Porn Mapspam Creeping into the Local 10 Pack

In a new development in the mapspam world (as if we need new developments), it was reported in the Google Maps Help Group that the search: Auto Insurance Los Angeles, CA is now returning not just mapspam but porn mapspam.

This listing does not appear to be a “community edit hijack” but rather a “legitimate” claimed record (or possibly a hijacked legitimately claimed record) in the LBC. Now when Danny Sullivan suggests that Google clean up the Mapspam in Google Maps, we know what he means. Leave it to LA to be at the forefront of this new effort. :) Although I should be careful not to give those folks any new ideas.

I always exhibit a certain lack of imagination when it comes to monetizing the “business pospects” of Google Maps. But this one engenders all sorts of thoughts of income opportunities for the enterprising Search Marketer… Continue reading Porn Mapspam Creeping into the Local 10 Pack

Maps Vs. Mapquest: Hitwise has Mapquest still in the lead

Heather Hopkins has posted updated Hitwise traffic for Google Maps and Mapquest:

She noted: “A few weeks ago I thought I was onto something very hot. I was getting ready to announce that Google Maps had caught up to MapQuest in share of US Internet visits. I decided to wait a week to be sure things held. Since then, MapQuest has regained its lead and is widening the gap on Google Maps.”

Compete shows Maps as having passed Mapquest in overall traffic. But as Heather points out the nature of the traffic is dramatically different. Most Maps visitors (61%) come from Google on non branded searches whereas most of the Mapquest visits come from branded searches.

Google Maps Needs a Public Face

Google Maps has no real public persona that equates to Matt Cutts on the organic side of the Google house. Cutts has taken on the role of guide, teacher, disciplinarian, webmaster liason, diplomat, conveyor of the company line and industry  spokesperson for Google. You may not always agree with him but he has earned our respect.  

There is no one from the Google Maps team with the same standing in the Local community. Carter Maslan occasionally has the public interview & Jen Chin (aka Maps Guide Jen) attends conferences and is the occasional poster on local blogs and now in the Google Helps Group, Maps Guide Jade posts to the Google Maps Help Forum Announcements

Maps Guide Jade, a relatively new addition to the team, makes regular public proclamations….they tend to the cheery, energetic, over the top and occasionally polyannish statements of an enthusiastic 22 year old (I am guessing here…my age bias is showing :) ).

She tends to hyperbole and some of the statements she makes are questionable (i.e. “Google Maps is the #1 mapping destination site globally”). Others seem to me just wrong. Here is one that I noticed where she recommended that businesses make a community edit of their business rather than claim it in the LBC when making a move: 

Just moved location for your business? Or the information Yellow Page provided online isn’t quite up-to-date? No worry! The function of the user edits of business data in real time would solve your problem in no time.

I am glad that Google has decided to give Maps Guide Jen some help in the forums, every helping hand makes the job of getting an answer to pressing questions easier….but I think it is time to give Google Maps a consistent, technically oriented, mature, and measured public face with whom to communicate. My vote is for Jen but if not her then someone else that is given the ability to speak freely, publicly & in a timely fashion on Google’s behalf.

Time to refine the Local 10 Pack?

One long standing complaint about the Local 10-Pack has been that on certain searches it returns multiple results for the same company.

In July of 2008, Eric Enge interviewed Carter Maslan, Director of Product Management for Google Maps. In the interview he asked Carter whether it was appropriate to have single company dominate the listings such as on the search Public Storage San Jose CA:

Eric Enge:…See how 8 of them are from one vendor, and the information presented for each of their entries is identical?

Carter Maslan: Yes, in that case, even though there is nothing inherently wrong with a single business ranking prominently in the top results, we are working to modify the way we handle cases like that. The challenge spans multiple areas around the quality of the data, the way we index it, the way we score it, and the way we present the UI in showing it.

So we are working on variations on ways to handle those cases better, but that’s not to say that there’s something inherently wrong with one business having a prominent presence in the top ten.

There must not have been much wrong with the listings…now 10 out of the 10 listings are from one vendor:

I am as big of a fan of a good algorithm as the next person but if a disparity of knowledge in the market place allows this sort of manipulation then something is not right with the algo. The challenge may “span multiple areas around the quality of the data…” but it is time (past?) for the “variations on ways to handle those cases better” to be rolled out.

Local SEO Tip: Google Maps loves Panoramio’s Geotagged Images

If “citations” are the new link than it appears that georeferences are the new citation.

Geotagging of photos, a common georeferenced data type, is gradually making its way into the mainstream. There has been a clear and steady integration of the technology into consumer products and a growing consumer awareness of the feature. Android and iPhone now automatically geocode images and iPhoto has recently been upgraded to include the ability to geocode photos. This all is making it easier for end users to learn about and implement geotagging in their personal workflow.

In a late 2006 piece, When will GeoCoding impact Local Search? I noted that it might be 5 years before geotagging of images was widely adopted throughout the marketplace and it had significant impact on local search. We are definitely well along that path.

Flickr and Panoramio have long had the capacity to geotag and display these images in a mapping context. The use of georeferenced data sets is rapidly increasing across the Internet and particularly within Google products. Google Maps added the capability to show geotagged photos in a given area. Google has added geotagging to Blogger and Maps has long been indexing KML files & the related photos for georeferences. Clearly Google Maps & Earth like end user generated georeferenced data and photos.

Now however, business listings within Google Maps are boldly showing geotagged images within the User Content area of the listing. It appears that Google Map’s actually loves geotagged photos when they come from Panoramio and there is every reason to believe that it is helpful in Maps ranking.

Having an image like the above included in your business listing at Google involves a few simple steps:
Continue reading Local SEO Tip: Google Maps loves Panoramio’s Geotagged Images

IYP Directory Scam Alert: – More YellowPages, Inc

I received not one but three calls during the last week of January asking to confirm my listing for the Yellow Pages. Each time, the call attendant would assure me that I was NOT approving any charges as they talked over a computer response system. On the third call, I asked why they needed to call me 3 times and the Supervisor noted that the two previous attendants were not as experienced as he…(now I know at what). Apparently on the their third attempt, I did, unwittingly, approve a $39.95 charge to my monthly phone bill. I just received the written confirmation in the mail today.

For my (unauthorized) $39.95/mo here is what I get:
Online Internet Yellow Page Listings – your business will be listed in over 40 directories
Enhanced Listing – Nation Online take your basic listing and supercharges it.
Search Engine Submission – As part of our program we submit your Website (or our local profile page…) to over 35 major search engines…
Local Listing Portal – Easily update your internet Yellow Page listing in minutes with our secure online link. …

Their local Better Business Bureau offers up a rating of D on – More YellowPages, Inc with this report:

Complaint Experience

Our file contains a pattern of complaints from consumers who allege they were contacted by this company and told “we are updating our records for the Yellow pages, and need to verify we have the correct information” Consumers state they were led to believe they were talking to thier current Yellow Page provider and were just verifying the address. During the verification process consumers state they can hear a recording in the background that they are unable to understand. Consumers state they are then charged an additional fee on their phone bill of $39.95, which they did not approve. The company responds to complaints by cancelling their agreement or an explanation of their sales process.

Well More YellowPages, Inc is nothing if not persistent. I guess you need to be if your business plan is predicated on this premise.

In the Trenches Of Local: SF Florist’s Maps Listing Goes Missing

Update 2/10/2009: The records returned to some state of normalcy. Since 7:00 am EST (and it is now 3:00 pm) the record is visible and working properly. Would love to hear from Maps Guide Jen where this puppy went. :)

Update 2/9/2009 1:30 EST: Whoaah….hold on there partner. Save the kudos for later. The record for Podesta Baldocchi seems to be disappearing once again! The correct listing currently has disappeared from Maps again. If you select the reviews link for Podesta in the listing returned on the search Flowers SF, CA in the Local 10-Pack it doesn’t take you to a Maps listing. My conclusion: Valentine gremlins have made their way into the Google index.

Update 2/7/09: During the night the primary listing for Podesta Baldocchi Flowers has returned to the index with reviews and Local 10 Pack placement intact.

I first met Marc Rovetti of Podesta Baldocchi Flowers, San Francisco in the aftermath of the Google Map’s florist hijackings last September. He runs one of the most respected floral shops in the Bay Area.

Recently, there have been a few reports in the Google Maps Help Forums of records going missing in the Maps index. When Marc emailed me several days ago with this problem, I took notice. His record has completely disappeared from Maps and thus from the Local 10 Pack. Given that the biggest flower shopping season is shortly upon us, Marc wondered if anything could be done. Given Google’s lack of customer service, I had to respond that his only choice was to post in the Help Forum and even though I am not religious, to pray. Neither has worked and it once again demonstrates the power that Google wields and the impact that it has on our everyday lives.

This issue speaks to the question that Marty Himmelstein has been addressing at Screenworks about the need for a factual content layer in Local. It also speaks to the need for more customer service options and accountability on the part of Google.

Here is a recent interview with Marc of Podesta Baldolcchi Flowers:

MB: Tell us about your business in San Franciso….how long have you been at your current location?

Marc: We have been in business in San Francisco continuously since 1871 and have been at our current location since 2001. Our most well known location in SF was 224 Grant Avenue where we were featured in Hitchcock’s Vertigo 1958.

MB: How did you learn about your Google Local Business Listing?

Marc: I learned about Google Local Business Listing from a florist friend of mine in San Francisco. We signed up a few years back have always been listed in the 10 pack usually around c and d.

MB: Do you do much on-line marketing besides Google Local? If so where and how?

Marc: We do use Yahoo and CitySearch ( Yelp until recently) for exposure to other veins of potential clients. We also market back to our clients via email.

MB: When did you notice the Local 10 pack and Maps record had gone missing?

Marc: After we experienced the floral hijacking a few months ago I check the 10 pack each morning as well as the listings below them by typing in “flowers San Francisco” The listing completely disappeared on Wednesday February 4th, 2009. I am not sure if it was there on Tuesday afternoon. We are however listing below the 10 pack (in the main search results) as I can see our website etc… This shows one or two placements below the 10 pack on a regular basis and hardly ever moves.

MB: What percentage of your business do you estimate that you get from your Local 10 Pack listing?

Marc: We get about 30% of our business from the 10 pack listing. It might actually be more but this is a fair estimate.

MB: Are you familiar with Adwords? do you use them?

Marc: Yes, I am familiar with ad words and we do use them. We could do a better job and this is always a work in progress. I fully understand the importance of being proactive and vigilant about the internet and being such a well known entity having online exposure with Google is essential for our clients to find us. We have long since dropped our print advertising as our clients use the web.

MB: Do you have a backup plan?

Marc: We have, because of the nature of the economy, already battened down the hatches. We have not replaced employees as they departed and we have a great repeat business from our traditional customers. We are glad to not have all our eggs in one basket.

MB: Any closing comment?

Marc: Its frustrating because we have done all of things that Google has asked, we claimed our listing and we run adwords and poof! Our listing is gone. It appears that I am not the only business experiencing this problem. I am coming up on the biggest holiday of the year and I am gone!

Has Google Maps surpassed Mapquest?

I ran a recent Mapquest/Google Maps comparison of visitation at It appears that Google Maps has passed Mapquest as the most visited mapping site:

Google Maps has been gaining on Mapquest for the past two years. Hitwise data in October indicated that Maps was closing in on Mapquest. While MapQuest may have “come out of hibernation” and have introduced a number of new features in the Local space, it does not appear to be fast enough.

These number reflect worldwide traffic. Google has a much stronger presence than MapQuest in much of Asia & Africa while Mapquest has traditionally been strong in North America. It would be of interest to see the US and European numbers broken out as well. I am sure there Mapquest is doing better.

New Universal Local Search Result Type: Branded Local OneBox

While Firefox is not supposed to have geolocation available until ver 3.1, it appears that Google is personalizing search results using some form of geolocation now.

Last month, David Mihm first spotted and pointed out a new Universal Local Search Result; the Branded Local One Box. The new Universal Result appears to only show in Firefox, for regional brand related searches. It requires that the searcher is in the same general area as the business.

I live in Olean and on the search for the company named Barbara Oliver & Co. Jewelry (no local modifier) which is 70 miles away in Buffalo I am presented  the new Branded Local Onebox. I get the following result in Firefox with the Google Toolbar (not Safari and not IE):

David who lives in Portland searched on the business name Pacific Benefits Group and saw:
Continue reading New Universal Local Search Result Type: Branded Local OneBox

Google has once again elevated Mapspam reporting

With the swicthover to the new forum, Mapspam reporting was temporarily buried amongst the many threads. Last week its profile has once again risen and the thread is now visible at the highest level of the forum

Kudos to Maps Guide Adam and Google for again giving people easy access to this reporting tool.

Never one to be happy with half of a barrel…Now if they could just figure out how to get folks to provide enough structured information in their posts so that the many volunteers could help them more easily.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search