Google Begins Nationwide Rollout of Tags and Adds New Features

Google Tags on MobileGoogle has just announced at the LatLong Blog, the beginning of a nationwide rollout of Tags, their paid, local listing enhancement. The feature, first tested in early February and rolled out to 11 cities last month, will first be available in the states where they have already had Tags (California, Texas, Illinois, Georgia, Washington, and Colorado). Google will update this page as additional states go live.

Tags will now also appear on mobile searches and a new Tag type, called Posts, will be available. A Post allows a business owner to create a custom message that can be changed as often as owner would like. This new feature could be used to highlight special discounts or a limited-time offer and seems likely to be popular. It would be more useful if it were allowed to also link back to a web page but maybe now coupons will finally get the exposure they deserve.

At a flat rate of $25/mo per business, Google Maps will have a simple to use paid product in place. Google has noted that 2 million businesses have claimed their listings. If there is even only a 10% adoption rate, it will mean income of $60 million/year for Google. I would guess that the uptake will be higher than that and once one 7-Pack entrant adds a Tag, there will be a certain pressure, logic not withstanding, for others in the 7-pack to do so as well.

Comscore Mobile Market Share for April

Comscore has released their mobile market share numbers for April. Several points of interest: RIM is managing to gain market share against strong headwinds. Motorola continues to slide despite having released new Android phones during the period and Nokia continues to slide period:

Top Mobile OEMs

3 Month Avg. Ending Apr. 2010 vs. 3 Month Avg. Ending Jan. 2010

Total U.S. Age 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens

Share (%) of Mobile Subscribers
Jan-10 Apr-10 Point Change
Total Mobile Subscribers 100.0% 100.0% N/A
Samsung 21.1% 22.1% 1.0
LG 21.7% 21.8% 0.1
Motorola 22.9% 21.6% -1.3
RIM 7.8% 8.4% 0.6
Nokia 9.1% 8.1% -1.0

Mobile Operator Market Share

Despite AT&T’s many critics and despite Verizon’s heavily promoted Droid introductions, AT&T made small gains against a slightly declining Verizon.

Top Mobile Operators

3 Month Avg. Ending Apr. 2010 vs. 3 Month Avg. Ending Jan. 2010

Total U.S. Age 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens

Share (%) of Mobile Subscribers
Jan-10 Apr-10 Point Change
Total Mobile Subscribers 100.0% 100.0% N/A
Verizon 31.2% 31.1% -0.1
AT&T (Cingular) 25.0% 25.2% 0.2
Sprint 12.1% 12.0% -0.1
T-Mobile 12.1% 12.0% -0.1
Tracfone 4.8% 5.1% 0.3

Google Maps: Updated Google places Management UI (LBC)

Google Maps has rolled out a revised interface (thanks to Jim Giangolio of Lunametics, a Pittsburgh SEO, for the heads up) to the multiple business view of the Google places management area.

The changes are both aesthetic and practical. New are the ability to organize the list by business name or status, an active alert of issues, and miniature displays of the listing stats:

The welcome upgrade to the interface which solves some long standing problems with managing multiple listings still has a few quirks. For example regardless of the view (business or status) chosen, it always reverts to the status view after a record change. We can also hope with this initial upgrade that Google will start including more meaningful error and penalty state messages within the new interface. Regardless, it is a welcome upgrade to anyone with more than 2 or 3 listings in an account.

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

Developing Knowledge about Local Search