Google Local Business Center Upgrade -Unlimited Category Options

With the recent rollout of Add a Place to Map , allowing everyone to add a listing to maps with its more flexible categorization structure, Google has also upgraded the categorization system in the Local Business Center.

This upgrade comes in response to 18 months of complaints in the Google Maps for Business Group. The all too common refrain: Why can’t I be in the same category as my competitor, will no longer be heard. The very limited and limiting system previously used by Google forced unusual workarounds for businesses that did not fit into the small number of categories. In a February 22nd interview with Carter Maslan, Maps Product Management Director, he indicated that this category upgrade was in the works.

The new categorization system still allows only 5 category entries per business. They can however, be from a much larger list of Google provided suggestions or entered in an ad-hoc fashion in any way that the business owner wishes. Under the previous category system there was but one category choicein the insurance area: Services – Insurance (to see a list of all previous categories)

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There are similar suggestions in every business category area. This increased category flexibility also open new possibilities for spam. For lack of a better term, this CatSpam could affect rankings and listings as much as previous Maspamming techniques of Business Title manipulation, location & address manipulation, bulk upload abuse, phone book listing capers and sophisticated combination tactics.

However in the interview with Maslan in February, it was obvious that Google is aware of this possibility:

He felt that over the long haul the best solution was to allow the users to make corrections to the listings and then have some way to make that visible in the ranking. They are definitely pursuing more user input which he hoped would provide an ultimate reduction of the frustration levels. They are also putting in place techniques to prevent abuse. Their general philosophy is that there are more good people than bad but that the bad are very motivated, and that with the right balance of technology they can have high confidence in the data.

This past Sunday, on the Google Operating System Blog, Matt Cutts commented:

I would assume that Google is going to take mapspam quite seriously. I invited someone from the local team to discuss the subject in depth with my entire team just last week, for example, and we talked about lots of ways to work together. So my personal advice would be to make sure that your business name/category is accurate.

Ominous advice for sure. It will be interesting to see how this is policed and managed in the coming months as significantly more data flows into Maps from users and business owners alike.

Google Maps Guide Brian promoting new Add to Map feature

I just received the following email from Maps Guide Brian:

From: “Maps Guide Brian”

Date: Tue, March 18, 2008 6:10 pm
To: “Google Maps Help Group – Current Issues”

Add, edit and mark locations for removal. Check out videos and
instructions in the “Editing places” section of the “Search” tab in
the Google Maps User Guide.
–~–~———~–~—-~————~——-~–~—-~
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups “Current Issues” group.
To post to this group, send email to google-maps-currentissues@googlegroups.com

To unsubscribe from this group, send email to
google-maps-current-issues-unsubscribe@googlegroups.com
For more options, visit this group at

http://groups.google.com/group/google-maps-current-issues?hl=en

-~———-~—-~—-~—-~——~—-~——~–~—

Google Maps Add new place to Map update

addplace.jpg
In the posting at the Google Lat Long Blog google has noted the following about the new Add/Edit Place to Map feature :

•The feature is only available in U.S., Australia, and New Zealand
•It can be used to edit a business as well as add new content. In this context it can be used to note a new location, new hours or a store closing

Previously I had noted that the option was only available in broad address searches. This is not correct as the option appears at the bottom of the Maps results on any Map query.

Also the option to edit existing business listings, while possibly open to abuse, may provide a down and dirty spam reporting mechanism.

Google Maps: Everyone can create a business listing

add_plcae_to_the_map.jpg

The new Google Maps feature to allow every user to create a new business listing is now live. The program was hinted at broadly by Carter Maslan, Maps Product Manager last month in an interview and confirmed today by Google. The new Map feature was seen as early as Sunday.

Here is a comprehensive slideshow detailing the process step by step. To view the slideshow click here.

Here are some items of note about the process:

Continue reading

M:Metrics Report: iPhone Internet Usage Far exceeds Market Average

In a report released today by M:Metrics it was noted that “the iPhone is already the most popular device for accessing news and information on the mobile Web, with 85 percent of iPhone users accessing news and information in the month of January.

Usage in other categories of internet access like watching video, listening to music, social networking while not quite as high significantly exceeded market averages. Of particular note was that 36 percent of iPhone users accessed Google Maps. In comparison, only 2.6 percent of all mobile subscribers checked out Maps. No mention is made of time on the service or total number of search queries but one has to assume that those were proportionately much higher as well.

Mobile Content Consumption: iPhone, Smartphone and Total Market:
 January 2008

Activity                                     iPhone   Smartphone*   Market
--------                                     ------   ----------    ------
Any news or info via browser                  84.8%        58.2%     13.1%
Accessed web search                           58.6%        37.0%      6.1%
Watched mobile TV and/or video                30.9%        14.2%      4.6%
Watched on-demand video or TV programming     20.9%         7.0%      1.4%
Accessed Social Networking Site or Blog       49.7%        19.4%      4.2%
Listened to music on mobile phone             74.1%        27.9%      6.7%

Source: M:Metrics, Inc., Copyright © 2008. Survey of U.S. mobile
subscribers. Data based on three-month moving average for period ending
31st January 2008, n = 31,389.
*Smartphones include devices running Windows, Symbian, RIM or Apple
operating systems.

This increased usage is a function of both user interface of the iPhone and the unlimted integrated internet access plan.

“While the demographics of iPhone users are very similar to all smartphone owners, the iPhone is outpacing other smartphones in driving mobile content consumption by a significant margin,” said Donovan. “In addition to the attributes of the device itself, another important factor to consider is the fact that all iPhones on AT&T are attached to an unlimited data plan. Our data shows that once the fear of surprise data charges is eliminated, mobile content consumption increases dramatically, regardless of device.”

I have noted in the past that penetration of iPhone like devices, with a decent interface and usability is likely to reach 50% of the market in 3 to 4 years. Obviously this depends on both the hardware and the internet access plans that the phone companies put in place. When the stars align and this occurs, local search will obviously benefit.

Local Links of Interest

Incomplete and Wrong Data in Google Local Search

- Bill Slawski, SeobytheSea.com

Bill covers some of the patents that relate to the post here last week: Google Plus Box – Where does the (wrong) data come from?
Deer Blogs His Own GPS Position in Google Earth – Frank Taylor, Google Earth Blog

A report on a very cool  real time animal  tracking experiment. I can’t wait until worried parents start the same experiment with their teenage children. Or perhaps overanxious citizenry implant this technology in sex offenders (only in America).

Google on SDK Competition with iPhone: We’ve Had More Downloads  – Greg Sterling, LocalMobile Search

Clearly the move from cell phone to mobile internet mobile platform will not be Apple’s market alone. Google is going to be right there. It will be interesting to see which of the two has more success convincing the owners of the “walled gardens” to open up their networks and if one of them becomes the leading mobile computing platform.

Google Maps offers Instant User Created Locations

For an update and detailed slide show on this feature see: Google Maps: Everyone can create a business listing

Jean-Noël Anderruthy of the GoogleXXL blog alerted me to the Google Operating System blog reporting of a new Google Maps feature that allows users to create new content to be added to Maps.

I have yet to see the feature but according the blog:
The option seems to work only for the US and you can enter few details about the local business or the place: address, name, phone, website and category. Google promises that “once you save your place, the whole world can find your addition by searching for it within a few minutes.”

Here is a a screen capture courtesy of the Google Operating System Blog:

add-place-to-google-maps-22.png

add-place-to-google-maps-3.png

The posters at the blog wondered about the impact of spam in this user gnerated content and Matt Cutts responded:
I would assume that Google is going to take mapspam quite seriously. I invited someone from the local team to discuss the subject in depth with my entire team just last week, for example, and we talked about lots of ways to work together. So my personal advice would be to make sure that your business name/category is accurate. :)

How many Google Coupons are there? Up 54%

In November of 2oo7, I used Google’s coupon search function to estimate the total number of coupons that Google was showing in major markets. Google introduced the coupon program in August 2006 and they announced a partnership with ValPak to help promote coupon use shortly after.

Here are the numbers of coupons in NY, Chicago, San Francsico and Olean as of March, 2008 compared to November 2007:

Coupon
Search
Total Coupons for search “City”
Nov. 2007
Total for “City
+ Valpak” Nov. 2007
Total Coupons for search “City”
Mar. 2008
Total for “City
+ Valpak” Mar. 2008
Notes
New York City 536 410 631 268 18% overall increase despite 34% Valpak decrease
San Francisco 580 200 605 162 4% increase despite 19% Valpak decrease
Chicago. 519 165 694 139 34% increase despite 18% Valpak decrease
Olean, NY 12 1 8 0 what can you say? Its Olean.
Totals 1647 776 1938 569 18% overall increase in 4 months despite 27% decrease in Valpak presence

Google Coupons have been the poor step child of the Maps world since their introduction. They just haven’t gotten any respect. Now though, four months after my first analysis, Google is seeing annualized growth rates of 54% despite the fact that it appears that ValPak now has a significantly lower presence. In fact if you calculate the growth in coupons just from the Local Business Center and remove ValPak from the equation, there has been growth of 171% on an annualized basis.

All of the old questions are still there: Why do they promote the program so little? Will it ever achieve greater exposure? Will it play a role in the world of coupons in the future?

And there now is a new question: Is ValPak cutting back its commitment to Google Coupons?

The total numbers are still low in an absolute sense but the growth rate augurs well given the low overall rates of growth that have been reported elsewhere in the online coupon segment. This growth has occurred despite a lack of promotion, virtually no visibility and a number of bugs in the coupon implementation in the Local Business Center.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search