Local Listing Ads: When do the Blue Pins Show on the Map?

Update 10/21: According to Joel Headley of Google: The blue pin is there – it’s just hiding behind the “D” marker.

My curiosity was piqued when I noticed that the blue pins for some Local Listing Ads were not showing on the Local Lucky 7- Pack Map.
Listing-ad-San-Diego

So what was up? Continue reading Local Listing Ads: When do the Blue Pins Show on the Map?

Local Listing Ads Using Call Tracking with Google Voice

This morning, I was looking at a screen shot of a dentist that had both Adwords and a Local listing ad. It was obvious that the later was using a call tracking number. I was thinking that it must be a Google Voice number but I had no way to confirm.
local-Listing-Ad

Well, this afternoon in Google Q3 conference call my question was answered: All the calls generated via Local Listing Ads “go through Google Voice” (i.e., call tracking).

I am curious, will the client be able to retain use of the Google Voice phone number after their advertising ceases? Will the SMB be required to set up and configure a Google Voice account or will it just be a Voice number with none of the trappings? Does it have a simplified interface as well and can the SMB “pick” their phone number?

Additionally, SVP of product Jonathan Rosenberg spoke at some length about Maps and noted: “Everything is finally in place to enable small businesses to connect with customers online”.

In a related observation, this particular iteration of the Local Listing Ad display, shows the Blue Pin placed next to the ad but it was not showing on the Map. Continue reading Local Listing Ads Using Call Tracking with Google Voice

Google Maps Adds UGC Feedback to Front Page Display of the OneBox

Whether this upgrade to the display of the Authoritative OneBox is a test or permanent is not yet clear but Google is now offering up to the searcher the ability to confirm the accuracy of a businesses listing information.
OneBox-1

OneBox-2

It is not clear how this information will be used by Google as the option is available on both claimed and unclaimed listings. What level of trust will be placed in this information? Will listings be pulled if too many people contest the accuracy? Will the LBC owner of a listing be notified of the notation?

There are usability issues with the new capability. As one reader pointed out to me

Also, the phrasing is ambiguous…the call to action is, “Is this accurate?”, but yet when you click on it, it reads “This address, phone number, map or business info is not accurate. Confirm. Cancel.” Not sure why it reads ‘not accurate’. Either they should remove the word ‘not’, and follow with ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Cancel’ – OR, change the call to action to read “Is this inaccurate?”

These Google product folks need to brush up on their User Experience skills.

Tectonic Shifts Altering The Terrain At Google Maps- an Interview with Mike Dobson

Of the many new features in Google Maps of late, none seemed more important than the recent change in underlying data providers and Google taking over these tasks themselves. This change shows in Maps visually with the inclusion of new land & property parcel data, the change of the copyright message in US maps and a new 30 days to fix, “Report an Error” capability easily accessible from within Maps. These changes were significant in their own right.

However, they also carry with them a mirror of all the technological, competitive and societal dynamics associated with the rising importance of geo-spatial data in our lives. And of course, with that, the continuing rise of Google to dominance in gathering and managing these critical foundational data. It is this change that so intrigued me.

You can “read all about it” in a new piece at SearchEnginland, Tectonic Shifts Altering The Terrain At Google Maps, where I interview Mike Dobson of TeleMapics, a mapping industry veteran.

The bottom line? Google is succeeding in mapping the planet. This information, gathered in a range of different ways, is enhanced, in typical Google fashion, by users the world over. The article explores both the technical basis for these technologies and the competitive implications of Google’s moves.

Geospatial information is the building block for the whole next generation of user experience from smart phones to virtual reality. Hopefully the interview will help you form an understanding of this important technology. I know that it did for me.

Let me know what you think.

Google Maps: Six reasons why your listing might “go South” & some tips to cope

It has been a time of great change in Google Maps with new technology and processes rolling out at a torrid pace. Part of that change has apparently resulted in some shakeups in the rankings. I have received a number of inquiries as to why a certain listing has dropped or disappeared from view in the Local One Box  or Maps.

It is the kind of query that requires some study and reflection and usually can’t be answered in a Twitter stream nor as a comment in the blog. Minimally it requires an in-depth contextual understanding of the listing, its history and the exact nature of the problem.

That being said here are 6 possibilities that I consider when looking at a record that has “gone south”…. Continue reading Google Maps: Six reasons why your listing might “go South” & some tips to cope

Flagged Waiting for Content Check Redux

Now that the message “System Error – We’re sorry, but we are unable to serve your request at this time. Please try back in a few minutes.” has ridden into the sunset (does that seem to be a too terribly clichèd metaphor?) I can focus on my second least favorite error message in the world (yes the world not just the LBC). It appears on a business listing in the LBC for using abusive, sexist and racist words and occasionally it seems to appear just for fun: Flagged – Waiting for Content Check.

When you parse the message grammatically is has two major components:
1-Flagged
2-Waiting for content check

Lets deal with the second part first. While not as misleading as “Please try back in a few minutes.” (which essentially meant never) it is not particularly reflective of any known reality. Given that the LBC is algo based and customer service is virtually nonexistent, it is not clear, when or if, a content check will ever occur as part of some on-going listing approval process. I have heard of one (yes one) patient soul who finally had his flag checked after 6 months.

The only others that I know to have ever been checked in the forums were highlighted by forum top contributors (i.e. me) and specifically pointed out to the forum staff. They usually required a few pings and followup as well. So it is safe to say that “Waiting for Content Check” is a bit of a misnomer and not a welled oil approval machine.

So when your listing is Flagged, the best bet is to buckle down and follow the brute force method outlined previously. It can help point out some interesting (for example you can’t use the word Google anywhere in the listing even if you have a Google Sites website ) and humorous (a scaffolding company was prevented from using the word erection) specifics.

Sometimes though even the brute force method does not clarify the problem. I recently ran into a case of John, the LASIK Surgeon, who was struggling to get his listing unflagged. I knew that the LBC did not like too many caps so I suggested that he remove them from his listing. He claimed to have done so. Even so his listing remained Flagged. As a top contributor I alerted Google who intervened and yet it still it remained flagged. He desperately and persistently posted again. How many folks just give up?

He assumed that just because Google offered up the primary category “LASIK Surgeon” as a choice that it wouldn’t trigger the dreaded message if he was so bold as to actually choose it as his category. He also didn’t understand that, while it might be the trigger, he could override the default category with a custom category like “Lasik Surgeon”. But trigger the message it did and override he didn’t. After numerous struggles, he succeeded in getting his listing approved.

OK, I understand that Google perceives a need for secrecy in what causes a flagging, otherwise the listings would more quickly descend into pornography or worse as the scammers carefully studied which “nasty” words that Google had forgotten to flag and tested which ones brought more clients.

Perhaps though the message should read: “Flagged – Guess what the problem is if you can….Mhahaha”…or “Flagged – you are the 3,734 lister in queue. Estimated time to content check 167 days”.

Besides refining the message, would it not make sense to be sure that default categories not trigger the problem? And if they are going to offer up the possibility of a content check, could they not offer up a meaningful timeframe?

Visitation Stats Showing Gains for Chrome and Severe Share Loss for IE Amongst the Local Crowd

I know that I have a skewed readership (in more ways than one…). As my programmer said to me: “Wow. Go IE! Go far, far away!”

It appears that Local Geeks don’t use IE but I still find these browser stats telling none the less as I like to think of us the “vanguard”:

1.

Firefox

September 12, 2009 – October 12, 2009

9,974

48.20%

August 12, 2009 – September 11, 2009

6,795

49.10%

2.

Internet Explorer

September 12, 2009 – October 12, 2009

6,002

29.00%

August 12, 2009 – September 11, 2009

4,536

32.77%

3.

Chrome

September 12, 2009 – October 12, 2009

2,479

11.98%

August 12, 2009 – September 11, 2009

1,230

8.89%

4.

Safari

September 12, 2009 – October 12, 2009

1,792

8.66%

August 12, 2009 – September 11, 2009

1,001

7.23%

5.

Opera

September 12, 2009 – October 12, 2009

211

1.02%

August 12, 2009 – September 11, 2009

140

1.01%

Google Maps Implements New Semantic Search with a Brooklyn Accent

Even after staring at Maps for so many years, sometimes Map search results can still bring a smile particularly when it sounds like my grandmother. The search for Dui Lawyer Long Island (the dirty bums 🙂 ) brought back this Brooklyn Semantic Search result (with the emphasis on the G):

lon-gisland

Google Replaces Tele Atlas Data in US with Google StreetView Data

There has been a lot of activity of late in Google Maps with rollout of Places and its attendant controversy, tests of the new Local Listing Ads, Ads in the iPhone, Streetview in Canada & the Czech Republic and lots, lots more. I was at SMX East when Google Maps announced both more detailed Maps and the new Maps error reporting and updating tool.

That announcement in the LatLong Blog though was as interesting for what it didn’t include as what it did. One tidbit that has flown under the radar and was not mentioned in the blog post is that Google Maps has replaced their primary geospatial data provider in the United States, Tele Atlas, with their own data gathered from their StreetView cars.

According to the DirectionsMag.com article a Tele Atlas spokesperson provided this statement on rumors that were floating around the Location Intelligence Conference last week:

“Tele Atlas confirms that Google has decided to stop using Tele Atlas map data for the U.S. Google will now use its own map data. Our relationship with Google for map coverage continues outside of the U.S. in dozens of geographies.”

It was only last year that Tele Atlas and Google signed a long term deal for Tele Atlas to replace Navteq as Google’s sole third party road data provider. In January of this year, after the late 2008 widespread expansion of Streetview in the US I theorized that Google could very well be on the road to replacing TeleAtlas as their supplier.

It is interesting to speculate on the move. Certainly, Tele Atlas’s data quality in the US has not been very high. Complaints about map quality in the forums, which started immediately upon Google using Tele Atlas data, were frequent and have continued. Reports of wrong street names, missing townships and use of very old mapping information were not uncommon. Despite powerful new feedback systems by Tele Atlas, time to repair these errors has often been 6 to 8 months, if ever, leading to additional complaints. It appears that Google’s new map error reporting mechanism can lead to map fixes within 24 hours. The forums, while picking up on the recently changed data, have been surprisingly quiet, given the magnitude of the change. It is also interesting to speculate on why Google was not forthright about this change.

This action speaks very loudly to both Google’s long term intentions in the Maps environment and provides interesting clues as to their immediate capabilities. It portends shakeups in the mapping business and positions Google as a major worldwide player in both delivery Map data and collecting it. It took Google roughly 10 months from rollout of their expanded US Streetview data to delivery of a fully functional Mapping product with routing. Can the rest of the world be far behind?

I hope to have a more in depth look at the implications of this move in another post.

streetview-coverage

Google Local Listing Ads: Summary of articles & resources

Here is a summary of articles and resources on Google’s new Local Ad Listing test program in San Diego and San Francisco:

10/9/09
David Mihm: My Thoughts on Google Local Listing Ads
Greg Sterling: Local Listing Ads and 7-Pack Live
Mike B: Google Local Listing Ads: Random Thoughts
Mike B: Google Answers Some Local Listing Ad Questions

10/08/09
Greg Sterling:More Info on Google Local Listing Ads

10/07/09
Taylor Cimala: Google to Start Offering Flat Rate Local Listing Ads
Learmonth/AdAge: Google Lures Local Advertisers by Subverting Its Own Search Policies
Mike B: Support to Be Available to Local Listing Ad Customers

10/06/08
Greg Sterling: Google Offers New ‘Simple’ Ads for SMBs
MB: Google Intros Local Listing Ads to LBC in Limited Markets

10/05/08
Greg Sterling (SEL): Google Creates A New, Simplified Ad Unit For Local Business

Google Resources:
Introducing Local Listing Ads Video
Help/Information pages
What are Local Listing Ads?
How are Local Listing Ads different from AdWords?
How much do Local Listing Ads cost?

If you want to get notification on when it’s available in your area, you can sign up here (via –Taylor Cimala):
Google Local Listing Ads Sign Up Form

Developing Knowledge about Local Search