Google Maps: Conflated Records


Rob Nicholson of VisitBritain.org has shared an unusual problem with Google Maps:

Google has combined two listings (despite me registering our business as the correct details) thus giving a “kind of competitor” the picture as a screenshot of their product and the email and url as theirs! and there doesnt seem a way to fix this with Google!

Here are the screenshots….

For the Britain London Visitor Center :

blvc.jpg

And for the apparent cause for the conflict, London Pass Collection Center:

londonpass.jpg

If anyone has experienced anything similar, I would love to know about it.

Google Maps Offers Refine by User Rating & Neighborhood Option


There has been much discussion in the local community about the impact of reviews and review star rating on local rankings. In research done last year, it seemed that the quantity of reviews had significantly more impact on ranking than the quality of reviews.Recently however Google Maps has added a new option in Maps Text View mode that allows searchers to limit listings by the quality ratings, at least in certain highly reviewed categories like restaurants and hotels.userrating.jpgNote the dramatic change in listings when 4 Stars are selected. I would agree that Ellicottville doesn’t really have any 4-star restaurants.4stars.jpgIn larger metro areas there is also a choice to refine by neighborhood. Continue reading

Google Mapspam takes on international flavor


Conversionrate of Melbourne has pointed out a stunning example of mapspam that has occurred in Melbourne, Australia on the search: mechanic melbourne australia.

melbournemechanicmapspam.jpg

According to the folks at conversionrate.com.au:
We recently found a Melbourne based mobile mechanic who spammed his business into 500 locations on the Melbourne Map in Google Maps. Whilst the business appears to have only one real location, they asserted that because they are a mobile mechanic, they should be allowed to show up on the map on every main street of Melbourne city.

I have always thought that Americans often behaved as if they had certain God given entitlements. It appears that some Australians apparently feel the same way. :) My mapspam weather reports are now indicating that Australia is not as sunny as I was lead to believe.

That being said, there is a legitimate business need for Google Maps to be able to show service area for both local and national service based businesses. If Google were to provide another Map layer that offered this functionality, it would short circuit a number of these types of rationales that are based on a legitimate business need.

Local Links of Interest


Evidence Clear: Better Usability = More Mobile Internet Usage – Greg Sterling Localmobilesearch.com

AT&T Mobility president and CEO Ralph de la Vega reportedly told audience members at the GSMA Mobile World Congress Thursday that 95% of iPhone owners surf the mobile Web, although only 30% had done so before. About half have also watched videos on the iPhone via YouTube.

Google Gets What It Wanted from C-Block Auction – Greg Sterling, LocalMobileSearch

[Google] doesn’t have to build the infrastructure but it may reap the benefits of the required openness attaching to the C-Block of 700 MHz spectrum…..That winner will have to allow “any legal device” to access the network. Thus any Android phone would be allowed to operate, as well as devices such as the iPod Touch or perhaps the iPhone itself. 

Local Search Keyword Analysis  – ConvertOffline.com

A nice piece of research showing the relative frequency and structure of Sevice+Locale and Locale+Service searches.

Is all search local?


I did an interview with Rand Fishkin yesterday that was published at SEOMoz.org. One of the questions that came up in the interview was:

There have been estimates that nearly 40% of all search queries have some sort of local intent – to what degree do you think that’s an accurate estimate?

Here is the answer I provided:

This research is from my local guru, Greg Sterling. I have not looked at the methodology or the numbers and can’t speak directly to their accuracy, but the source is impeccable and the logic is valid. It provides a useful lens for understanding local. In the end it doesn’t really matter if it is 10%, 40%, 60% or more. If you are in one of the industries that needs local and can benefit from it, then you need it and you probably need professional help to navigate the maze that is local. If you need it and you don’t have a strong presence, it can be a disaster as seen in the case widely reported last December of the florist that was affected by a competitor gaining the Authoritative OneBox.

Local search is an aggregation of a million niches which will come to local as the ROI becomes more obvious to each of them. As the granularity of local data increases and functional mobile technology proliferates, more and more business sectors will be impacted and will benefit from participating in local.

Greg Sterling pointed out to me that the question is really a proxy for the question: Is Local a big deal? Should we take this seriously? And he pointed out that “most people still don’t get the online-offline connection aspect of local”.

Yesterday I experienced a case in point. Our family was spending a ski weekend with the families of my college friends and as it was raining, we were discussing books and chronic pain relief , the specialty of the friend with whom I was talking.

He thought he had ordered a certain book, but couldn’t remember exactly where or even what the title was and so we started a search in Google. After he made a few unsuccessful searches on Google for the author or the book name, we were able to tease out both on search 5 or 6. That took us ultimately to Amazon to verify the book and its name. From Amazon, we visited Borders.com to see if it was in either his or wife’s order account (which took us back to Amazon). Ultimately he discovered that he requested the book be sent to the local Borders for his pickup. Tomorrow when he gets back to Detroit, he is heading into his local Borders and picking up the book.

It reinforces Greg’s point that ultimately many searches have a local intent. We after all exist in a local world and fulfill our real needs in that world. One could say to paraphrase that “All search is Local” in that it is intended to impact our real lives in some way.

Google SMS now providing Residential Numbers- Goog-411 to follow soon?


I recently received a text from Google that their SMS system is now providing public residential phone listings via a text message.

Simply enter a name, city & st. or zip and text it to 46645 (GOOGL) and you will receive back a complete residential listing including the phone and street address. Can a Goog-411 residential service be far behind?

Local Links of Interest


Local Searchers Hunt for Ideas, Not Categories – Brian Wool, ClickZ

In recent weeks, bloggers and others have discussed how consumers are adopting a new way to use local search engines, Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs), and local directories. Actually, it’s not so much how consumers use local search products but how their search queries are adapting to the changing landscape brought about by technology.

One such interesting blog post by Jennifer Osborne discusses how millennials, the generation born from roughly 1980 to 1995, no longer think in terms of categories like previous generations. This is no small observation, considering there are about as many millennials as baby boomers. Marketers who don’t understand millennials may be turning off a large segment of their audience.

Microhoo vs. Google: The Battle for Audience and Keystrokes – Tim Cohn, SrcreenWerk

Google homes in on revenues from phones – Maija Palmer and Paul Taylor in Barcelona

Google on Wednesday said it had seen 50 times more searches on Apple‘s iPhone than any other mobile handset, adding weight to the group’s confidence at being able to generate significant revenues from the mobile internet. 

Panelists Express Mystification about the iPhone – Greg Sterling, LocalMobileSearch

The overall sense of the panel conveyed in the article is that the various mobile executives speaking were unable to see a practical path to a better user experience and/or more usage of the mobile Internet by consumers until they got there (cost of data plans is an issue that was raised as well). 

Local is “over rated” – Local is “under rated”


This was mostly written as a response to comments in my interview with Miriam at SEOIgloo. I realized that I can only write so many words before breakfast so I have posted the comment slightly changed here.

There are those who say that “local search gets no respect, it should be important to all” and others in the search industry that look at local and say: “It is not a significant force, its not important and doesn’t affect my clients”.

I have often thought the “local is over rated”/”local is underated” debate misses the point to some extent.The debate is more nuanced than that. And the answer is: Yes.

If you need Local, you need local.

We are in a nascent market, local search, that has not yet fully developed. It requires indexed content from the producers of the information and searches from the consumers of it. It will use new ways of accessing this information

So as more and more information comes on line, as Google (or whomever) provides more and more granularity, users and producers both will follow along as they realize that they will benefit.

Each company will come to local when it is in their benefit to do so. Five years ago, local wasn’t important unless you were in the hotel business, 4 years ago it wasn’t important unless you were in the hotel or florist industry, Three years ago you would have added cars and restaurants to the list and so on.

As your industry or the industry groups that you represent benefit from local, your business will need to be there. For now it local is a collection of niches.

As the information granularity improves, say WalMart posts local inventory, it will also impact the usage and the companies that will need to be there. If Target sees Walmart there then the process will progress on the data side as well. Local will become the ultimate aggregation of niches.

As the information improves in any given industry segment and as the business feels the need to be in local, the searchers will be there & the SEM’s will follow. In the meantime the number of niches that benefit will continue to grow.

Ultimately, as Miriam points out on SEOigloo, even with Ebay sellers all bussiness is local. (Just look at the comparison of internet shopping to total shopping).

The other looming change will be in how we access that information. The movement toward hand held computing ala the iPhone will change all of this is unforeseeable ways but most all of them will have an impact on local.

The game has just started so it would be foolish to place any bets on who does or doesn’t need the capability. I think we can agree that the number of niches that benefit from local is growing. At some point what was a collection of niches becomes the majority and the tipping point is reached. Keep your options open and take advantage as you see the opportunity.

Regardless there are industry segments that need to be in local now and they need solid advice and counsel.

Local Links of Interest


Your content on Google Maps Jess Lee – Google Lat Long Blog
Over the past 11 months, people have created more than 9 million My Maps, encompassing a total of 40 million placemarks. That’s an impressive 1 new placemark created every second! We never anticipated that people would become so interested in mapmaking, which used to be accessible only to priests, scholars, and academics.
…To give you a better sense of what’s being created, we’ve put together a page that randomly displays My Maps, showcasing ones that were recently edited or added.

Mike Blumenthal – Local SEO Interview Miriam – SEOigloo Blog

Read an interview with who else? ME! (ain’t the SEM industry grand?)

Nokia Dominates, but Rivals Insist That Could Change Kevin O’Brian NY Times

Google Groups Upsell to Adwords


The following snippet from the Google Maps For Business Owners Group highlights one of the intrinsic conflicts of interest that Google confronts in all of its properties. While they are unwilling, particularly in Google Maps, to provide any guidance on best practices lest they give away their secret sauce, they do want you as an advertiser.

While the advice given by Maps Guide Summer is basically sound, it would best be presented if the Guides in the Group were able to be more forthcoming about bugs, best practices and necessary techniques to best utilize the Maps environment. As it is now, they seem unable to provide meaningful answers on a range of very troubling issues.

TOPIC: How do I get my business in the local results – on page 1 like the
results below?

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

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Tues, Feb 12 2008 1:49 pm
From: “maps-guide6@google.com”

Hi Jeff,

The local business results that you see are all chosen by an algorithm
that takes many factors into consideration. There currently isn’t a
way to assure that any particular listing will show on the first page
of the Google Maps search results or on Google.com. It’s likely that
these listings will shift over time, so periodically take a look for
any changes.

Some businesses have gained a bit more visibility by applying to be
part of the Sponsored link program. To learn more about that, please
visit:

http://maps.google.com/support/bin/topic.py?topic=10783

Cheers,
Maps Guide Summer

On Feb 7, 8:55 pm, Jeff wrote:
> Can anyone help? I am trying to show up like the businesses below on
> page 1.
> When I type in: Norcross Carpet Cleaning.
>
> Thanks,
> Jeff
> —-

Developing Knowledge about Local Search