Twitter & Local: NPR reports that Tweeting Food Truck Draws L.A.’s Hungry Crowds

Today on NPR’s morning edition they aired a nearly 4 minute piece about a chef that has built a loyal, local following from his truck using Twitter.

On a recent evening, hundreds of people stood in line in L.A.’s Little Tokyo neighborhood to try the much-heralded tacos. Chuck Chun, who drove in from Orange County, waited an hour and a half to place his order for $26 worth of food.

Chun found the truck with the help of a tool that has become the necessity of any serious foodie these days — a Twitter account.

“You’ve got to go on Twitter to get the most up-to-date news on what kind of specials they have that day or where they are,” Chun explains. “They actually got here late — that’s what they announced on their Twitter.”

It’s so 2009: Customers instantly know where the truck is, even if actually getting the food takes hours.

Mario Duarte also located the truck using Twitter……

[Choi] credits a large degree of Kogi’s success to hiring a new-media consultant who helped spread the word of Kogi virally.

“As a chef, I always think it’s the food, but I think without Twitter it wouldn’t be anything,” Choi says, “because I could have made these tacos, but I would have had no one to sell them to.”

Kogi not only has over 8,000 followers on Twitter, it has customers so loyal they’ve created YouTube tributes and a song (“Ode to Kogi”) on MySpace.

TomTom Using Fear to Sell Maps

I received the following ad from TomTom although I am not a TomTom owner:

The ad struck a wrong chord for me on several fronts:
1)Selling add ons through fear. The ominous tone of the ad seems inappropriate for a product that theoretically is offered to increase ones safety. Aren’t I safe just having bought it?
2)The implication that the product is not adequate as purchased. Someone just spent a fair bit of change on a TomTom and they are told that they need regular updates to make it functional?
3)If one looks at Google Maps forums, it seems that TeleAtlas has trouble providing accurate ground data. This is the same data that is used in the TomTom. Hmmm, maybe you should be afraid.
4)Subscription model for maps. At one time you paid $20 for 5 maps that covered the whole US. Now you pay $250 and need to continue to pay and pay? Google clearly has a goal of making map data carry a value of zero in the market place. Can a subscription model possibly be sustainable.

Google enhances Streeetview in Europe and sees traffic jump in UK

Yesterday released a bunch of new Street View images for cities in the UK and The Netherlands. Today Robin Goad of Hitwise reports a huge jump in traffic for Google Maps in the UK:

Google Maps Adds Steetview in UK and see traffic increase

There was an attendant increase in visit duration as well:

average visit time for Google Maps UK

It is interesting to note that the average visit time for UK visitors was significantly less than that of the worldwide average time for Maps users but that the rollout seems to, at least temporarily, put the two population’s average time at parity.

Google Maps Looking for Local Inventory

We don’t frequently get to peak at what Google plans are for local and local content.
There have been a number of signals that all point to the obvious direction of Google wanting to increase the granularity of local information world wide and thir desire to control that information themselves. Google has been:
•Including more user generated listing content in Maps results.
•Including more user generated mapping data into Maps.
•Actively soliciting promotional events, political and social activities via Map Maker.

Clearly, Google needs and wants more granular information about things happening on the ground. It is no surprise that they would want hyper local inventory data as well.

In Google Cozies Up To SMBs For Digital Content, (thanks to Chris Silver Smith for the heads up) Laurie Sullivan recounts the presentation that Chris LaSala, Google director of local marketers and strategic partner development, provided this week at The Kelsey Group conference in Los Angeles. He noted “There’s a vast array of content specific to local markets, but the majority isn’t available in digital form, so getting access to it isn’t easy”. According to the article LaSala estimates that Google has indexed about 10% of the available digital content geared toward local markets. “If you look at Main Street USA–the barber, the church, the synagogue and the sports shop–you might get the hours of service and address,” he said. “But wouldn’t it be great if you find out if you could get an Alex Rodriguez rookie card? If you knew it was in the shop and the costs, you could go down to the store and buy it. This is just an example of where we are today.”

He apparently recognizes that Google has not done a great job of engaging local businesses and that many of their products don’t meet their needs.

To address this gap “there are plans to roll out new bundled services and APIs for SMBs that should align better with the philosophies of smaller companies”.

I would like tho think that we will be able to have all of this information readily and accurately available to us in the not to near future. But Google will only be able to provide this solution if and only if they can solve the fundamental problem of which businesses really are on the ground.

Will David Mihm get lost in the Big Apple?

wrong-maps2Portland web designer and search consultant, David Mihm,  is heading to SES NY next week to speak. He was exploring Google Maps and he sent me this search: Morgan Library at 225 Madison Ave, NYC that he had looked up in anticipation of his trip. David noted to me that he “was looking forward to seeing the new Renzo Piano addition to the library …  I was sad to see that I would need to slog through a gauntlet of locksmith storefronts before I was allowed to enter.”  

In some ways the result encapsulates all that is not quite right with Maps. One can’t really extrapolate a generality from a specific but this single Map result does seem to capture many of the problems a given business might face while attempting to project itself into Google Maps…. 3 mapspam entries, one erroneously located drug store via a YellowPage error (it is really located at 225 Madison St) and the inability of Google’s clustering algorithm to correctly consolidate 4 listings for the Morgan Library all listed at the one address.  

The result probably won’t keep David from his desired rounds. In the end, with the big dance in full swing, I find it very unlikely that David would be exploring Renzo Pianos rather than glued to the TV protecting his pool investments. But who knows?

Blackhats to Google Maps: Take That!

Last week I made fun of blackhats that had mapjacked a listing for a hotel with the worst of reviews in an effort to rank high on locksmith related searches.  The screenshot from that incident shows that the blackhats had 7 of the 10 pack listing using a combination of illicit techniques on the phrase Manhattan Locksmith New York, NY.

The listings have been changing quite a bit of late and it appears that Google is trying to clean things up. Today though, a poster in the Google Maps Help Forum noted that the blackhats seemed to have changed tactics and are no longer relying on cross industry hijackings. Never ones to be satisfied with half a dozen when they can have it all, the mapspammers now have 10 of the 10 Pack listings for the search phrase Manhattan Locksmith New York, NY:


These folks are good! (For any Googler reading who might misinterpret my writing, that phrase means that they are competent at being crooks not that they are moral or decent….just wanted to be clear). I really am cheering for Google but do they ever have their work cut out for them. Here is the screen shot from 3/11:

Continue reading Blackhats to Google Maps: Take That!

Ads added to Google Maps API

Google has been distributing ads more widely on all of its properties of late. I noted a certain discomfort with their intrusive nature deep inside the bowels of the business listing details when it was roled out in mid February in Maps. At the Maps help forum a business owner asked (caps are his and I assume intended):


Maps API Ads Now the Google Geo Developers Blog has announced that they have changed the API to show ads along with searches for local businesses performed through the API:

As many of you already know, developers can use the GoogleBar control in the Maps API to allow users to search the map for local businesses, landmarks and points of interest. As part of Google’s ongoing commitment to improve user and developer experience, we have some changes coming up for the humble GoogleBar. Most importantly, we are adding advertising targeted to the user’s searches. We hope that this, as with all Google advertising, will improve the user experience by providing targeted and relevant sponsored results. You will benefit from this as well, as you can make money from these Google ads provided on Maps API sites (see below).

Clearly, Google runs a risk of alienating developers, users and businesses with their new strategy. But the feedback has been mixed with some posters noting that the ads bring additional relevance. I am not so sure.

Local Links of Interest

Gate Keepers, Digital Gazetteers and Folksonomies – Part Four and Gate Keepers, Digital Gazetteers and Folksonomies – Part Five – Mike Dobson, Exploring Local

Mike Dobson has been running a great series on Google use of user generated content to create maps via their MapMaker product. In Part Four, he discusses the strategic role of UGC for Google and in Part Five he covers how google might be determining the accuracy and usefulness of the data.

In Part Four he noted that Google is likely already using ugc data collected from MapMaker in Google Maps. He also noted that “Google’s map applications drive a substantial amount of traffic to Google’s online properties and since they will now have detailed maps of areas that no one else has, Google’s comprehensive map coverage strategy could become a traffic driving bonanza and a competitive advantage.” I would contend that it already has done so in many parts of the world.

In Part Five, he references some work by Muki Haklay comparing the accuracy of the user generated content of OpenStreets and the more formally gathered data of the English government’s professional geo data collection unit, the OS (ordnance Survey). He concluded that the ugc content of OpenStreets was “fairly accurate” and if MapMaker was of roughly equal quality would suffice for Google’s needs.

If you want to learn how map’s work in the digital age, Mike Dobson’s blog is a great place to gain some of that knowledge

First Came Geo-Awareness, Then Came Geo-Aware Malware – Read Write Web via the NY Times

There is something different about the latest variant of the Waledac worm: it uses geolocation services to target its intended victims. Initially, the Waledac worm sends a spam email message claiming there has been a dirty bomb explosion in “your city.” If the victim clicks through on the provided link, the worm then uses a geo-IP lookup service to customize the story appearing on the malicious site which is designed to look like that of news agency Reuters.

iPhone OS 3.0 roundup: Push notification, cut and paste, and more – Venture Beat, via the NY Times

Unless you are completely tone deaf, you have probably seen this elsewhere but the Push Notification has significant implications for Local apps and even local advertising. The new Google Maps API for the iPhone also offers promise of turn by turn directions and more. But will the lack of background application support make Maps less powerful than it could be?

Google Maps: Cleaning up the Index

A number of weeks ago Google announced that they had closed one LBC security hole that allowed mapjackings, last week they indicated that they had closed yet another. Yesterday I highlighted a prominent mapjacking of The Plaza Hotel that Google almost immediately remedied. Kudos to Google for all these moves. But are they enough?

Today I was mapjack cruising and found this OneBox listing for the search phrase Locksmith in Detroit, MI:

Detroit Locksmith Hijacking

Google’s strategy to only remove high profile problems leaves these many, many polluted listings in the index affecting both users and businesses alike. Is it really fixed? Perhaps I am naive but when the plumbing breaks you don’t just seal the leak you clean up the mess from the broken sewage pipe.

I am confident that Pizza Papalis isn’t too happy about standing downhill from this particular pipe.

In a related story, Steve Hatcher, a local search marketer, was in Portland last week for SEMpdx SearchFest 09 and saw this Fox News report on the Portland nightly news detailing the Locksmith scam. It was noted in the video that the Google results led to a Pizza Parlor. An interesting tidbit was that these scam locksmiths will gain entry to anyone’s house on your behalf, not just yours.

Local Links of Interest

Twitter and UK newspaper websites – Robin Goad,  Hitwise UK.

Last week (w/e 14/03/09) was the 54th most visited website in the UK, up from 66th the week before. One consequence of Twitter rapid rise up the rankings is that the micro-blogging service has now overtaken most of the UK newspapers online. As the chart below illustrates, last week Twitter received more UK Internet visits than the homepages of the GuardianTimesSun and Telegraph. It also over took Google News UK. Of the main newspaper homepages, only the Daily Mail received more UK Internet visits than Twitter last week.

New AOL Chief Tim Armstrong is Big Champion of Local – Peter Krasilovsky, Local Onliner

Tim Armstrong, AOL’s new CEO, is a very big believer in local, with personal investments in a New York-area hyperlocal site (Patch) via his Polar Investments. Moreover, as head of sales for Google, he has frequently commented on his interests in developing local.

Computer Makers Prepare to Stake Bigger Claim in Phones – Ashlee Vance, NY Times

The computer industry has hit upon its Next Big Thing. It is called a phone.

The companies are also shifting gears because their technological feats of the last two decades — smaller laptops with faster chips to deliver snazzier graphics — no longer impress consumers, who increasingly find their three-year-old computers adequate for everyday tasks.

3G Phones Exposing Networks’ Last-Gen Technology – Matt Richtel, NY Times

Oh, the things modern mobile phones can do. They are music-playing, video-taking, direction-providing multimedia powerhouses. But many people have trouble getting them to perform their most basic functions, like making phone calls.

The underlying problem, industry analysts say, is the complex quilt of the nation’s wireless networks. The major mobile carriers have spent tens of billions of dollars on new voice and data networks that they advertise as superfast wireless express lanes. But analysts say these upgrades present major engineering challenges, and the networks often underperform.

Got Local Search Optimization? Start here! – Aleyda Solis, AleydaBlog

Aleyda has assembled a nice range of articles from the past 3 years of writings in Local Search and the summary provides a great starting point for someone who is just getting started in Local and wants to catch up.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search