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):
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.
“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.
Here is a summary of articles and resources on Google’s new Local Ad Listing test program in San Diego and San Francisco:
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
Greg Sterling:More Info on Google Local Listing Ads
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
Greg Sterling: Google Offers New ‘Simple’ Ads for SMBs
MB: Google Intros Local Listing Ads to LBC in Limited Markets
Greg Sterling (SEL): Google Creates A New, Simplified Ad Unit For Local Business
I was able to capture several variations of Local Listing Ad displays and captured them on a 1280 X 960 screen to get a sense of how many organic listings might show. I chose 1280px screen resolution as it is the display type of roughly 50% of current users. I removed tabs from my browser assuming that many users do not use them and ran the browser screen to full size.
Note that on some ad presentations there are very few organic listings visible above the fold and even with no Adwords at the top only two organic listings are shown.
A number of folks have pointed out, and rightfully so, that for this program to be really successful Google would need to actively “sell” the ads to SMBs. In a sense I believe that this is absolutely true. However, my back of paper estimates are that roughly 10% of US businesses have claimed their LBC record with NO significant marketing on Google’s part. Let’s assume that with no marketing of the product, 10% of those choose to use the Local Listing Ad. Lets also assume that the average monthly spend is a modest $50.
In the US you are looking at roughly 15 million businesses x 10% LBC take up x 10% Local Listing Ad adoption x $50/mo. = 150,000 SMBs x $50/mo. That would equal $7.5 million per month or $90 million per year. As Everett Dirkson once said, a million here, a million there and it soon adds up to some real money. With Google’s scale a low adoption rate still leads to significant profits. There would be additional world adoption and other benefits and spill over to Google’s Adwords product as well.
As far as I know, while we have seen ad examples, no one has yet seen the LBC tab out in the wild. Either the test group is very limited or Google has placed the ads to test layouts and response prior to releasing the interface widely.
The newly announced Local listing ads are starting to appear on a limited basis in the wilds of San Francisco. David Mihm, the talented Local Search Expert, and I submitted a number of questions about this new trial to Google.
–What will the range of prices be for a given market and category?
–Will the pricing be transparent to all, across all markets?
Regarding your pricing questions:
Since various industries have different levels of saturation and search popularity by business category and location, those are the factors upon which we decided to base our variable flat fees. Part of this beta is testing the pricing structure and trying to find a good balance between advertiser ROI and flat fees. That being the case, please understand that we’re not able to share the range of flat fees.
–Will the business be allowed to advertise in more than 1 category?
Regarding your category questions:
We’re only announcing an initial version of the beta at this time, so advertisers are currently only able to choose one category. As we continue to develop this product, this may change. Ad placement per category is currently determined on a rotating basis. However, we’re constantly testing new ad formats and placements, and we may make changes and refinements to our current experiment in the future.
–How long is the test period?
Regarding your rollout questions:
As you know, Local Listing Ads are currently only available to businesses located in San Francisco and San Diego. There is no set testing period for gathering feedback and data, but we can’t speculate on future product development or roll out.
– Will these ads get a set amount of “square footage” on the screen, or will they push national advertisers’ standard Adwords largely off the page for geo?
–Will the price have a relationship to the adwords pricing and will that relationship be transparent?
Regarding your placement questions:
Local Listing Ads may appear either above the organic search results or on the right hand side of Google.com, or in the left panel of Google Maps. When they appear above the organic search results on Google.com, up to 4 ads may be shown. When they appear on the right hand side on Google.com, up to 4 ads may be shown. And on Google Maps, one ad may be shown for any given query. Please keep in mind, however, that we’re constantly testing new placements, and we may choose to make changes to the current experiment in the future. Also, Local Listing Ads do not compete in the auction and instead are slotted in new ad inventory spots that have been created on Google search results pages and Google Maps.
– What type of support structure will be in place for businesses who have trouble setting this up? Will it be managed through the LBC Help Forums or will there be a dedicated person or team to handle inquiries?
Regarding your support questions:
Advertisers who sign up for Local Listing Ads will be able to contact us, and Help Center content is also available here: http://maps.google.com/support/bin/topic.py?hl=en&topic=23543
Below are a list of the questions that were asked but not answered directly and some additional questions that have cropped up:
Continue reading Google Answers Some Local Listing Ad Questions
Update 9/9/09: Viewers have spotted in India(!), Italy & UK as well. But still no reports from Canada 🙁
Martijn Beijk (Local Search Optimization) and Arjan Snaterse (Technical SEO Blog) have informed me that Google, starting late yesterday, has been rolling out the Local Business Center data rich Dashboard across Europe. Martijn noted on Twitter that he had seen “listings in Netherlands and Spain and they were active 4 both of these countries. Usually this means a big rollout.”
The data rich dashboard for the LBC was rolled out in June of this year in the US. Since that time stats have been missing outside the US since that time. Can Canada be far behind?
The display is less cluttered and cleaner looking but once again limits valuable real estate and ups the ante on ranking. If this change is permanent it is the first display update to the Local Universal OneBox since they broadly introduced in January of 2008. One interesting theory mentioned to me was that the change was to make room at the top in anticipation of the coming Local Listing Ads.
Last night while at Marty Weintraub’s AimClear SMX East SchmoozFest, I was fortunate to meet Frederick Vallaeys of Google. He is the forthright (he gave me a business card!), communicative product evangelist for Adwords. He was on his way out the door but took the time to answer some of my questions about the newly announced Local Listing Ad product.
According to Frederick, email support will definitely be an integral part of the Local Listing Ad product. Supprt will take the form of an automated first response to the initial query with human escalation if the answer provided is not satisfactory. He noted that discussions were on-going and that all other support options, including the possibility of fee based phone support, were on the table but no final decision had been reached. He noted that he felt strongly that “people should be able to get their questions answered”.
Even though brief, the conversation was far ranging and touched on my of my questions about the new product:
-What will the prices be for a given market and category?
-Will the pricing be transparent to all, across all markets?
-How long will the price remain fixed and when it does change what will the procedure be?
-Will the price have a relationship to the adwords pricing and will that relationship be transparent?
-How will placement be determined in competitive markets?
-Will categorization be limited to the existing categories or will it allow for long tail catogorizaton?
Much of the conversation was off the record but it is clear that the process and procedures for this product are still very much a work in progress.
Support (or rather lack there of) for Local Bussiness Center users has long been an issue with Google with many serious problems going unanswered and unattended. Early this year, in a far ranging discussion about Why the Google Local Business Center Fails, Matt Cutts responded that:
Here’s my personal take on the “paid support” suggestion. Historically Google has been averse to offering paid support for free products. I think it’s because we don’t want to evoke the idea that Google has a conflict of interest. For example, if we offered paid support for (say) websearch, lots of conspiracy theorists would accuse Google of making search worse in order to make money off of people paying for support.
The new Local Listing Ads is an exciting product that will appeal to many SMB’s. It offers simplicity and a fair bit of transparency and can act as an effective first step for many local businesses in the world of on-line advertising. It could, by providing support for both Ad related AND other technical problems, improve the image of the Local Business Center in the marketplace.
I can envision those with solvable by Google only type problems signing up so as to just get their listing issues resolved. A 30 Day Free Trial could easily turn into 30 days of free support with an ad thrown in.
That being said, I am looking forward to Google working out the kinks on the way to this new product. It seems ideally suited to the needs of many businesses who are just now beginning to look to the Internet for an solution to replace the declining value of the print Yellow Pages and news papers.
Frederick will be speaking at Q&A session at SMX East this afternoon. I would encourage all of the Local world to come and get the answers to the many questions that you have had. Well, OK, to at least ask the questions. 🙂
Google has started a limited rollout of a new fixed price SMB ad type in the San Diego and San Francisco market. The ad, which a new type of ad, which will be highlighted with a pushpin both on the ad and on the 10 Pack Map will be located directly above the 10 Pack view.
This new ad type will be accessible via a new tab in the Local Business Center and will offer call tracking and reporting. Greg Sterling has reported on this at both SearchEnginland and Screenwerks where he noted that it didn’t appear that this ad type would be available through resellers. That may well be true but many LBC accounts are managed for the SMB’s by their search companies. I think that the simplicity and guaranteed placement of this ad type will be appealing.
The ads will be automatically created by Google and can currently be directed to either the business’s home page or their Places page. It is not clear to me that SMB’s will be all that cracked up about sending their ad to a page that could very well contain competitor’s ads and paying for that privelege.
Greg noted that although pricing has not been firmly established that he speculated it would run between $20 and $200/mo depending on the category and market. Pricing is always an issue for small businesses but given thGoogle’s low operating expenses, pricing could be enticing. For many SMB’s this could very well be their first experience with call tracking and true ad accountability. It will be interesting to see how they value that extra accountability.
In my survey’s of the top 200 listings in Google Maps across multiple categories, LBC adoption ranged from a low of 5% to a high of roughly 25%. While this program would be significantly more successful with active marketing, it offers of the possibility of significant incremental revenue to Google with no additional efforts of their part. It will be interesting to see how pricing compares to the bid based pricing in Adwords and whether the two values are tied together.
Here is Google’s video on the product:
Here are Google’s Help/Information pages on the product:
this new product raises a number of operational and strategic questions:
What will the prices be for a given market and category?
Will the pricing be transparent to all, across all markets?
How long will the price remain fixed and when it does change what will the procedure be?
Will the price have a relationship to the adwords pricing and will that relationship be transparent?
How will placement be determined in competitive markets?
Will categorization be limited to the existing categories or will it allow for long tail catogorizaton?
AND THE BIGGEST QUESTION OF THEM ALL:
Will Google, now that they are charging for use start providing support?
We are announcing, for immediate delivery, the availability of this year’s 2009 Limited* Edition SMX East Local T-Shirt!
The shirt is intended to commenorate David Mihm’s Ultimate Local SEO Vanity Search & raise money for charity. All profits will be donated to Google to hire a customer support representative. 🙂
Buy now as the supply is limited!
On the back of this classic T, done in a tasteful white with a touch of familiar color, we offer David’s tactful & classic answer to this important question:
Continue reading SMX East – Announcing the 2009 Limited Edition SMX East Local T-Shirt