Google LBC Communications Options Explained

Earlier in the month, Google upgraded the Local Business Center with additional communication options:

A number of readers expressed some confusion about the feature. Maps Guide Jen was kind enough to elucidate its limited function in an email exchange that we had recently.

Mike: Could you give us any insight into the new Business Communications feature in the LBC…when will it be functional, what sorts of things we might expect to get from it and what “Receive notifications when changes are made to your business listings” means?

Maps Guide Jen: The new communications feature in the LBC is functional already; the way it works is that if we make any major changes to the LBC (for example, this latest UI change) or if we have any news that we think Local Business Center owners should know about, people who have selected the choice to receive notifications will hear about them directly.

Mike: Has it been used by Google yet?

Maps Guide Jen: We haven’t sent anything out yet! But we will :)

From what I can gather the “Account Updates Receive notifications” feature is likely to include notifications for system wide updates such as the recent UI refresh and is not intended to provide any additional granularity at this point.

Google Maps LBC Word filter bars XXX business name?

Our formal business name is Blumenthals.com but the Local Business Center does not allow the use of a web url in the business name field. I didn’t worry too much about it other than to be slightly annoyed. It has forced me to address what a business name should look like in the age of Local search.

However this business poster in the Maps for Business Group definitely has an issue:

TOPIC: Google won’t accept our business name, which is a pet store called
Pussy & Pooch
.

=========================================
== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Tues, Jul 29 2008 11:41 am
From: “P&P”

Our downtown Los Angeles pet store is called “Pussy & Pooch”. Unfortunately Google Maps isn’t allowing us to use the word ‘Pussy’. Our business is not adult oriented in any way. There doesn’t seem to be a way to contact Google Maps directly about this.

Does anyone know a way to contact Google Maps directly? Thanks!

This might be one of those situation where an internet DBA would be appropriate. And just what exactly is a Pooch? I am anxiously waiting to see Map Guide Jen’s response.
 

Google Maps Update Moves to single box search field

Google has rolled out a UI upgrade to the map side view of Google Maps. The new interface provides a simplified single search box to businesses & places of interest and a new cleaner interface to directions.
Google Single search box upgrade (blue line) to Maps

Unfortunately, the Text View that is the default view when Maps is entered via the Onebox, still retains to the older, tabbed, multi-field interface. I look forward to similar update in this area as well.

Google Maps: New User Content Tab

Having been engaged in research on local, prepping my talk for SMXLocal & traveling, I haven’t paid that much attention to the bowels of Google Maps of late, so this could have been present for quite a while. But Google has added a new tab to the More Info display for a business record in Maps:

This content is taken from maps that I created  for this client in MyMaps. Historically, the content in these tabbed areas of Maps have correlated well with ranking.  Whether this is the case or not remains to be tested but obviously this indicates that Google thinks that User Generated Content from MyMaps is important enough to elevate to this level of visibility and reinforces my standing recommendation to create these sorts of  geo-referenced signals for Google to key in on.

Local SMX – Search Trends in Local

I have recently returned from LocalSMX and hope to blog on the event, incredible people and our research relating to Maps over the next week. But I wanted to touch on one of the keynotes delivered Frazier Miller of Yahoo (summarized here by Greg Sterling).

Frazier noted that growth in local queries at Yahoo experienced 76% year over year growth compared to a roughly 35% Y/Y growth in the previous year. He noted that the average user was querying 12 times per month vs 8 and that the query strings were moving heavily towards 3 and 4 word local queries from 1 and 2 (plus locale).

What struck me as so significant was that this growth appears to be occurring despite a flattening or downtrend in the long standing leaders of short tail queries in the local space like hotels, restaurants and real estate. Here is a Google Trends screenshot for real estate + locale:

This downward or flat trend is apparent in many of the queries that are dominant in local search: restaurants + locale, hotel + locale, lawyers + locale.

My sense of this conflicting trends is that this is actually a positive trend for a number of reasons….

Continue reading Local SMX – Search Trends in Local

Indian IT Firm outsources Local US Mapspam to itself

I frequently check my own record for Web Hosting Olean NY in Google Maps and when it popped up with this one box result my eyebrows raised a tad to see a new web hosting firm located at Vidhyapati St in Olean.

Olean, while it may have a number of Asian and Indian residents, typically has streets named after US Presidents, classic American Trees and the original thirteen states.

I found even more irony in Google’s claim that the “placement on the Map is approximate” (I’ll say):

Upon a little investigation it become obvious that Olean wasn’t the only market that Cisin.com was targeting, with over 2,000 listings in the US at 307 Vidhyapati St (which just happened to be the same address as listed in their Whois record in Indore, India ) in one town or another:

I had recently decided that since Google had posted their mapspam reporting tool, I would limit my mapspam reporting. This case is so rich in irony, that I couldn’t resist. This is one IT outsourcing firm that gets the job done!

Google LBC Upgrades Business Communications

Google has recently added a new feature (hats off to Martijn for the heads up on this) to the Local Business Center allowing a business to receive more communication from Google. Of particular interest is the option to “Receive notifications when changes are made to your business listings.” These preferences can be changed at any time going forward in the “settings” area of the LBC.

It is not clear exactly what types of changes are covered but one would hope that it would include new reviews and updated information. In theory, this will allow a business a much better feedback loop on their listings and offers the beginning of a glimpse of the possibility of using the Local Business Center for customer relations management.

Google: How to notifify Google of Mapspam

Today in the Google Maps for Business Group, Maps Guide Jen provided public instructions on filing a Mapspam report:

 

==========
TOPIC: Report Spam on Google Maps 

================

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Thurs, Jul 10 2008 12:00 pm
From: Maps Guide Jen

To file a spam report with the Google Maps team, please reply to this
thread with the following information:

– Your search terms
– A link to your search results
– A short description of why you believe this is spam

If we don’t ask for additional information, you can assume that your
report has been read and is being investigated.

Kudos to Google for a necessary step. But never one to be happy with a half full glass when it could very easily be more half full, I would suggest that:
1)These instructions be included in the Google Maps Help files
2)That there be an obvious link in the Maps Results that allow reporting of bad results and capture some of the information that Google needs to diagnose the issues involved
3)There should also be a more discreet reporting option for those users that would prefer to make the report privately.

Even more importantly, Google needs to allocate the human resources to Maps to be sure that the Map’s records are truthful and accurate and that these reports DO get read on a regular basis. Obviously the Maps Staff are spread pretty thin and a poster to the group never really knows that the posts have been read AND that the report is being investigated. The Group goes weeks on end without hearing from a Guide and often obvious spam is not always dealt with quickly.

In the end the burden of the process should be squarely on Google’s shoulders and they need to step up to that responsibility. The above statement of procedure is a GREAT first step but it is just a first step.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search