Can the IYP’s survive and thrive?

The other day I noted that “As I have pointed out before, it is my belief that the IYP’s have already lost in this race. From my point of view they bring little of technical or marketing value to the space. Their core product, business listings have been commoditized to the point of being available for free and without significant innovation there is no reason for their survival going forward.

But I had coffee with Ahmed Farooq of iBegin on my way home from SMXEast and he pointed out that there was a path for them to success. Everybody these days has access to cheap or free YP listings. InsiderPages, Dex or Superpages no longer have exclusive listing data. What they do have is “feet on the street”.

They have the sales staff and customer relations that could solve the remaining problem in Local. That is to gather all of the deep local data about real, extant businesses that people care about….not just hours, but brands, niche information, context and other details that will make Local truly useful and not just a broken Yellow Pages.

They have what Google, in their algorithmic approach to Local, will never have; conversations with real businesses on the other end of the phone. Unlike their upstart competitors, they have scale and capital. The IYP’s could once again provide unique data that is valuable and that could push local to the next level of accuracy and functionality.

It would seem a so much more successful strategy to gaining links than their Payola approach. It would create value to themselves and the greater internet, obviously a concept that they have yet to grasp.

Google Maps: One (data) Ring to Rule Them All

Yesterday I asked whether Google Map’s upward trend continue? Can Mapquest maintain its market share? Or like the IYP space does Google just have too much presence in search to not win this race also?

From where I sit, these Map & IYP Market Share comparisons only look at a narrow sliver of Local results being delivered to end users. I have taken the liberty of adding an estimate of Google’s % of total Internet traffic that shows a Local OneBox to Hitwise’s chart. I am assuming that Google.com has roughly 6% of total traffic and that the Local Onebox shows for geo specific queries on roughly 10% of all searches. It could be as low as 7% and perhaps as high as 15%.
Mapquest Vs Universal Local

Regardless, it indicates that Google.com is displaying a map with attendant local results 2 to 3 times more frequently than Mapquest. Thus when you combine the reach of Google Maps and the Google.com Local OneBox, it is approaching 1% of total Internet traffic. This aggregate is 3 to 4 times the market share of MapQuest.

Google has never sat on it’s laurels in regard to Map’s market share. At every opportunity they have directed traffic inwards towards Maps as opposed to elsewhere. As Matt McGee noted on SearchEngineLand:

We’ve noted on Search Engine Land that two factors likely began to change the traffic trends for map sites: First, when Google stopped linking to MapQuest and Yahoo! Maps; second, when Google Maps began to be featured prominently in Universal Search results.

The imminent release of location aware browsers will further refine Google’s ability to deliver locally relevant results to the desktop. I am sure that this not the only trick up their sleeves.

But even this analysis captures but a share of the local information flowing from the Google Map’s data siloh into end user’s hands….
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Maps IYP Market Share

For my presentation at SMXEast, Heather Hopkins of Hitwise was kind enough to provide me with this custom view comparing the 3 leaders in the Maps/IYP space. With Mapquest’s recent upgrade this space is largely converging into a consolidated Maps/Directions/Business Listing product.

As I have pointed out before, it is my belief that the IYP’s have already lost in this race. From my point of view they bring little of technical or marketing value to the space. Their core product, business listings have been commoditized to the point of being available for free and without significant innovation there is no reason for their survival going forward. Above them they are being cannibalized by Google, Mapquest and Yahoo and from the bottom they are loosing out to the more nimble iBegin’s of the world. As you can see in the graph, the market share of the IYP leader, YellowPges.com, demonstrates that weakness.

So it would appear from this graph that the battle is between Google and Mapquest. Yahoo, with their innovative local and map products might be considered the dark horse. September’s introduction of a new local product by Mapquest and the rough Google transition to TeleAltas (among other problems) seems to have led to an uptick by MapQuest.

% of Total Internet Traffic Mapquest Google Maps Yellowpages.com

Will that trend continue? Can Mapquest maintain its market share? Or like the IYP space does Google just have too much presence in search to not win this race also? Let me know what you think. I will share my thoughts tomorrow.

SMXEast Presentation: A patent review of Maps Ranking Factors

I have been reading Google’s Location Prominence Patent of late in search of a better understanding of the web related factors that affect Local ranking in Maps. This presentation augments the one made at SMXLocal in July. If time allows I will do a series on the underlying patent and its implications. Here is my presentation from SMXEast:

There is a lot of background information and notes that accompany this presentation. The patent is a trove of incredible information and very interesting background. I hope to be able to write a more thorough review of the patent but in the mean time, please, please ask away and I respond as best as I am able.

Besides the above and the SMX East presentation there are two other posts worth reading on the factors affecting ranking:
- 10 Likely Elements of Google’s Local Search Algorithm
- David Mihm’s excellent survey of local search ranking factors.

Google Maps Printed Driving Instructions Upgrade

In April of this year, Google started including Street View with the driving instructions. It was an upgrade that offered a “serious” use for the Street View images.

Since late August, Maps has been undergoing the “blue line” upgrade. It showed up first in the Maps view. And about two weeks ago showed up in the Text view, which is seen when you enter via the Local OneBoxes. It may have been mentioned elsewhere but I also just noticed a significant upgrade to the printed driving instructions as part of the blue line improvements.

Here are part of the driving instructions from Newark Airport to the hotel where I am staying for SMXEast:

Google Maps upgraded driving directions

The new changes allow the user to select a global view for directions (Text, Map or Street View) as well as those same options for each step of the driving instructions, allowing the user to pick the optimal view for each turn.

While September has been a tough month for Maps with the upgrade, the switch to TeleAtlas and the hijackings, it is these kinds of continual improvements that will ultimately allow them to catch and surpass Mapquest.

Hitwise Maps Market Share

Heather Hopkins has recently completed an analysis of traffic to the major map sites, Mapquest, Google, Yahoo.com and Live. Google Maps is continuing to gain market share primarily at the expense of Mapsquest and to a lesser extent Yahoo. Mapquest’s recent strong upgrade seems to have slowed that trend but it remains to be seen whether that will translate to long term market share gains.
Hitwise Maps Market Share

Compared to January 2008, Mapquest’s market share has declined 6% to 44.3% while Google Maps market share has increased from 22% to 32%. Yahoo has continued to see moderate share losses over the same period. If the long term trends continue Google could surpass Mapquest market share within the next 6 months. Mapsquest’s upgrade has come none too soon. It will be interesting to see if the new product will provide a defense against Google’s persistent market share gains.

This past 5 weeks Google Maps has had it share of problems that could also be affecting their market share. The blueline upgrade led to a number of problems with their Map routing capability. The move the TeleAtlas has created a fair bit of end user angst and the recent reports of hijackings have discouraged others. These can be overcome and in the past whenever Google sees their market share gains slow down they have pull another traffic builder out of their hats.

Hitwise Maps Market Share

This chart views the players as a percentage of overall internet traffic. For reference Google.com receives 6% of all internet traffic whereas Maps recieves .26%. Thus Maps provides 4.3% of the visits of Google.com. A not insignificant and growing number.

Android vs. iPhone: a false comparison

Last week saw the introduction of the first Android phone, the G1 handset for T-Mobile. It’s a cool piece of hardware and software that should appeal to many. But is it really an iPhone competitor? And is that why we should care? No and no, but care we should.

Here are sampling of the headlines from major news organizations in the U.S. and UK:

Google’s Android could smash iPhone’s locked gateway – guardian.co.uk
Google vs. iPhone: Is Steve Jobs Reliving Past Mistakes? – time.com
Google Introduces an iPhone Rival Open to Whims – NYTimes.com
Google takes swipe at Apple’s iPhone – London timesonline.co.uk

Google isn’t competing with the iPhone in this endeavor. They are competing with every manufacture that doesn’t yet offer a full mobile internet experience and for customers that don’t have an iPhone and want that browsing experience on their cell. That means that companies that are not providing that like Microsoft and Nokia are the ones that Google is up against not Apple. As Greg Sterling points out, the smart phones are risk here are those running Windows Mobile, Palm and Symbian phones. Here is a great summary of smart phone market.

The G1 will have a positive affect on mobile browsing in general and on Local in particular. If not now with T-Mobile than going forward. It is a phone that makes search the center of the user experience and that can only bode well for Local and location based. Like the iPhone, websites will not need to be completely rebuilt and users can have a full internet experience with great local search.

From where I sit, phones like the G1 AND the iPhone will drive us towards the fully functional mobile future, not as competitors but as inflexion points in a dynamic market.

Google formally announces Google Voter Info Map

Google has formally announced Maps.Google.com/Vote that I covered in mid September.

In addition to offering voting information and polling places (coming October 15) via Maps they are making the maplet available as a widget for your website via a their Gadget creator:

As I mentioned in my earlier post, this type of mash up of deep local data with Maps offers an inkling of type of local data that will be presented on a national scale that we will be seeing over the next 12 to 18 months. It will be exciting times indeed for local.

Google Blogsearch good for hyperlocal blogging?

Google, in upgrading Google Blog search, has created an intriguing potential competitor to Techmeme. The upgraded search provides broad blog coverage, picks up stories quickly and has the potential to project blog content more widely. ReadWriteWeb noted:

The new Google Blogsearch has the potential to reach tens of millions of people and drive insane amounts of traffic.

Google Blog Search

Whether that is true for local blogs is yet to be seen. There is however a feature that highlights blog by major search terms. This could have an a positive traffic impact for hyperlocal blogs as it emphasizes blogs related to primary geo search phrases:
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Google Maps Hijacking: Listings still in Maps

Mapspam 10 Pack Listing
Earlier today when I had read that Podesta Baldocchi Florist’s listing had returned to normal in the Local 10 Pack, I had assumed that Google had cleaned up the mess and removed the offending listings from Maps.

Not so fast pardner! It seems two weeks isn’t quite long enough to purge these fellows. A number of listings are still in the index from the hijacking entity. They still show as well on the Local 10 Pack on the search Flowers Brooklyn NY. Amazing the difficulty that Google has in purging the database of listings engaged in apparently criminal activity. If this activity doesn’t warrant a full and complete ban from Maps, I don’t know what does.
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Developing Knowledge about Local Search