Google Maps: Good News Bad News Announcement

Update 7:14 am 01/08/08 MapsGuide Jen to stay!
Hi Mike,
I’m not going anywhere quite yet! You’ll be seeing more posts from Maps
Guide Sirene in the group, but you can’t get rid of me that easily ;o)
Cheers,
Jen

Well Dave, there is a Santa Claus after all!
****

In a surprise announcement today, it was noted that Maps Guide Serene will be answering questions in the Google Maps for Business Group. This appears to be one of those good news bad news arrangements where Maps Guide Jen finally received the help she so desparately needed. However, it seems that Mapsguide Jen is being replaced as our intrepid interpreter and mystic seer of the cryptic meanderings of Google Maps. It appears that Maps Guide Jen has either been promoted or moved on.

I like to think that it is the former. And I will forever more think of Jen as MapsGod Jen. In related news it has been announced that a foundation may be set up in her name.

MapsGod Jen will forever be remebered for her hard work,a steady hand at the helm and equanimity in the face of duress and and an angry mob..

Goog-411 now a speedier option on Thomson/GE phones

Greg Sterling has noted a Thomson/Google deal that adds a one-touch, auto-dial GOOG-411 button into many of its latest GE-branded DECT 6.0â„¢ cordless phones. It should give Jingle’s Free 411 service a pause and it certainly raises questions about when Google will monetize its free DA service. Voice DA services are currently very lucrative and free voice DA services have the potential to be very disruptive to them. LocalMobile notes no firm has been better at converting activity to revenue and profits than Google.

As Greg pointed out from a recent LocalMobile survey 76.3% of respondents (n=671) said they had never used “one of the free alternatives to carrier-provided 411 directory assistance”. And while Jingle 411 has some market share advantage in the remaining 24% of users, it is the larger group that will ultimately decide who wins in the disruptive Free 411 DA market. It is just this market that Google is targeting with the Thomson/GE deal.

The question for Thomson/GE is: why would they agree to the arrangement? Thomson/GE is not a corporation known for its easy going style and one assumes that they did not put the Goog-411 button on their phones for the warm and fuzzies of it. The April introduction date leaves me wondering if we might not see Goog-411 monetization in that timeframe.

The one current drawback to the Goog-411 service in a consumer setting is the lack of residential listings. This consumer driven deal with Thomson might just also imply a move by Google to add residential listings in the same timeframe.

SEL Survey Data & Comparison

Mobile User Survey Redux: the Late Adopter

After Greg Sterling surveyed SEL readers on their mobile internet usage patterns, I thought it would be interesting to survey a totally distinct user group. Greg agreed and we surveyed the 1123 registered readers of OleanInfo.com, a local portal site catering to folks interested in Olean NY. Roughly 80% of OleanInfo’s readership lives within 40 miles of Olean, NY, a small town in western NY State.

The readership was chosen for contrast with the SEL readers. Presumably they are rural or of rural origins and less technically oriented. They proved to be, as a group, classic “late adopters”. 85.8% of the OleanInfo respondents were over 40 and 58% over 50 and as a group had very low mobile internet use. This stood in contrast to the SEL readership that was 84% under 40 of which almost half access the mobile internet once per week or more.

Other highlights:

• 90% of respondents report using their cells to text message (thus they do sooner or later adopt)
• 0% penetration of the iPhone
• Very low (12%) penetration of traditional smartphones
• 87% had no mobile internet usage AT ALL
• 26% reported using Free DA and of those 32% used Goog-411 and 44% uses Free-411. (Remember that the Goog-411 billboard campaign took place in Olean)

Here are the results of the survey taken last week. OleanInfo respondents are listed first with the comparable SEL response in parenthesis.

What sort of mobile phone do you currently own?

  • Conventional cell phone — 87.6% (58.7%)
  • Traditional smartphone (e.g., BlackBerry, Treo) — 12.4% (30.7%)
  • iPhone — 0.0% (10.7%)

Indicate how many of the following you do with your mobile phone (multiple answers permitted):

  • Send and receive text/SMS messages — 90.9% ( 97.2%)
  • Access the mobile Internet — 22.7% (56.9%)
  • Use downloaded applications (e.g., Mapquest Navigator, Google Maps for Mobile) — 12.1% (36.1%)

How frequently do you access the mobile Internet?

  • Never — 87.2% (33.8%)
  • Once a month or less — 4.6% (13.5%)
  • Two-three times a month – 4.6% (5.4%)
  • More than once a week — 1.8% (21.6%)
  • At least once daily – 1.8% (25.7%)

If you don’t access the Internet on your mobile phone, why not (multiple answers permitted)?

  • Keying in queries is frustrating — 21% (45%)
  • The network is too slow — 6.2% (52.5%)
  • The screen on my phone is too small — 14.8% (57.5%)
  • I don’t have a mobile Internet plan — 77.8% (45%)

Which of the following mobile search engines/sites do you use (multiple answers permitted)?

  • Ask – 17.4% (8%)
  • AOL – 4.3% (0%)
  • Google – 78.3% (90%)
  • Microsoft Live Search/MSN – 26.1% (8%)
  • Yahoo oneSearch/Go – 41.3% (20%)
  • Note-The high response rate on this question implies that the question was not fully understood

Do you use any of the free directory assistance options?

  • Yes – 26% (29%)
  • No – 74% (71%)

If you use any of the free directory assistance options, which one(s):

  • Goog411 — 32% (73.9%)
  • 1-800-YellowPages (AT&T) – 28% (8.7%)
  • 1-800-Call-411 (Microsoft) – 12.0% (8.7%)
  • 1-800-Free-411 – 44% (21.7%)

Indicate your gender

  • Female – 38% (24%)
  • Male — 62% (76%)

Indicate your age

  • 18-24 — 1.8% (17.3%)
  • 25-30 — 2.7% (25.3%)
  • 31-40 — 9.8% (41.3%)
  • 41-50 — 27.7% (12%)
  • 51-60 — 30.4% (4%)
  • Over 60 — 27.7% (0%)

Where do you reside?

  • US/North America — 99.1% (65.3%)
  • Europe — 0.9% (25.3%)
  • Asia — 0.0% (9.3%)

The survey has the caveats of any internet survey and the results only reflect the reality of the group surveyed. That being said these responses provide an interesting contrast to the results of the SEL reader survey.

Most read articles for 2008

Here are the top 10 read articles from Understanding Google Maps over the past 12 months:

1. Which On-line Directories provide details to Google Maps
2. First Case of Large Scale Abuse at Google Maps
3. Google Coupons now has searchable interface
4. Now taking Nominations for the Rubber Chicken Awards
5. Sources for Google Map’s Restaurant Local Listing data
6. Goog-411 Rolls out Billboards in the Hinterlands
7. Subscribe to Google Coupons
8. What does a link campaign look like for Local?
9. Has Google relationship with CitySearch changed
10. Yahoo Mapspam now appearing near you

Local Links of Interest

As noted in WRAL.com there is a new local search engine, WhatsOpen.com that is now open.

WhatsOpen is an intriguing service with an even more intriguing about us page. Their approach to local search is not the standard who, what or where but rather what and when. They ask a question that even folks familiar with their own local scene frequently ask.

Just type in the name of the store you’re looking for, and your location….Results are displayed on a Google Map mashup, with listing of stores, their hours of operation, their phone numbers and their distance from the city center appearing in a left-hand column.

Users choosing to sign up for the full beta of the version get access to information from the U.S., the European Union and China along with mobile phone applications Google Android or iPhone.

An interesting report of agressive marketing & billing practices in the Local SEM space in the Google Maps for Business Group.

In Restless Pursuit of Craigslist’s Success – Bob Tedeschi, NY Times

The NY Times writes a glowing report about The Kijiji unit of eBay in their pursuit of Craig’s List. At the end of the article Kijiji’s opportunities were put in perspective by Greg Sterling:

Even without such features, though, Craigslist added nearly seven million users during the last year. That should be enough to give pause to Kijiji and other competitors, according to Greg Sterling, of Sterling Market Intelligence, an advertising consultancy. “There are other sites, like Google Base, with nicer features for users, but they haven’t dented Craigslist,” he said.

Windows Live Expo from Microsoft, another free classified ad site, has also struggled to gain an audience. “The more competition there is, the more it reinforces Craigslist’s users,” Mr. Sterling said. “So Kijiji is going to have to take a long-term view if they want to gain any traction.”

2008 Wishes: Peace on earth, goodwill for all people and help for MapsGuide Jen

Some days it seems like the World and Google Maps are going to hell in a hand basket with intractable problems; Global warming, end of oil, the war in Iraq, mapspam etc… but I am one of those folks that is a pessimist of mind and an optimist of heart about world affairs. I see the problems, note them (perhaps too often for friends and family alike) but firmly believe that humanity can solve them. At least I have hope that we can.

The same goes for Google. I may seem like a classic kvetcher when it comes to Google. Complain, complain, complain you say, never anything good to say… However the complaints that I have noted about Google Maps just reflect my desire for them to succeed. I really want local to work and I (in my heart of hearts) am rooting for Google to be one of the companies* that sucessfully pushes local into our lives.

In fact, it was but a little more than a year ago that Bill Slawski and I did a little “Jane, you ignorant slut”** two step where I took the side that (Google) Local would improve in accuracy over time while Bill contended that the task was too daunting and that data accuracy would not significantly improve.

I really do want Google Maps to succeed so I am making a New Years Budget Resolution for Google: Hire MapsGuide Jen some help! Heck what does a good customer service rep cost in San Jose? $60,000 a year? That’s but 100 shares of Google stock. Alternatively they could ground the plane for a week. It would go a long way towards showing that Google does intend “goodwill toward small business people and peace on (Google) Earth & Maps” for 2008.
Continue reading 2008 Wishes: Peace on earth, goodwill for all people and help for MapsGuide Jen

Understanding Google Maps nominated for Search Blog Award 2007

SearchEngineJournal.com once again has their annual Vote for the Search Blogs Awards
posted and Understanding Google Maps and Yahoo Local has been nominated in the Best Local Search Blog category. Thanks to Miriam of SolasWebDesign and Frank of LocallyType.com for nominating this blog. I really appreciate the recognition.

It has been a fun year for me. With your help, I have learned a lot about Local Search, Google Maps and myself.  A special thanks go out to Dave, Bill, Greg, Danny, Miriam, Cathy, Chris, Chris & Matt for making yourselves available, providing insight & information and being gracious, decent people. To these folks and those of you whom I have forgotten to recognize, but have contributed so very much to my knowledge this year, I say: A Very Heartfelt Thanks!

Google Maps: Bulk Upload now broken in LBC?

Update 01/04/08 According to MapsGod Jen this has now been fixed. Jen has apparently been on leave and yesterday returned to the Google Maps for Business Group with a vengeance!

In today’s Google Maps For Business Owners another bug in the Local Business Center seems to have been confirmed. This time the bulk upload procedure seems to have broken and has been so since at least Dec. 20th:

=========================================================
TOPIC: Error 504
=========================================================

== 1 of 3 ==
Date: Fri, Dec 28 2007 10:08 am
From: “lpstesting@gmail.com”

I believe you are also refering to my recent question with the same problem. Has anyone else experienced this, and are there any recommendations on what could be causing this?

On Dec 27, 3:24 pm, “m.storagefacil…@gmail.com”
wrote:
> I noticed around the 22nd of Dec that I haven’t been able to upload
> bulk feed as well. I keep getting this Error. It isnt Just me, as
> im seeing that others are experiencing the same problem. Is there a fix?

== 2 of 3 ==
Date: Fri, Dec 28 2007 10:30 am
From: “m.storagefacility@gmail.com”

Oh Im wrong it is a 502 server error. Whats the fix? I dont know
but I hope someone from google looks at this blog so that we can get
back to work.

== 3 of 3 ==
Date: Fri, Dec 28 2007 2:54 pm
From: “dean@learningrx.com”

Hi guys,

I am having the exact same issue – I have been trying to upload my unicode text file since Dec. 20th without success.

=========================================================

Perhaps the Google Local Business Center is undergoing renovations, perhaps Mapsquide Jen is on an extended holiday break (she deserves it) but the problems of customer service, mapspam, broken coupons and now the broken upload feature seem to be piling up in the forum and have gone unanswered for an extended period.

Local Links of Interest

8 White-Hot Trends Lift Local Search in ’08  – Michael Boland, Search Engine Watch

Eight local search trends will rock the search engine world in ’08. Here are the ones with the most momentum as we roll into the New Year 

Amazon Kindle does Maps – Joshua Topolsky, Engadget

Users of the device have been plumbing its depths, and have uncovered a handful of easter eggs which will make current owners extra happy, and might push potential buyers over the edge. Amongst the hidden features are access to Google Maps coupled with CDMA-based location-finding, which also allows you to quickly locate nearby gas stations and restaurants (as well as your own custom searches).

The Pogies: Envelope, Please David Pogue – NY Times

MAPPING BREAKTHROUGHS Google Maps (maps.google.com) has been blowing MapQuest off the map for some time now. But three new features make it head-spinningly great.

Want a coffee with your iPhone? - Brian Caulfield, Forbes

In an application with the U.S. Patent Office filed on Dec. 20, the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer and gadget company described a wireless system that would allow customers to place an order at a store using a wireless device such as a media player, a wireless personal digital assistant or a cellphone.

The system could go far beyond the program that Apple announced with Starbucks in September, which allows iPhone users to press a button and wirelessly download the song playing in the background as they sip their soy lattes.

In Search of the Breakthrough Mobile Network – Stephen Lawson, IDG News Service

It’s been a tough year for municipal Wi-Fi projects and emerging wireless technologies, but with the bruises comes new muscle.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search