Loci 2009: David Mihm’s Most Important Articles in Local Last Year

David Mihm, well known for his writing on his blog & at SearchEngineLand and for his work on Getlisted.org, an smb local listing management tool, offers up the articles that he found most important over the past twelve months…

There were a ton of great articles in the Local Search industry this year & the following list really does not do a number of noteworthy posts justice.  But here are my choices of articles I couldn’t do without from the past 12 months…

General Interest: Why SEO Still Matters for SMB’s (Lisa Barone / Outspoken Media)
Lisa takes Web 2.0 “thought leader” Robert Scoble to task for his short-sighted view of what SEO actually means in 2009, and highlights why it’s perhaps more important than ever for small business owners.  If there were a “rising star” award for Local Search blogging, Lisa would surely win it–although she’s been a regular blogging star for years already.

The State of the Internet Yellow Pages: Brave New World for IYPs (Chris Silver Smith / Search Engine Land)
Chris details the impact that Google’s Local Universal interface has had on IYP companies in 2009.

Tips and Advice: If I Were Launching a Small Business Website Today (Matt McGee / Small Business Trends)
Wow.  A FREE, detailed Internet marketing plan for small business owners just getting started on the web courtesy of one of the oldest-school gurus in our space.  Well-written and spot-on as usual from Mr. McGee.

Analytics (tie): Tracking Local Search Traffic with Analytics (Martijn Beijk / Blumenthals.com) and Tracking Analytics from the 10-pack (Mike Belasco & Mary Bowling / SEOverflow)
Similar to Liebnitz’ and Newton’s simultaneous yet independent discovery of Calculus, Martijn and the SEOverflow team both solve a long-time headache for Local SEOs by detailing an ingenious strategy to segment 10-pack clicks from organic clicks.

Research / Analysis: What Is Location Prominence? (Mike Blumenthal)
Yes, I could have nominated the Local Search Ranking Factors for this award but no one outside of Bill Slawski has ever dived into a Google patent as assiduously as Mike did on this one — and translated it into plain English for the rest of us.

Holding Google’s Feet to the Fire (tie): Is It Time to Send Google Maps Back to the Drawing Board? (Matt McGee / Search Engine Land) and Go-to-Client and Home-Based Businesses Out of Google’s Local Loop (Miriam Ellis / SEOigloo)
It seems a shame for Mike not to win the award in this category, but we’ll use the argument “he wins it every year” to justify his exclusion.  Matt calls Google out very publicly for its over-aggressive merging on Search Engine Land (an issue which was largely fixed within a week) and Miriam continues to agitate for, in her typically polite but insistent fashion, a solution to the service area problem (which has still not been solved despite a constant outcry from the Local SEO community since the very dawn of the 10-pack).

Excellence in Business Listing Data Exposition (tie): SMN Webcast Recap: Local Business Listings (Matt McGee / Small Business SEM) and Who Powers Whom? A Closer Look at the Local Search Data Providers (Yours Truly / GetListed.org)
Matt does a bang-up job of recapping the Search Marketing Now webinar featuring representatives from infoUSA, Acxiom, and Localeze, and I take things one step further with the most up-to-date chart of which data providers feed which search engines.

Corporate Philanthropy: Google Maps Should Consider a Canonical Phone Number Tag (Chris Silver Smith / Natural Search Blog)
Chris proposes a solution to help clean up business listings for the local search engines and data companies.

Business Owner Philanthopy: The Complete List of Google Local Business Center Categories
(Mike Blumenthal)
Mike came across the full taxonomy of Google’s LBC and published for business owners and SEOs everywhere.

Avatar impersonators & Ann Smarty

I run a do follow blog for a reason. It seems like the right thing to do to recognize those regular contributors that have made the blog a success. I require 5 or more posts before the no follow tag is removed and I screen every comment.

But it creates a lot of work. Every limo service & locksmith in the world seems to make an effort to leave inane comments not realizing that I would need to approve 5 for it to be of any value. In the end, I delete probably ~10 unapproved comments every day to try and keep things working smoothly here.

Worth it? I am not sure but I enjoy the conversation and really want to encourage the real thing.

I received the following comment earlier today and I thought, cool…the Ann Smarty has stopped by.. It struck me as odd that she would leave a somewhat plagarized comment…but her gravatar looked right and I was in a rush so I approved it.

  1. Yes, the Google “way” of solving all problems via algo does not work very well when this spam is obvious, painful and contrary to ground truth. In the past they have only removed very high profile cases and all else sits and awaits time for the system to be “innoculated”.The delay, which can seem like 2 lifetimes to a struggling SMB, is a PR disaster waiting to happen.

    Comment by Ann| link building services (1 comments) — January 5, 2010 @ 5:00 am |Edit This

I contacted Ann, and of course she didn’t write the comment. It turns out it isn’t the Ann Smarty at all but rather a Phillipine laborer impersonating Ann, using her gravatar to make it look convincing and trying to create links for “Lease an SEO” in Nebraska. Ah, the benefits of global outsourcing.

Oh, and be on the watch out for comment impersonators using her (and mine as well) avatar looking to get a cheap link.

Google’s Blue Interface (aka Jazz) Is Approaching – What is your Hands on Take?

According to Barry at Seroundtable, more searchers are now seeing the new 3 column Google Jazz Interface. This interface, which Google hopes to push out sometime this year will have a significant impact on local search if for no other reason than because of it showing a 5 pack instead of the current 7 pack as the standard display.

If you have not yet tried the new Google display and would like to, you may do so pasting the following into the address bar of your browser when on google.com:

When you have done so you can then explore the new interface and will see search results like the following:

Clearing your Google cookies in your browser cache will turn off the Jazz interface and return your browser to the current interface.

How do you see the interface affecting local search?

Loci 2009: Bill Slawski’s Important Patents of 2009

Here are links to 10 posts I wrote this year about things that I found in patents and white papers from the search engines. I’ve included links to the patent filings and whitepapers as well, and included the date that each post was published in parentheses after the links to those posts.

I broke them down into the following categories:

– Local Intent in Search
– Ambiguous Locations
– Synergy Between Local and Mobile
– Sentiment Analysis in Local Reviews

I tried to include a short introduction to each section as well, to provide an idea of why I thought those were important.


Local Intent in Search

On December 15th of this year, Yahoo started showing Yahoo local results within organic search results for query terms that they thought might have a local intent, even when that query didn’t have a geographic term included with it, according to a Yahoo blog post, Get More Personally Relevant Results When You Search for Local Businesses.

I noticed patent filings from Google and Yahoo, and a Yahoo whitepaper over the course of the year that gave us some hints on how each of the search engines might determine whether there might be a local intent in a query that doesn’t include a location. That kind of local intent associated with a query might trigger the appearance of local search results in organic web searches. Understanding why a query might be determined to have a local intent, without a location, has been helpful.

1. Google Local Search, Categories, and the What and Where of Local Map Listings (April 21st, 2009)

Google patent filing – Interpreting Local Search Queries

2. How a Search Engine Might Determine Whether a Search Involves a Geographical Intent (May 18th, 2009)

Yahoo whitepaper – Discovering Usersí Specific Geo Intention in Web Search (pdf)

3. How Search Engines Might Divine the Intent behind Regional Queries vs. Global Queries (December 14th, 2009)

Yahoo patent filing – Identifying Regional Sensitive Queries in Web Search

Ambiguous Locations

When a local search contains some ambiguous geographic information such as a landmark or area name such as “Space Needle” or “Times Square,” instead of an actual street, city, or state name, it might attempt to associate that limited geographical information with an actual location. People do search for hotels or restaurants or other types of businesses near landmarks. I wrote about a Google patent filing that explained how they might keep track of this information, and score locations when there is more than one landmark or area with the same name (such as “Times Square”). This was also the first place I had seen Google mention that they might include user-added data such as “my maps” submissions to help index what might be found at different locations.

1. Google Geocoding, Ambiguous Locations, and My Maps Submitted Data (July 13th, 2009)

Google patent filing – Geocoding Multi-Feature Addresses

Synergy Between Local and Mobile

In addition to announcing the launch of Google Latitude in February of 2009, Google Maps Navigation for Android in October of 2009, and the release of an official Google phone early next year, Google started taking some other steps that draw mobile phones and local search closer together.

Three Google patent applications published this year describe how barcodes in business windows can be used to help you learn more about a business, how mobile phone cameras may be used with product search and may use GPS to let you look at the online catalogs for stores you are presently shopping within, and how you can rate local businesses by phone while you’re still shopping.

If you’re following local search but skimming past information about tie-ins with mobile devices, you’re missing out on a very important element of local search.

1. Google Barcodes and Place Rank Transforming Local Search (December 10th, 2009)

Google patent filing – Machine-Readable Representation of Geographic Information

2. How Google Might Let you Shop by Camera Phone (December 28th, 2009)

Google patent filing – Image Capture for Purchases

3. Google Approach to Making Online Ratings Easier… (October 2nd, 2009)

Google patent filing – Ratings Using Machine-Readable Representations

Sentiment Analysis in Local Reviews

Google held their second annual Searchology event in May of 2009, and part of the big news was the addition of some “smart snippets” in search results that could contain things like ratings for restaurants. Another major announcement was the addition of sentiment analyis in reviews shown to searchers, in a new options section that provides reviews, and within the reviews that are shown in local search. Three Google patent filings published this year, and a Google White paper from 2008 provided some possible insights into how Google goes about understanding the sentiment of content found in reviews, how it might address sentiment in other domains, and how it might rate raters.

1. Opinion Summaries in Google Maps Reviews (August 4th, 2009)

Google patent filng – Aspect-Based Sentiment Summarization

2. Google’s New Review Search Option and Sentiment Analysis (June 12th, 2009)

Google White paper – Building a Sentiment Summarizer for Local Service Reviews (pdf),

Google Patent filing – Domain-Specific Sentiment Classification

3. How Google May Rate Raters (June 15th, 2009)

Google patent filing – Rating Raters

Bill’s bio if you want to know more about him:
Continue reading Loci 2009: Bill Slawski’s Important Patents of 2009

Coming Soon: Click-to-Call in Ads on Mobile Devices with Google AdWords

I just received this email from Google:

Coming Soon: Click-to-Call in Ads on Mobile Devices with Google AdWords

Dear AdWords Advertiser,

We’re pleased to announce that beginning in January, your location-specific business phone number will display alongside your destination url in ads that appear on high-end mobile devices. Users will be able to click-to-call your business just as easily as they click to visit your website.

How will phone numbers appear in my ads?

Based on the customer’s geographic location, the phone number and closest business address will appear as a fifth line of ad text when the ad appears on mobile devices with full HTML browsers (e.g. iPhone, Android, Palm WebOS).

Where will I be able to see the results?

At launch, you’ll be able to view calls from your ads on your Campaign Summary page within AdWords from the “click type” segment option under the “Filter and Views” drop down.

How will I be charged for phone calls I get from my ad?

The cost of a click to call your business will be the same as the cost of a click to visit your website.

What actions should I take?

If you’d like your ads to show location-specific phone numbers when displayed on mobile devices, make sure that your campaign is targeting iPhones and other mobile devices with full HTML browsers, and that you have included phone numbers with your business addresses in the locations under your Campaign settings.
If you would prefer your ads not show phone numbers, simply remove the location extensions from your ad campaigns or un-check mobile devices under the Campaign Settings tab.

We hope this new feature enables you to connect more easily with your potential customers. If you have any questions or feedback, please email us at ctc-feedback@google.com.


The Google AdWords Team

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

Loci 2009 – Important Articles in Local Search

loci with pronunciations

1. Particular postions, points or places
2. Centers of activity, attention, or concentration

Each year, I invite folks whose opinion I respect to provide the readers of this blog with lists of the articles from 2009 that seemed most important to them. The people contributing come from a range of positions and job descriptions, some will be familiar to you and others not. All have one thing in common; they have something to say about local that is worth listening to.

Here is the charge that I gave them: Would you be willing to share the 3,5 or 10 articles/ideas/links that influenced your thinking or actions the most over the past year? The articles could be yours, or from others and could cover any topic that you think relates to Local ie local mobile, phones, mapping, Local VC, Local companies, Google, trends, marketing, best practices etc….but articles that you found of importance in one way or another throughout the year.

I will be running lists from Bill Slawski, David Mihm, Seb Provencher, Matt McGee, Martijn Beijk, Daniel Tunkelang, Mike Dobson, Gib Olander, Lisa Barone and more.

Stop back over the next 10 days to welcome their many voices.

Google Maps & Web Designers: Salt in the Wounds

With the recent brouhaha over the missing 7 packs for SEO and Web Designers due to “lack of local intent” on the part of searchers, you would think that Google would have the common sense not to rub salt in the wounds. Well, you would have thought wrong.

Whether by intent or accident, Google is still showing an Adwords campaign when a user searches on the phrase “web design + city” that offers up (of all things) a free Places page as a solution to the query:

I am no Adwords expert, nor do I know the rules by which Google decides to run their own ads vs. those of paying customers. However in this particular campaign, ads always appear as the first ad in the upper right corner of the main search results page, big city or small, US or Canada. It is hard for me to imagine how an ad for a Places page would have a very high quality score on this particular search.

To say the least, I have always thought that Google lacked a certain finesse in their PR moves in Maps. They seem to possess a veritable tin ear when it comes to interacting with the local web design and search industries that serve SMBs and as Miriam so eloquently points out, it must be baffling for any SMB attempting to interact with them.

Regardless of the reasons that Google pulled the 7-pack for those in web design and marketing, this ad ends up looking like Google is the beach bully attempting to kick sand in everyone else’s face. There has to be a better way to market the Local Business Center.

Google to SEO’s, Designers & Advertising Agents: You are Off the Map!

Yesterday, Google’s Joel H has definitively confirmed that, at least in the whole of the US, Canada & the UK, they are no longer showing the 7 Pack on queries for Web Designers, Graphic Design, SEOs or Advertising Agents when paired with the City & ST.

According to Google, the searches lack sufficient local intent and their being missing is by design not by mistake. What strikes an odd chord for me though is that these very same queries, when paired with cities in Australia, China, Russia, Mexico and Hong Kong, do return the 7-Pack.

Today, we’re intentionally showing less local results for web design / SEO queries. For example, [web design sacramento] doesn’t display local listings today. We believe this is an accurate representation of user intent. In some cases, we do show local listings, however (as NSNA/php-er noted) [web design in bellingham]. I’m sure some of you feel we should be displaying local results for queries like [Web Design Vancouver]. I understand that concern, but based on our understanding of our users, we feel this is the right decision for now.

The issue has been in evidence since early November and had been noted in both the map and webmaster forums (here, here, here & here) as well as in a previous post on this blog.

On November 11, when Google initially responded publicly to the issue, they indicated that the missing 7 Paks was the flip side of the OneBox frequency problem that they had just fixed. Google employee Brian B posted:

This looks like it’s closely related to the issue going on at the thread I’ve linked below. We realize there’s something going on here, and we initially pushed out a fix a while back. There was a little hiccup with the fix, which is probably why the results in Fresno may have gone back up and then back down as addoctane mentioned above.

The team is working on this issue. Stay tuned to the thread below where I will post an update as soon as I hear one.

However, on 12/14 Google Employee Brian noted in a different thread than above:

That said, it looks like a lot of the recent search examples on this thread have to do with web design, SEO, and other services of that sort. It’s possible that instead of being related to the original issue, Google.com doesn’t bring up map results for these types of searches because the search term doesn’t show much local intent. In other words, there’s not enough local information in the query for Google to trigger maps results on Google.com. Searches for the same terms on maps.google.com, however, do bring up results.

The situation brings up more than one question…
Continue reading Google to SEO’s, Designers & Advertising Agents: You are Off the Map!

Google Maps Adds New “Report A Problem” Link for Business Listing Spam & Errors

Google has recently added a “Report A Problem” Link for reporting business Listing spam & errors from within Maps. The link is available via the business listing info bubble where once you select “Edit” you are presented with a “Report A Problem” link that takes you to a short form.

According to Google Guide Cecelia this “is the best way to report spam because it gives us the most information possible. Our team can see which specific listing has an issue, whereas the form only asks for a URL. Sometimes these URLs are broken or people forget to add them”.

The current mapspam reporting form is still available but apparently, over time this new feedback mechanism will replace the mapspam reporting form in an effort to bring “the report closer to the product”.

The feature is mostly available in all countries which have the community edit feature. Although not all countries so noted in the chart as having community edits have the report a problem feature. In Canada is available on main Map listing view near the bottom and is only available on those listings that have already been claimed. Additionally, in the US only, a user report can be filed against an already claimed listing.

Maps Guide Cecelia noted that the “time frame [for spam removal] most likely varies based on the number of reports we receive”. Spam removal has been a point of frustration for many SMBs as Google has been more likely to use the information for algo tweaks than to remove the offending spam. This is a practice that often leaves egregious spam in place for months on end with no indication when if ever action would be taken.

Most Read Stories of 2009

2009 has been an exciting year of growth for local and for my blog. To all of those many folks world wide that have regularly contributed to the conversation and my learning I say THANK YOU!

Here are the 10 Most Read Stories of 2009 (in order of total pageviews):

1. Google replaces TeleAtlas data in the US with Google data
2. Tracking Local Search Traffic with Analytics (Thanks to Martijn Beijk!)
3. Google Maps Proves more Locksmiths in NYC than Cabbies
4. Where are Google Places Pages going? To the Index?
5. Google Maps vs Locksmiths Spammers – Spammers winning?
6. Big boobs bounce back to Top of Google Maps
7. Google Maps now showing Local 10 pack on Broad non Geo phrase searches
8. Google Maps – How to Remove Duplicate Records in the Local Business Center
9. Google Maps – Merging Mania Due to Algo Change
10. Why the Google Local Business Center Fails

The 5 Most Read Stories from the Back Library:

1. Ranking Factors in Google Maps – Cracking the Code @ SMX Local
2. Google Maps still loading slow – try html
3. List of Google Maps Categories
4. Microsoft’s listing in Google Maps Hijacked – (Oops by Me)
5. Google Maps New Local 10 pack Now Live

Developing Knowledge about Local Search