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
> —-

Google Coupons Expiration Date Bug Workaround

In December I reported a Google Maps Coupon Bug where if you entered an expiration date the coupon would never show up. It appears that the bug still exists although in slightly less virulent form. There have been a number of reports in the Google Maps For Business Groups where if you select an expiration date the coupon defaults back to no expiration and no date appears on the coupon:

TOPIC: coupons not allowing expiration date

=====================================================
== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Tues, Feb 12 2008 7:01 am
From: bullwinkle

Hmm…Jen I think you’re not understanding. Nobody is doing anything
wrong. Clicking on the radio button and selecting a future date from
the calendar then clicking on continue, results in being returned to
the local tab instead of coupons, then clicking on the coupon tab
reveals that the coupon is now activated but there is NO expiration
date, it says “Never Expires”. Going back into edit, shows that the
“Never expires” radio button is once again selected. We cannot set a
date and have it “stick”. It’s that simple. It’s not rocket science,
it’s just plain broken. I’ve tried it repeatedly with both Firefox
and ie7 and neither works. It appears that the only thing we users
can do, is to not use google coupons!

For now the only solution to having an expiration date is to manage the process manually. When you create a coupon, enter the expiration date manually on the coupon body and then be sure to remove the coupon at the end of your promotion

Local Links of Interest

How To Get On Google Maps Without An Address – Chris Silver Smith, SEL

[Google] essentially said that they should try to get an address in the city because Google did not display businesses that didn’t have addresses—after all, he quipped, one can’t pinpoint something without an address on the map. He suggested that those businesses could rent a post box to accomplish this.

I found this suggestion surprising and a bit disappointing. I’d rather expected him to declare that they expected to soon deploy a new version that would allow some method of displaying local businesses that didn’t have specific addresses.

I’d actually recommended that businesses might use rented mail boxes to get better Maps rankings as a sort of “extreme local search tactic” way back in January of 2007, but I did that while figuring that few businesses were likely to actually do that. The tactic is apparently not so “extreme” after all. Google Maps help provides similar advice.

Hearing this method recommended by Google was surprising to many of us, because it seems like something of a hack—it is a hack. The expected/needed functionality isn’t there, so you have to resort to doing something nonintuitive/unnatural to make it work.

Not only is it a hack as Chris points it open to abuse as I have pointed out in the past.

Captive Viewers+Demographic Knowledge+Location Awareness= AppleTV2’s Targeted Local Ads?

While reporting on Apple’s mobile strategy at MacWorld I was enamored by the elegance and usability of Apple’s AppleTV2.

It solved a problem that we didn’t know we had (how to avoid driving to BlockBuster), was easy to use, very cool and consistent with Apple’s overall strategy of using the computer (or 2) as the center of the personal digital information flow.

It also struck me that Apple already had all of the elements in AppleTV2 that would make for compelling local ad delivery: location awareness, attentive audience, knowledge about tastes & interests, a credit card on hand (just one click away), demographic information and more that I hadn’t thought of. I dismissed the idea as it seemed that Apple was not even remotely discussing the idea. I should have known better than to think that Steve Jobs would leave money on the table.

This recent patent review from AppleInsider opened my eyes to both the incredibile potential of the idea and the thought that Apple had obviously put into the idea. The patent reviews the use of context sensitive widgets that can pop up on your TV screen as a funtion of the music that you are listening to or the video that you are watching. These widgets could be preprogrammed into the media or if “the content is broadcasted, such as live television, then a widget could potentially be downloaded as part of the broadcast signal from a cable head-end, or provided through a separate communication such as an Internet connection, and then displayed over the content.”
Continue reading

Google Maps Category Mystery Part 3: Solved?

Update 02/11/10: Google has dramatically updated their category syntax. These Google LBC categories have now been placed in a searchable database too located on the Google LBC Categories page of my website.

Update 12/20/09: I have a new list of current categories at Google Local Business Center Categories – The Complete List

The most oft repeated complaint and the biggest ongoing mystery in the Google Maps for Business Group has been: “Why can’t I be in the same category as my competitor?”

In Part 1 of this series, I gave some examples of the type of complaints that Google is seeing several times a week, in Part 2 I provided some background on the early research and the difficulty with categorization. I have also decided to provide a Part 4 with additional analysis so I will cut to the chase and spill the beans.

The upshot of the previous articles (Thanks to Miriam for clarity):

• Google is pulling categories from SuperPages
• These categories are not available in LBC
• SMBs are frustrated to see their competitors being shown in these desirable categories when there is no way, within LBC, to be added to them
• Google is telling people to suggest categories, but is not implementing these suggestions
• Google responses have been unhelpful!
• This problem has gone one for over 18 months
• And the complaints are coming into Google 2 to 3 times per week

It appears that with lots of research, dogged questioning of Maps Guide Jen and testing, by Patrick Hagerty with Foxtail Hill Window Replacement in San Francisco the answer has been uncovered.

Patrick and I had been corresponding and testing all possibilities since early June, 2007. He felt that it was necessary for his business to show for the search: Window Replacement San Francisco. We quickly identified the category as SuperPages in origin and his competitors were there in strength. Over the months he attempted everything that I suggested including (but by no means limited to): being sure that he had correct SuperPages categorization, that his site was optimized for the phrase, that he had updated his optional fields in the LBC with this information and more. None worked. Until…
Continue reading

Local Links of Interest

Google News’ New Local Angle – Greg Sterling, SEL  detailing Google’s new local news service, similar to topix.com

In CBS Test, Mobile Ads Find Users  – Laura Holson, NY Times

CBS plans to announce on Wednesday that it is trying one of the first serious experiments with cellphone advertising that is customized for a person’s location. Its CBS Mobile unit is teaming up with the social networking service Loopt, which allows its subscribers to track participating friends and family on their mobile phones. 

Porn, not ‘localisation,’ is what users are searching for  – telecoms.com

Content, not local information, is what most users are looking for when using search on their phones. And, as on the fixed Internet, much of that content is pornographic, Farhad Divecha, director of search-engine-marketing agency AccuraCast, told delegates at the recent Mobile Search Conference, held in London. 

Study: Free Mobile Directory Assistance To Overtake Paid  – Mark Walsh, mediapost.com

Google Experimental Interface Upgrade

I am of the opinion that Google Maps in all of its forms is the future look and feel of search for Google, particularly in the mobile world. There has been a number of subtle and not so subtle changes that have increased Maps integration into general search as well over the past month:

• The introduction of the Local 10-Pack into the main search results
• integration of geotargeted data into Google Maps
• increased visibility of that data with a “Show Search Options” Maps interface upgrade
• the recent upgrade to Google Experimental that added map view.

There has been a subtle but important change to the Google Experimental view within the past few days that further integrates a maps view into the main search results in a way that could conceivably be rolled out to the wider Google audience:

before_after1.jpg

I personally prefer the Google Experimental  view as I use the Map view regularly and the timeline view enough that it is worthwhile to have it available. This recent interface change is more consistent with Google’s design ethos and thus seems destined to become more widely available. Continue reading

Developing Knowledge about Local Search