Google Map’s Carter Maslan: Categories upgrade coming soon

Is a Google Categories fix is on the way?

After recently completing a number of posts on the problems, background and possible work arounds to the Google Maps category issues, I was able to interview Google’s Carter Maslan, Maps Product Management Director. It appears that a fix to the category issues is on the way.

He noted that he and Google were painfully aware of the categorization issues that had been identified here and in the Google Groups postings, that he shared the small business user’s dissatisfaction and he assured me that they have been working on the fixes. Some of those may be ready is as few as a couple of weeks.

I am anxious to see the solution to this problem. I am not sure whether it is relief at finally being able to stop beating my head against the wall or that I will finally be able to start complaining about something else :) but I am glad that Google will attempt to offer up a solution. Being the skeptic that I am, I need to see to believe but I was encouraged by my conversation with Carter.

You may read the whole interview at SearchEngineLand: Google Maps Categories: Will The Pain End Soon?

Google Maps Upgrade: Report inappropriate photo

While exploring a potential new feature that would allow video to be added to your Local Business Record in Maps (first spotted by Mike The Internet Guy) I found that Google has added an ability to report inappropriate photos for any of the following reasons:

•This image infringes on my privacy
•This image violates a copyright
•This image violates a trademark
•This image contains inappropriate content or violates policy guidelines
•Other (please describe below)

Google notes: “We’ll review each image to ensure that it complies with our Terms of Service and Program Policies.”

reportinappropriateimage.jpg

In a recent interview with Carter Maslan, Product Director of Google Maps, he noted that the best way to combat spam was to rely on the masses for feedback. This appears to be the one of the steps to fruition on that direction.
Continue reading

Local Links of Interest

Google to add video to local business record in Maps – Mike The Internet Guy

Don’t Pee in the Pool. Responsible Social Media MarketingMarty Weintraub , AimClearBlog

I have never really engaged in social media marketing. When I wanted to I asked Marty for advise and was impressed with his understanding of it. This article really strikes home and while social media marketing has not yet had a huge role in local SEM, it will going forward and this is great advice.

Google Maps Street Video a funny look at the creeping intrusion of technology in our lives (thanks to Mark Lehr of WandInc.com via Greg Sterling )

View the Super Delegates on Google Maps – Rick Klau, Superdelegates.org (Thanks to Google Earth Blog)

Google Maps: More reports of merged listings

Yesterday I reported an example of two listings of different businesses with the same address being merged. There are more reports of similar problems in the Google Maps for Business Group recently being reported (here and here).

The first instance reported in the Group has a number of similarities to the case reported yesterday; it occurs in England, the businesses occupy the same address, there are issues with uploaded images, the websites are conflated and both phone numbers show in both records:

You can view the pin/profile by searching for ‘web design’ in Huddersfield. My company, Archa Solutions, is listed right at the top of the second page of results. Or follow this [ link and this link]

The issue is that our profile has been merged with the company whom we rent an office from, The Media Centre. It’s a large building that has lots of office space and many companies in this building have their own pin/profile page on Maps but have not been merged with The Media Centre’s own profile.

The Media Centre, the many companies within it and my company all have the same UK postcode – HD1 1RL, so I imagine this could be the problem. However, it only seems to have affected our business. If you click on our pin and then onto the more details section you will see that it lists two phone numbers (the second of which is not ours), it also includes some of The Media Centre’s email addresses, opening hours, service information, photos, web pages etc.

Another issue is that our company logo is not showing up. I have tried uploading the logo to Google and pointing it to a version on our web site. Both of which do not seem to work.

It is interesting that Google would merge two distinct Local Business Center records. It is possibly a spam control strategy to prevent multiple optimized listings from the same business. A technique worth trying for those that have a legitimate need to distinguish their record, would be to create more signals for Google to understand that the businesses are in fact distinct. Perhaps adding a Suite # or a second more detailed street address would do the trick.

Maybe Google is confused because they drive on the wrong side of the road.

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?

Developing Knowledge about Local Search