Local Links of Interest

Why today local search fails – and how to fix it (Frank Fuchs locallytype.com)

Well for local search there are a number of problems that lead to a rather poor user experience – well lets say felt user experience.
1.    The data basis to base the algorithm on for local search is poor in comparison to e.g. web search

2.    The lack of data is more visible than in web search

In local search a user will often realize that Bobs Pizza place is not listed – even so it definitely exists.
So users will get that bad feeling of not getting all the information – and without the full story how are they to be convinced to find the right answer?

Nokia Pushes to Regain U.S. Sales in Spite of Apple and Google (NY Times)

“We felt we could teach the U.S. market how we do business elsewhere, and frankly, that failed,” Mr. Kallasvuo said. “Now we just want to act, based on the needs and requirements of the market.”

As it sets out to regain its footing in the United States, Apple and Google are going after Nokia’s franchise. But in doing so, they are shaking up the wireless industry in a way that may open up the one market that has flummoxed Nokia.

Trends 2008: Web access everywhere; e-commerce (Martin Kleppmann – yes-no-cancel.co.uk)

In the mobile local environment of self referential hype …. it is refreshing to hear the opinion of a neutral organisation who simply observes what is going on in the minds of consumers worldwide. Trendwatching.com produces well researched monthly briefings on the latest consumer trends worldwide. I have been following them for a while, wondering when the time would come that they would announce the mobile web as a major consumer trend. And now, in December 2007, the time has arrived. They announce in their predictions for 8 important consumer trends in 2008 (PDF):

“Five years ago, we introduced ONLINE OXYGEN as the engine behind all this excitement: control-craving consumers needing online access as much as they need oxygen. […] If there’s one device that’s going to introduce another few hundred million people to the online world, it’s the phone. And yes, initiatives like Google’s Android and ‘their bidding on the 700MHz band’ and WiMax and so on are definitely going to speed things up. […] don’t count on consumers’ insatiable demand to be online 24/7 to remain unmet forever.” – Trendwatching.com, “Online Oxygen”

Local Links of Interest

Ads on Google Maps for Mobile (& Goog-411?) Coming Next Year (Greg Sterling – LocalMobile Search from the recent Google Local Symposium)

* Performance of mobile ads “is excellent”
* Google has discussed ads on Goog411 and will likely add them but not before the company feels comfortable with the user experience
* The response to MyLocation has been very strong
* Google will likely be introducing local business ads (which currently appear on Google Maps) on Google Maps for Mobile (the application) in the first half next year. MyLocation will enable them to be much more targeted than currently can be accomplished on the desktop.

iPhone Tops Windows Mobile Devices in Web Browsing (Market Share by Net Applications)

We’ve been tracking iPhone usage since its launch. Total web browsing on the iPhone has topped the web browsing on all Windows Mobile devices combined, as this report shows. This report is a listing of the top operating system versions in use. It is not a measure of units sold, but the share of users browsing the internet with the devices. The iPhone has had a dramatic rise in usage share in its short time on the market

Adapt Or Die: Debating The Future of The Mobile Web & The User Experience; Why The World Wide Wait Could Wreck Mobile Search & What To Do About It (Peggy Ann Salz – msearchgrove.com)

While there are some unsettling question marks around Google’s motives, the outcome to watch is how the new interest (translated: rhetoric) in openness will likely whet user appetite for more control over their search experiences and results. Brendan is also betting that users will gravitate to a variety of sources for the answers they need, a shift that will require operators to combine and expose results from storefronts, the Internet and the mobile Web. Any vendor spin aside (InfoSpace of course offers a federated mobile search solution that brings together results from a variety of sources), Brendan does have a point. If open is the flavor of the day, then operators will have to put up or shut up.

Jill Aldort, Senior Analyst, Consumer Mobility Applications, Yankee Group, who led our Internet World roundtable discussion, revealed that her research shows 13 percent of users surf the mobile Internet, up from 6 percent last year.

My (ancient) cell phone as a reading device.

I have an old Nokia 3650 cell phone with a pre-columbian Java and an even older Symbian OS rev. Although it might just as well be called the Simian OS for all the good that my opposable thumbs do me. While it basically sucks I have learned how to take advantage of its many Web 0.5 features like WAP browsing.

I have experimented with most aspects of mobile internet, mobile local and mobile search on my phone. Most web implementations and search options for this generation of technology are either useless or so difficult to use that they might as well be. They do however tend to highlight interface issues with using mobile devices for browsing, emailing, reading etc. and when it does work it is awe inspiring. There is still something very Buck Rogerish about reading Bill Slawski’s recent post on Google Health & Privacy while heading down the highway (my wife IS driving of course).

IMG_17071.jpgAny task that requires significant input like internet searching, extensive email responses and Google SMS local search get used only when the “pain is worth the gain”. Other activities like Goog-411 that are not only painless but “fun” get used more regularly.

The one surprising thing that my antiquated cell phone does well is allow me to read. Virtually all of the uses that I have found for it include active reading with little or no input….I read emails (then call the client), read my kids text messages (then fume :)) and most significantly keep abreast of my Google Reader list of “must read” local search news for the day.

Reading “Mobile web design is so different from the desktop web” (Martin Kleppmann of www.yes-no-cancel.co.uk) clarified my understanding of why some things work and some don’t on my ancient mobile browsing environment.

Google in their WAP mobile Google Reader implementation demonstrates Martin’s point:
For mobile users it is even more important than for normal web users that the designer has figured out exactly what the most frequently needed aspects of his site are, and made those aspects immediately and very easily accessible. This means that a mobile page can contain far fewer navigational elements (links) than a page intended for desktop viewing.

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MerchantCircle:FUD marketing (and these guys get $10 mil?)

MerchantCircle has been criticized in the past for its agressive and fear driven marketing to get small businesses to sign up to its services (see John Batelle, Matt McGee & Greg Sterling). They claim that 250,000 small businesses signed up for their service. According to Peter Krasilovsky at Kelsey Group:

the claim of 250,000 registered businesses, while impressive, should be sliced and diced for exactly what it is. The vast majority may have been duped into registering by an aggressive telemarketing campaign that strongly implied these businesses had a negative review, so they should go online and check it out. To see their “review,” they first had to register.

The obvious question is, how many of these violated businesses become loyal customers of MerchantCircle and are ready to be upsold into the SEM and promotion packages, etc.? No one will tell me. I imagine it is a very low number. Maybe it isn’t.

Well it appears that they are now attempting to motivate those that did signup previously to engage more with their service with similarly deceptive (although subtler) tactics.

I had signed up with MerchantCircle last year to see if they could help me manage my listing at multiple Local Search Engines including Yahoo and Google with a single central listing. I did everything they asked but they were unable to locate any of my records with Google (they have since stopped claiming to update Google), Yahoo or the Yellowpages so I stopped trying.

Today I received this email piece from them:

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Local Links of Interest

Google, Yahoo Clash With AT&T, Verizon on U.S. Mobile Phone Ads (Bloomberg)

At stake is a market that may surge 10-fold to $16.2 billion globally by 2011, says EMarketer Inc., a research firm in New York. Google, based in Mountain View, California, sees as much as half of future sales coming from mobile phones. While the U.S. accounts for about 50 percent of global revenue from promotions viewed on computers, the figure drops to 27 percent on phones and may rise to 29 percent by 2011.

TomTom, Google team up on business information (Reuters) -

Dutch navigation systems company TomTom said on Wednesday it was teaming up with Internet search leader Google Inc so users can find and send business addresses to their portable devices.

TomTom, which makes navigation devices for cars and mapping software for handheld computers, said in a statement its users would be able to search for business addresses on Google Maps and transfer them to their TomTom device.

UPDATE: Nokia To Up Services Investment As It Fights Google, Apple  (CNN)

At its capital markets day on Tuesday, Nokia Corp. stressed the significance of its push into mobile services and indicated it intends to make further acquisitions in the field.

Chief Executive Olli Pekka Kallasvuo said Nokia (NOK) , already the world’s largest maker of mobile phones by a large margin, intends to become the No. 1 brand for search, browsing and music…..Nokia transform itself from a pure hardware vendor to software and services giant as it looks for new sources of growth.

As such, it targets companies ranging from traditional rivals such as Motorola Inc. (MOT) to search engine giants like Google (GOOG) , makers of ” converged” devices – which wrap up music, internet browsing and phone capabilities into one handset–like Apple (AAPL) and software developers like Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and its Windows Mobile platform.

“We have to have a strategy against each of these people, and we do,” said Kallasvuo.

Has Google’s relationship with CitySearch changed? and other Maps insights

This recently came in from an Anaheim Ca Florist that follows Google Maps closely in her industry:

I can’t speak for a system-wide change, but there have been LOTS of changes when it comes to searching for florists on Google. An update seemed to start on Wednesday of last week and finish on Sunday night.

-Many local florists have had their reviews from CitySearch stripped from their review summaries. Ours have completely disappeared and so have most of the top florists in major cities. I still see a few here and there, but overall – they’ve been greatly reduced. Not sure if it was a fall-out between G and CS or a review quality filter – but the deletions are noticeable.

- The threshold to have review stars displayed in the One Box and Google Local summaries appears to have increase from 3 to at least 5 reviews. Up until last week, it only took 3 reviews to get the stars to show. Most of the One Boxes for major city queries used to displayed stars and now very few do.

The review stars and ratings had a HUGE positive impact on click-throughs and purchases. ….Traffic from the OneBox is down since the change.

- Google also seems to be filtering out reviews left by users. We had a total of 12, lost 3 from City Search, and all but one left directly by folks with Google logins. Our OneBox appearances only show 4 but clicking on the link brings up 5 (4 from InsiderPages.com and only 1 of the 5 written directly there. The other 4 have vanished, too.)

- Remember when Google has displaying only ‘Local’ target Adwords ads in local if there were ‘local advertisers’? That policy appears to have changed, too. Our local ad got dinged for a quality score but I *think* it had more to do with low bid amounts. The ‘national’ affiliate marketer advertisers (FTD, 1800flowers, etc) look to be paying upwards of $3/click and locals could get good placement in Local for about a buck. No more.

We florists are on the forefront of ‘Local’ and we have to succeeding there to be around in the future. Otherwise, we’ll have FTD, 1800Flowers, Teleflora and all the other affiliate marketers taking 30-40%+ cuts of each order we deliver. It’s a matter of survival that we get our arms around ‘local’ search.

This communication brings up several interesting points;

•Clearly, in certain categories Google’s inclusion of local on the main search page is leading to significant online and off-line traffic.

•Small changes in their presentation can have a huge effect in the real world. The impact of the removal of the stars deserves attention.

•Why would Google remove recent reviews that came from Google itself?

•The information about CitySearch might indicate that Google has changed or even dropped their “trusted” source relationship with CitySearch. It was but a year ago that much was made of the CitySearch-Google partnership. I looked at an account/phrase that I track regularly (Restaurants Bradford Pa) and also found that reviews from CitySearch that I had fought with Google very hard to have included are now gone.

Could it be related to this post this afternoon by Greg Sterling: Citysearch and MerchantCircle in Repicrocal Deal?

Have you seen similar changes over the past few weeks?

Google Maps offering limited options to “flag” inappropriate reviews.

Update: Cathy points out in her comments that this is a Google generated review and Google allows this on any of their reviews.

It is not clear if this is an experiment or a very limited move towards user managed content, but Google is now offering an option to flag some reviews as inappropriate. Of the 21 reviews that this restaurant was showing, only the last one offered an option of flagging. It could be that Google was offering this option because the review was from a less trusted source or offered a star rating significantly less than the average.

flag.jpg

Local Links of Interest

Yahoo: Mobile web to overtake PCs in next decade (Gary Price at ResourceShelf.com)

Local Search Guide – IYP & Search Engine Who’s Who
The Yellow Pages Association, along with sponsors eStara and Superpages.com and supporting partners comScore, SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization) and The Kelsey Group, offers the Local Search Guide, which profiles IYPs, Search Engines, Search Tools, Mobile Tools and selected Vertical Directories.

Google Maps now supports collaborative map-making (Google Lat Long Blog)

Google Introduces New “My Location” Feature for Mobile Devices (Greg Sterling – SearchEngineLand.com)

Google Alerts: an indispensible tool for Local Search

When I was in college, I had a job clipping articles from newspapers for a professor who was planning a book. It was back in the days when the Federal Government actually provided support for higher education and it afforded me the privelege of reading newspapers and being paid for it.

These days the job of clipping service flunky has been obsoleted and replaced with Google Alerts. It has been one of the indispensible tools in writing this blog. I receive a number of alerts each day with both broad and narrow search terms to keep abreast of writings far and wide in the field of Local Search.

Today I recieved this alert:

More Local Women Hitting Woods In Search Of Deer
WPXI.com – Pittsburgh,PA,USA

PITTSBURGH — While there are fewer hunters nationwide, one group of hunters is growing: women.

I took up golf this summer as my 12 year son wanted to learn the game and needed the ocassional partner. My woods game was nowhere near this accurate.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search