Google Maps offers up new Logo

How do you know that you have been looking at Maps too long? When you wake up one morning fire up your screen, head on over to Maps and you notice that something just doesn’t feel right.

Well sometime just before falling off to sleep it came to me, the logo was new. Not exactly sure when the logo change occurred but the print and mail links were also removed from the deep list view of the business as well.



The send option is visible in the Maps view and (who knows when they added this feature) and offers the ability to send one or all of the results from a search.


Google adds Smart Navigation to Streetview

I have always found StreetView very cool but very frustrating due to the infinite time spent navigating the view. Google has introduced an upgrade that now makes it much more usable. From the Lat-Long Blog announcing the upgrade:

Today, we are really excited to introduce a new mode of navigation which liberates you from the road arrows and gets you where you want to go in just a few clicks. You can now use Street View’s smart navigation to travel to a new place just by double clicking on the place or object you would like to see. We have been able to accomplish this by making a compact representation of the building facade and road geometry for all the Street View panoramas using laser point clouds and differences between consecutive pictures.

As you move your mouse within Street View, you’ll notice that the cursor now has lightly-shaded geometry attached to it – it will show an oval when your mouse is following a road and a rectangle when moving across the facades of buildings. We affectionately refer to this cursor geometry as the “pancake” because it has the appearance of a pancake laying flat to the object where the mouse is pointing. By giving you a sense of depth,it makes the flat image almost feel three-dimensional!

Here is a vide that describes the new feature:

Take a tour of the street of the Frank Llyod Wright designed Martin Darwin House in Buffalo to see how it works:

View Larger Map

Google Maps now offering a Whitelist Bulk Upload Beta for the LBC?

Google has apparently introduced a new service – a Google Whitelist Feeds Beta that allows for information from trusted bulk feeds to be automatically verified.

I had been hearing about a Local Business Center data feed that offered whitelisting and automatic verification from several sources. I have been unable to get confirmation from Google that the service existed but did see this comment by someone apparently participating in the beta. I also recently received this copy of an email invitation from Google to join the program. The other details provided by the correspondent left me confident about the likely authenticity of this communication.

Dear Google Partner,

Being on the Local Business Center (LBC) Whitelist is a way for you to help business listings be accurate on Google Maps. To be whitelisted, you agree to follow the terms of service for Google Maps, as well as the additional terms set forth below. You understand that your LBC listings may be removed from Google products and services, and your user account for the Local Business Center may be terminated if the Google Maps team determines you have not followed these terms. To agree to these terms, please respond to this email, typing the sentence “I agree” in your reply.

Accurate, Specific Data

You agree to provide accurate data for any business listing you submit. The information you supply for each listing must be the undisputed, authoritative, current facts that are specific to that particular business location. For example, provide the primary direct local phone number specific to that business location for th listing rather than a number that serves many locations. Likewise, make the home page the primary web site of the particular business location you submit.

Primary Source

By submitting a business listing to the Local Business Center, you represent that you have the express consent from that business to act as the primary source of business listings data supplied to Google Maps. In obtaining that consent, you also represent that you’ve notified the business that listings on Google Maps are free via Google’s Local Business Center, and that a business may add a listing without working throug an agent or whitelisted partner.

No Spam

You will not engage in deceptive or manipulative behavior intended to game search result ranking.

Thank You,

The Google Maps Team

Last year Carer Maslan spoke of an agency program that would facilitate larger scale interaction with the Local Business Center. Obviously the bulk uploads as they were originally construed led to spam and have been devalued as a source for trusted information. This beta appears to be a response to both the need for facilitating bulk updating of listings as well as guaranteeing better control over the quality of listings. If anyone has more information on the program I would love to hear about it.

Google Clarifies Guidelines on Business Titles for Maps Listing

This post appeared yesterday in the Maps Help Forums in response to my poll and poll results as to how one should name a business for Maps:

Since we rolled out the most recent set of Local Business Center Quality Guidelines, we’ve seen a number of questions about which business titles are appropriate, and which are not. I hope this post will help clarify some of the confusion.

Our current guidelines state: “Represent your business exactly as it appears in the offline world. The name on Google Maps should match the business name.”

A recent post from Mike Blumenthal polled a number of different amalgamations of one business title, with the following results:

A. “Jones Brothers – Dallas Plumbing and Heating” unofficial name with tag line on web & literature
B. “Jones Brothers” official name
C. “Jones Brothers – Plumbing and Heating” unofficial name on website & literature
D. “Jones Brothers – Plumbing and Heating” has a DBA or fictitious name filing
E. “Jones Brothers – Dallas Plumbing & Heating – Air conditioning, Emergency Repairs, Hot Water Heaters” unofficial name with tag line on web & literature

Of all the above choices, the ONLY acceptable one is the one labeled official name (Jones Brothers).

You could, of course change the title of your business, as we’ve known a couple business owners to do. You could officially become “Jones Brothers – Dallas Plumbing and Heating.” If another user flags your listings for violating our guidelines however, we should be able to verify this name change.

So where should the words “Plumbing and Heating” go? You should add them as a category.

Maps Guide Jen

Verification Pin or Pain? Does Phone Verification Work for You?

Recently David Mihm had a very insightful piece on problems with Google Maps, quality, security, complexity and the LBC. One of his criticisms revolved around the phone verification process. He noted:

As if the verification process weren’t cumbersome enough, the exact “flow” of Google’s automated phone message leaves many business owners thinking “What do I do next?”  I haven’t helped a client claim a listing since Google changed PIN entry from touchtone to web last week, but prior to that shift, it was a very poorly constructed message which ended without any confirmation that it had actually worked.  

Another issue–what about phone numbers that ring to an automated central answering center, as in “Thank you for calling Joe’s Plumbing.  Press 1 for Joe, 2 for Sally, 3 for Irene,” etc.?   There’s no reason for that business to have to fight through the postcard verification process.

I would love to hear your experiences and frustrations with the PIN system both old and new. Here is a report back from Joan Van Hilten an operations manager working with Map listings with her details of trying to get pin approval under the new method.

Hi – Well so far I’m batting 500 ( I think that’s the right terminology)  I’ve tried unsuccessfully 4 times to use the new and improved PIN verification process. ….

Continue reading Verification Pin or Pain? Does Phone Verification Work for You?

What does the future of Maps look like? Google Earth

GigaOm analyzes the O3D browser plug-in that Google introduced last month that displays rich 3D graphics. It portends a day in the not too distant future when the browser by default, handles the complexities of a 3D geo environment with ease and speed. It points towards a rich mapping environment where Google Maps takes on the sophistication of Google Earth but inside the browser.

Vangelis Kokkevis, O3D’s tech lead, spoke at the Metaverse U conference in Stanford, making his API’s case to the virtual world developers in attendance. While it’s still just a plug-in for IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Camino, Kokkevis said the “next goal” for the team is to fully integrate it into Google’s browser by the end of 2009. 

After his presentation, a group of developers surrounded Kokkevis, peppering him with tech-heavy questions. He told me there weren’t any companies creating MMOs in O3D yet, but he raised the possibility that Google might port Sketchup and Google Earth into O3D, “once we become part of the browser.”

What is an acceptable business name under Google Guidelines? Poll Results

There was a fair bit of comment about small business naming practices for the internet in general and Google Maps in particular after the recent upgrade to their listing guidelines. The discussion revolved around the ambiguity that exists in the naming practices in small businesses and how that should best be projected into Maps to comply with Google requirements and best represent the business.

Here are the results of the poll on what you think is allowable under Google’s new Map’s business listing guidelines and you would recommend for a client (click for a larger image):


Google’s Data-Rich Dashboard in Local Business Center- Official Announcment

Here is the official Google announcement of the new LBC Dashboard reproduced in its entirety:

 New feature will provide businesses with new visibility into the ways their local listings are found on Google, enabling them to make smarter decisions about attracting customers

Today Google is launching a new dashboard feature in the Google Local Business Center (LBC) that will provide business owners with a powerful level of information about how Google users are interacting with their local listings. The Local Business Center ( is a free tool that enables business owners to control the content of their listings in Google Search and Google Maps. With the addition of the new dashboard, the LBC will now draw upon local search data to help owners optimize their local listings and their other efforts to attract more customers.

It’s estimated that 82% of consumers use search to find local businesses*, and the LBC dashboard will initially provide business owners with the following data on that activity in Google Search and Google Maps:

  • Impressions: The number of times the business listing appeared as a search result on search or Google Maps search in a given period.
  • Actions: How many times users interacted with the listing; for example, the number of times users clicked through to the business’ website or requested driving directions to the business.
  • Top search queries: Which queries led users to the business listing; for example, whether more customers are finding the listing for a cafe by searching for “tea” or “coffee”.
  • Zip codes where driving directions come from: Lists and maps of the zip codes users are coming from when they request directions to a listing.

With the LBC dashboard, business owners will be able to identify trends, such as days of the week when interest in their business spikes, or seasonality in the types of searches that lead potential customers to their listings. Owners will also be able to better determine how changes to their listings – such as adding a video or refining their category – influence the traffic to that listing.

The LBC dashboard also allows business owners to better measure the impact of changes to associated web content or adjustments to marketing campaigns – such as a new post to the company blog, or a new advertising campaign – by measuring impressions, actions, location, and more before and after the changes.

So, for example, a restaurant could host an event and then watch to see if queries for its business name increase in the following days. Or it could measure the results of an advertising campaign targeted at a nearby town by watching to see if more people are searching for directions to the restaurant from that zip code after the ad runs. It could also experiment with the information in its LBC listing to uncover which configurations produce more hits in Google search for certain keywords. With this data, owners will be able to make informed decisions about the most effective ways to promote their businesses and attract new customers.

The LBC dashboard will be pre-populated at launch with Google data from the past 30 days, and it will then be updated daily. All data available in the LBC dashboard will be anonymized and aggregated, so no individual Google user data will be shared.

The dashboard is accessible to any business owner who has claimed his or her listing in the Local Business Center. Business owners who do not yet have an LBC account can quickly create theirs for free by visiting The Local Business Center is currently available to business owners in 36 countries, but the dashboard feature will initially be available only for US listings.

For more information about the Local Business Center and the new dashboard, head to the Google Lat Long Blog for a tour. For information on how business owners can help Google users find and connect with their businesses, check out this list of tips.

Google Maps – What is an acceptable business name under Google Guidelines?

Update: Poll closes in 3 Hours. Please provide your input.

Google recently revamped their Business Listing Guidelines and has provided much more detail about what is acceptable practice in listing a business on Google Maps.

Despite their efforts to formalize what is spammy and what isn’t, the discussion in the comment section of the announcement post last week clearly indicated that at least in the small business arena, there is still a fair bit of ambiguity on what is appropriate in naming a business for local ecosystem in general and Maps in particular. This ambiguity closely resembles my real world experience where many businesses will have one name on their legal documents, a second on their literature, a third on their website etc.

Here are the specific sections from the new Google Guidelines that apply to business naming:

Represent your business exactly as it appears in the offline world. The name on Google Maps should match the business name, as should the address, phone number and website.

Do not attempt to manipulate search results by adding extraneous keywords into the title field, and do not include phone numbers or URLs in the title along with your proper business name.

Let us know what you think is acceptable under Google’s current policy. I detailed some arbitrary hypothetical examples (as suggested by Stever of GeoLocalSeo). Please indicate which name below best exemplifies how far away from a smb’s legal name you would consider acceptable in a Google Maps context.

Carter Maslan comments on the new data rich Desktop for the LBC

Google is formally announcing their data rich Desktop for the LBC this morning. The new LBC view has been visible to a growing number of LBC users over the past week and should be visible to all US listings by Tuesday afternoon. I had some questions about the product and its focus which Carter Maslan, Director of Product Management for Google  Maps took the time to answer.


MB: Please give me an overview of the product and its importance

Carter Maslan (CM): I have this mental image of a little shoe shop owner getting all of this info. Google is making all of this information visible. It is information that has never been visible before. The main thing motivating us, is giving offline businesses the same visibilty to information that you have with online businesses.

MB:What are you calling this new Lcoal Business Center Feature? 

CM:  the Dashboard in the LBC

MB: It is visible as a report in my LBC list view. The interface appears as if it could replace the current list view? Is it going to be the new interface? 

CM: If you are a single verified  business this is the first view that you will see. Right now if you have more than one listing it will be in the list view and will allow you to jump to the data rich view via the View Report Link. Further improvements are going to be made in the interface.

Now instead of the Local Business Center being solely a way to control how a business listing appears, it becomes an information rich source that can support an offline camapign. It will allow the small business to track and correlate offline activities with online behaviors.

MB: What is an impression? It is Just inside Maps or does it reflect Universal Local results as well

CM: An impression is the number of times the business listing appeared as a search result on search or Google Maps search in a given period.

MB: Initially I see that it is prepopulated with 30 days of data. Any chance of month over month comparison stats after 30 days?

CM: We could change on this but it will start on April 20 or so and go forward so if you look in August you will see accumulated history from that time. There are no plans for a month over month comparison at this time

MB: You have a small graphic indiciation completion level. Is there a guide somewhere that tells what  it takes to get to 100% or is it just populating every field to its maximum IE 10 Photos, 5 videos etc..

CM: We are making a change so that is more specific as to what the % complete indicates. If it isn’t available on rollout it will be available shortly.

MB: Does completion level have any impact outside of a guide to the client? I.E. does it affect standing?

CM: Nothing other than our standard view which is that if you have a complete listing you have a more appealing listing. It does not directly affect ranking. Our view is that the better you, as a business owner, represent yourself the better you able to selected among the choices. Our goal is to try to help the business present themselves in the best light.

MB: Any upgrades to deal automatically with clutter in the LBC? Will the new dashboard allow for easier management?

CM: In terms of the list view, there are no changes in this release. Going forward we’ll continue with the Local Business Center being the primary place where information is provided to Google. The interaction to get to the different views needs to be improved but we have a huge list of things we need to do. We are working as fast as we can in priority order.

MB: None of the “Top Search Queries” reported back include geo modifiers. Is that information not being shown? Or is it that the general terms with the out the geo phrase generates so much more traffic?

CM: Our report just includes the what part of the querie and and we are then summarizing the results with the where part of the querie. So the where part whether implied or stated are noted the same.

MB: I noticed in my test that roughly 20% of my Top Search Queires were “other”. Will we be able to access that information?

CM: “Top Search Queries” is analougus to Trends in that there is a necessity to protect prvacy on the 20% of the low volume searches. It would be too easy to identify individual searchers if we made this information available.

MB: One of the frustrating issues with the LBC is that it does not divulge the complete information that Google might be showing in Maps. I.E. where 3rd or 4th phone numbers are coming from or where a bad fax number is coming from. Are there any plans with your new interface to make that information more transparent?

CM: We are working on that particularly in the case where we know for certain that someone has verified and claimed a listing. We are working on changes that would make it less likely to display a phone number from other sources so that is going to be improved. 

MB: What is the Timeframe for that?

CM: It is a very high priority. We are already doing it to somne extent but we will be getting more strict going forward.

MB: You noted that the dashboard feature will initially be available only in the US. I am getting feedback that it is visible in Canada. Is that the case? When will it be rolled out internationally?

CM: It is based on the location of the lsting not the localtion of the LBC user. So Canadian LBC users can only see US listings in the new view.

MB: What is the timeframe for broader international rollout?

CM: It is a high priority but we have nothing specific to communicate. It will follow as we are able to provide it but there is no timeline to announce at the moment.

MB: What didn’t I ask that you think is significant about this effort or any of your Local efforts?

CM: This is a brand new set of data that hasn’t been visible before and I am eager to see how people actually use it…getting Google visibility and measurablity will offer huge benefits to the small business person.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search