. You should avoid having duplicates in your account. Here’s how to ensure you have only one listing per business location:

  1. Choose the listing that you’d prefer to keep in your account.
    1. Make sure that you have all your enhanced content (photos, business hours, description) attached to this listing.
    2. Make sure that its status is “active”.
  2. Delete all other listings for the same business from your account. Choose the “Remove this listing from my Google Places account” option
  3. These changes can take several weeks to appear in search results
  4. If there are multiple results for your business in Google’s search results, follow the instructions above.

****************

Google’s new recommended practice for removing duplicates are in strong contrast to the duplicate removal methods previously recommended by them.

Obviously, Google is attempting to make a clear statement that having multiple listings in your account, even if they are there from having following the de-duping process and carry exactly the same information, you run the risk of some violation. It seems clear from this communication that having multiples even for the benign reason of not wanting to risk weird Map behaviors if selected the “delete” option that Google will ,at some point if not already, impose a penalty. Hopefully Google will provide some reasonable window to allow those accounts with listings that are duplicates for benign reasons, some time to adjust their listings.

Given the vagaries and problems that people have experienced in “delete” behaviors and the absolutely terrible wording of the options it is incumbent on Google to both reword and perhaps rework the process & language within the Places Management area. The wrong step and all of your listings are suspended. The correct step seems counterintuitive and have left users feeling that they now have more listings than before.

The change makes sense of an otherwise confusing aspect of Google’s technology, their clustering behavior. How long it will take for a dupe to be removed remains to be seen. Hopefully Google will invest the minimal resources necessary to fix the atrocious interface that is currently associated with the “delete” option.

Google Maps UGC: End User Edits Now Require Google Review

It is the end of a Grand Experiment in user generated content. Google has just announced that user edits of unclaimed business listings will need to be reviewed by Google before showing in the Map index.

In March of 2008, Google Maps added the capacity to allow users to edit business listings. It caused a great deal of consternation at the time and shortly thereafter, as many (myself included) thought that allowing unverified user edits of business records would lead to a decline in listing quality and an increase in spam. If nothing else it felt like a violation of sacrosanct data.

After my fall 2008 hijack of Microsoft’s unclaimed listing to demonstrate the potential for damage, edits no longer showed instantaneously in the main SERPS. At the time though, Google ‘s response was the now ironic and somewhat hypocritical: “The wiki nature of Google Maps expands upon Google’s steadfast commitment to open community.”

Google though created an environment that essentially gave permission to all local sites to allow unclaimed records to be edited by anyone. It is a practice that became the industry standard. While it has always been unnerving and has lead to criminal activity, abuses and horrendous spam, it was never totally clear whether allowing unverified edits lead to a net quality gain the index or not…until now.

Here is the body of the announcement made this evening in the Maps forum:

We recently made a change to Google Maps to require all community edits to be reviewed before they are shown. In the past, some “pending” edits were shown immediately on Maps and only moderated (and sometimes denied) later on.

We’re taking this step to ensure that changes to Google Maps pass the high quality bar our users expect, while preventing SPAM and other problems from showing up before being reviewed first.

We want to empower you to be a valuable local expert by making it easy to fix and report problems you find on Google Maps. We realize it is inconvenient to wait for edits to be reviewed, and we are working hard to streamline our review process to reduce this waiting period.

Google is obviously concerned with improving the quality of the business data in their index. To some extent their future depends on it. Recently they announced the hiring of 300 temporary workers to help catch business listing and geo errors. By preventing unverified edits, Google is obviously taking another step to insure the overall quality of their data set. The change will allow them to catch fast changing information on the ground and update their index more quickly without experiencing the relentless pounding of scammers and spammers.

It marks the end of an experiment in the “wiki nature of Maps” which I am very glad to see end. There are times when the value of editorial review supersedes the “intelligence” of the crowds & community.

Google Place (LBC): While listing in multiple languages is OK beware of merging

Late last summer, Google confirmed that having a listing in multiple languages was allowable. At the time Google noted:

Yes, users can do this. The thing is, there isn’t a feature currently available, but there is a workaround. What users can do is first create the listing in English. Then they can select the appropriate language from the drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the Local Business Center and create the same exact listing in that language.

We hope to make this easier for users in the future.

Creating the same listing in a different language doesn’t violate our guidelines. Our policy states that a business owner can’t create 2 different business listings at one location.

But because of how the cluster works, most clients that I worked with were leery of the potential for mergings and decided that multilingual listings could potentially cause more harm than good. Google had suggested that for single location businesses that the secondary language listing should be created in a distinct Google Place account to avoid mergings. Apparently, according to this forum posting, that is not enough:

I work for a local attorney who serves clients speaking both english and spanish. He is very committed to his latino client-base and, as such, we have a fairly robust translated version of his site, in addition to his English site.

The problem is when we try to get local search results for terms in both languages. We’ve tried a number of different approaches to this, eventually going with a recommendation we found on a reputable local seo blog that had been suggested by a Google employee: we have two listings, one for each language. However, when we created the Spanish one we first changed the language interface of LBC to Spanish. This allows us to choose spanish categories, for example. We set these two listings up using two different Google account, a recommendation that was supposed to avoid merging.

Despite all of our efforts to do this on the up-and-up, the listings keep getting merged, with the spanish URL trumping the English one on every search result. Obviously, this is not ideal. We want to send clients searching with spanish terms to the spanish site and clients searching with English terms to the English site.

Despite the fact that Google Maps allows multi language listings, caution is obviously the order of the day if you wish to list your business in more than one language.

I would suggest that you perceive enough business benefit in attempting to have your listing in multiple languages you experiment with the following:
-create the listing in a separate Google Place account
-use a slightly different address (ie add an office number)
-use a different phone number

Google Places Webinar Follow-up

Google Maps has started providing webinars as a means to educate more SMBs about the benefits and features of Google Places. Not much new here but note Google’s clear cut answer about call tracking numbers. Here is a summary of the May 10th webinar:

From: Brianna Brekke <maps.guide9@google.com>

Date: May 17, 2010 4:50:51 PM EDT

To: Maps Guide Brianna <maps.guide9@google.com>

Subject: Google Places Webinar follow-up

Hi folks,

Thanks for attending the Google Places webinar on May 10. As promised, here are some resources below.

Best,

Brianna

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Google Places webinar recording

Plage Page Tour

Short Survey – please take!

Q&A Session for Google Places Webinar

Date: 2010-5-10

Starting time: 10:00a

_______________________________________________________

Andrew N.

Q: Will Google ever offer an API? It would be helpful for agencies managing several thousand locations to pull reporting information, post to place page for several locations and manage locations across different brands.

A: We’re always working on new features and updates to Google Places, but are unable to comment on exact timelines or plans.

In the meantime, we encourage you to post this idea on our Google Moderator page for Places.

________________________________________________________________

Theresa C.

Q: My problem with Google Places is the verification process. We have multiple locations but listings are place in Google Places by the Corporate office.  The phone verification will not work because we have so many customer services reps nationwide.

A: If you have more than 10 locations, please submit these locations via a bulk upload and then request verification for the bulk upload.

If you don’t have at least 10 locations but still experience difficulties with the verification steps, you can request assistance by submitting this contact form.

________________________________________________________________

Theresa C.

Q: The mail verification is also a problem bec our branch offices will receive the postcard but it’s corporate that placed or updated the listing.

A: Please make sure that you communicate this process to all branch offices.

________________________________________________________________

Theresa C.

Q: The mail verification also takes forever. is there a better way?

A: If phone verification is not available or not feasible for your business type, mail is the only option.

________________________________________________________________

Theresa C.

Q: If the people who initially placed the listing is no longer with our company, how can I disable theirlogin and yet keep the listing?

A: There isn’t any transfer functionality, so you should create a new listing in a new account. You can read more in this FAQ.

________________________________________________________________

Scott G.

Q: How does choosing “service area” affect search results? Seems like we are coming up much lower on the results than we were before.

A: The ranking of listings with Service areas enabled can vary. Please read this FAQ for more information about ranking.

________________________________________________________________

Scott G.

Q: Why isn’t there a choice for open 24 hours?

A: This is a great idea We’ll bring this feedback to our Product team.

________________________________________________________________

Doug T.

Q: How can I claim a listing if the business that was at the address I am now is no longer there.

A: Try creating a new listing at google.com/places. Then, request removal of the old business by clicking ‘More’ > ‘Report a Problem’. More information about the removal steps are available in this FAQ.

________________________________________________________________

Theresa C.

Q: Can you set up a verification that will go to the corporate office instead of the address or phone listed there?

A: No, you must verify information from the actual business for your protection.

________________________________________________________________

Marjory M.

Q: What happens if you hit delete? Can you restore the business easily?

A: If you hit ‘Delete’, you will be prompted to select between two options:

‘Remove listing from Maps’ and ‘Remove listing from Account’. Please visit this FAQ for more information about what each of these actions means.

________________________________________________________________

John E.

Q: if I change core business info how long to reverify and how long is my listing not shown??

A: Your listing will continue to show in its older format until you verify. The time to re-verify will depend on the verification method you choose. Phone verification is almost instant, while mail verification can take 1-3 weeks to receive your PIN in standard mail

________________________________________________________________

Brian L.

Q: is there an export for the dashboard??

A: Not yet, but great idea! Please post this idea on our Google Moderator page for Places.

________________________________________________________________

Theresa C.

Q: We already have existing listings. Can I use bulk upload to update? But some branches do not offer the same products. How can bulk upload work in this case??

A: Yes, each time you want to update information for stores in the original bulk upload, just submit a new Complete bulk upload. You can also add new stores only by submitting an Addition bulk upload. Each time you update, be sure to keep your original store codes for each business location. More information about the bulk upload types can be found in our User Guide.

________________________________________________________________

John E.

Q: If I do Google Places listings for clients can I do bulk uploads???

A: If you aren’t the business owner, you should be the sole authorized representative for the business. If the account is not clearly from the chain (@businessname.com), we will need to verify with the chain that the user is authorized.

There should not be any other providers for the business information. We also don’t accept SEO accounts that have many different clients. Only one account per business chain is allowed.  If you meet this requirement, you can submit bulk uploads.

________________________________________________________________

kevin m.

Q: how can I change the email addressI used for my google places account?

A: Changing your email address of your account entails changing your Google account entire. Please see this FAQ for more information.

________________________________________________________________

Julian E.

Q: What if someone claimed my listings? What do I do?

A: Create and verify a new listing at google.com/places.

________________________________________________________________

John E.

Q: What is Gogle doing about hijacked listings…how do we report and monitor the listing for hijackings?

A: As you are probably familiar, we require verification of a PIN before a listing will go live. This is for your protection, to prevent hijacking. More information about hijacked listings can be found here.

________________________________________________________________

Nick G.

Q: How do you move the shopping bag icon on Maps if it is located incorrectly? Changing the point in the Places dashboard just moves the red location indicator.

A: If you see a place label that is in the wrong location or that contains incorrect information, you can report a problem.  It may take over one month for any reported issues to be fixed, so thanks in advance for your patience.

________________________________________________________________

Ryland D.

Q: We have two locations, but only one is listed – do we have to create a separate listing for our other location?

A: Yes – please do create one listing per business!

________________________________________________________________

kevin m.

Q: I see a lot of my competitors listings with fake google places reveiws.  What can I do about that?

A: Fake reviews are against our Comment Posting Policy.  Please report these reviews as spam.

________________________________________________________________

Marjory M.

Q: I understand that it might not be possible to fix every little problem but is there a way to escalate a problem if it is resulting in a dangerous situation?

A: Please see our Contact Policy Page for a number of options. If you don’t see any options there, post in our Help Forum.

________________________________________________________________

Mary B.

Q: what causes a listing to  suddenly drop in the Places rankings, or 7 Pack rankings?

A: Just as web search refreshes frequently, so do the local results. There could be a number of factors here including changes to any of the listings in the set of search results in addition to changes to our algorithm. It’s unlikely that search results will remain consistent over time.

________________________________________________________________

Jon M.

Q: I cannot see the new $25 enhanced listing tags in my verified bulk upload dashboard reports for the supported cities. Are these new tags available for bulk uploads?

A: Tags are not yet available for bulk upload listings.

________________________________________________________________

Mary B.

Q: What types of things can prevent your local listing from ranking well and what types of things can help it rank better?

A: Providing an accurate and complete listing is the best way to connect to users.

________________________________________________________________

Mary B.

Q: Are the flat rate local ads coming back?

A: Please find more information about our most recent local ad product, Tags, on this page.

________________________________________________________________

Mary B.

Q: Can we use call tracking phone numbers in our listings? if not, why?

A: No, please use the most local phone number available. As I mentioned in the presentation, Google aims to provide the most useful and accurate information for users, so a local phone number is preferred.

________________________________________________________________

andy k.

Q: Do we list all the practitioners on our wellness centre Palces account or have each business set up their own Places account? the phone number and addreess is the same for everyone. 18 massage therapists – acupuncturists etc. — thanks so much 🙂

A: If each practitioner is meant to be individually contactable or individually reviewed by users, then you should you should create one listing for the actual Wellness Center and  listings for each practitioner. Each practitioner can create their own individual listings so that he/she can add more personal details about his/her specialities.

________________________________________________________________

Andrew B

Q: When will driving direction stats be available in the UK?

A: Our team is working on making driving directions stats available in more international countries.

________________________________________________________________

Andrew B.

Q: When will mobile coupons be available in the UK?

A: Our team is working on making mobile coupons available to more international countries.


LocalU – Twin Cities is Done, On to Cleveland

Last week we had another successful Local University in Twin Cities. Matt McGee has created a great recap of the event.

I had an incredible time and truly enjoyed myself as the Twin Cities audience was engaged and very savvy. While the event was targeted to SMBs there were more than the usual share of in-house marketers and SMBs in attendance. Many of them had read my blog and introduced themselves during the event. It is a special treat to put a face with a name or just to even meet someone in person with whom I have had a “relationship”. One person noted that while I didn’t know them, it felt to them like they knew me. That was very rewarding.

Our next Local University will be taking place in Cleveland on June 30th. If you are planning on coming use the discount code of MBneo and you will receive a discount of $50 off the standard rate of $129.

We are also finalizing our “agency package” that will allow professional marketers & designers to bring themselves and a group of clients. We are strongly committed to the local markets that we are visiting. The seminar is a great place to educate your clients about the value of some of the additional services that you might provide that they had yet to recognize the value of. If you are interested in such a package, please contact me: mike@bluemnthals.com.

We are also starting to look at next year’s schedule of events and if you think that your agency is interested in sponsoring a Local University, let us know.

Local SEO Planning Tip – Determine The Geo Limits of a Search

Local Search folks don’t always agree on the factors that affect rank but there is one search relevance factor on which there is strong agreement: A local business listing must be in the city of search in order to even be considered on a given service + city query.

While there is a general idea about how Google determines the boundaries of the polygon that defines any given city used in a search, it is never easy to determine exactly where the boundaries for any given geography are. While the distance radius that Google will use to rank businesses also seems to depend on business density and industry, it would be useful to know the outside limits of the boundaries defining any city or town used in the search.

Does that new client in Scottsdale have a chance to rank in Phoenix? Is the business in the burbs just too far on the wrong side of the tracks or can they be ranked in the principal city with a strong enough local presence?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know, going into the meeting whether there is a snow balls chance in Phoenix of success? It has always been difficult to know exactly how Google Maps drew the polygon boundaries for any given geographical area but with the new service area feature available in the Google Places management area, we now have a solid guide.

To determine the likely boundaries for any given geography simply select (temporarily) the “Yes, this business services customers at their locations” in the edit listing area of your Google Places management area(LBC). Enter your primary search area target in the “List of areas served” field and Google Places then draws the polygon that defines the boundaries of that particular area. As you can see from this graphic, and as I learned the hard way (a long time ago), Deer Park South will not rank on a search for “assisted living Topeka, KS” no matter how strong the listing is. (Click to view larger)

GetListed Local University – Twin Cities

Today, I am presenting at the second GetListed.org Local University in the Twin Cities. If you are coming PLEASE take a moment to introduce yourself as I would love to meet you.

For those of you that attended the presentation these links will provide background information and details for a pathway to dig deeper into the world of managing your listing on Google Maps

Slide 2 – March 2010 Search Engine Market Share
Slide 8/9 – The Importance of Page One Visibility
Slides 10/11 – How the Google Cluster Works
Slide 16- Choosing the Right Category – A Tool
Slide 16 – Writing a Great Business Description
Slide 17 – Creating a GeoSitemap – A tool
Slide 22- Local Search Ranking Factors – the many variables
Slide 22- A brief list of 10 Ranking Factors – somewhat old but still valid and a quick read
Slide 23- Thinking about your Business Name in the Internet Era
Slide 24 – Custom Maps – A Goldmine
Slide 24- The Importance of Citations
Slide 24 – 20 Citation Sources in the US
Slide 24 – User Generated Content – Geo Tagged Photos
Slide 24 – How To Gather Reviews
Slide 24- Where to Gather Reviews

Developing Knowledge about Local Search