Google SMS Adds Location-Based Personalization Automatically

In a recent post, The Google Operating System Blog points out that Google SMS Adds Location-Based Personalization to your text queries of its local business database by sending a SMS to Google that contains the command:
set location [city, zip code, address]

In recent trip to NYC with my family over labor day weekend I discovered that Google will automatically (no command required) set your default location in an SMS query after three queries as well. By setting the location automatically after a limited number of queries, Google cuts key entry time in half on all subsequent queries for users like me that are too lazy to explore the help file or send a command.
I experimented with Goog-411, Google Maps & Google SMS as local tools during this tourist visit and found that when walking down the street or perusing a shop or museum, Google SMS was an incredibly valuable alternative to find a known store’s location and phone number. In many ways it was preferable to Directory Assistance as it was silent and unobtrusive. Once received as a text message it was then a simple task to tell my Nokia to find the number and dial it if need be or add it to my contacts.

Local Links of Interest

Ask removes search box from default mobile search

From the post:What Ask found in their user testing is that users would immediately go to the search box and start trying to use it. While this sounds like it offers what the user wants, the fact is that accomplishing simple things like finding our the weather in San Francisco can take 70 keystrokes if you are on a mobile device without a QWERTY keyboard (for example entering the letter C requires you to hit the 2 button 3 times) 

All I can say is AMEN to that. If you have never tried searching using via a WAP browser on a cell phone you should give it a try to understand why you never want to do it.

Google aims to patent payment by SMS at Electronista – Gadgets for Geeks.

Himmelstein on G’s Local Biz Referral Program – Guest columnist Marty Himmelstein at Greg Sterling’s blog has great overview of trends in local search and Google’s take on them.

Discussion of New Kelsey Mobile Numbers by Greg Sterling at Localmobilesearch.net. And I thought it was me that couldn’t figure out the numbers…

Google Intros Search Ads on Google Mobile Search

Just received this email from Google:

Search Ads on Google Mobile Search


Hello Michael Blumenthal,

We are happy to announce a new feature that will allow you to
easily reach additional qualified customers who are searching
Google from their mobile phones.

In the next few days, your search ads will be eligible to run on
Google Mobile Search pages (like they currently do on Google.com).
We are offering this feature – and any resulting clicks – for
free through November 18, so you can experiment with the rapidly
growing mobile platform while still reaching qualified customers.

Each ad’s eligibility will be determined by its landing page and
only ads with landing pages that can be adapted for viewing on
mobile browsers will be shown.  You can monitor each ad’s
performance via a special performance tracking page within your
account called “Performance Data: Search Ads on Google Mobile
Search.”

Again, you will not be charged for clicks on these ads until
November 19, at which time we will begin charging the usual CPC
prices.  And as always, you may opt-out of this feature at any
time.

We hope you find this new feature helpful and profitable, and we
urge you to learn more about it at our AdWords Help Center:

http://adwords.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=72226

Thank you for advertising with Google AdWords.

Sincerely,

The Google AdWords Team

Local Links of Interest

The Power of Branding by Greg Linden summarizes a small sample study that quantifies the value of branding in search. This applies equally well to local.

Prostitutes Turn to Craigslist, Law Takes Notice (NY times) – Can this type of local marketing be that far in the future for Yahoo or Google? It certainly indicates the degree of penetration of Craig’s list.

Mobilizing Mom & Pop Shops – Greg Sterling counters Steve Smith’s The Parallel Universe of Mobile Search, “rumination on the now-familiar challenges of selling online to “Mom & Pop” small businesses and suggests: if it ain’t happening online it sure as heck ain’t going to happen in mobile”.

And for those of you living under a rock, Apple lowered the price of the iPhone to $399. Maybe the day of the ubitquitous, usable and friendly phone with good Local information access is not as distant as I had thought.

Yahoo Local Mapspam now appearing near you

I have not paid much attention to Yahoo Local over the past few months. It isn’t as interesting to me as Google, it lacks the intriguing technology of the Local Business Center, its algorythms seem simpler and it generates less traffic and thus plays less of a role in my client’s sites.

The simpler input and verification procedures make it painless and quick for a business to get listed in the Yahoo Local database and rank fairly highly. Apparently though, that simplicity can lead to Mapspam as well. While the Mapspam on Yahoo is not as widely spread as Google’s was, it is harder to spot, there are fewer options for reporting it, and Yahoo seems less willing to pull it down.

The folks at the FloristDetective.com have been doing a number of pieces on the tricks and tactics of non local order takers in the florist business. Many of those practices are border line actions that imply that a florist is local without actually stating it…like getting a local exchange phone number that transfer to a head office who knows where. These are clearly deceptive practices but once they get the local phone number, the data flows through the phone company to Google and Yahoo and the presumption on the engines’ part is that they are legitimate local listings. They will frequently show up in Google with a pin but no address associated with the listing.

Recently though, RealFlorist.Flowerchat.com have uncovered more obviously deceptive listings in Yahoo where the entity will fabricate an address that is close to the city center (gaining ranking cred), provide a very relevant fabricated business title with City + Florist in the title (gaining more ranking cred) and adding a number of reviews (gaining still more ranking cred) to jump to the top of the local rankings for a popular search term in the larger cities like New York Florist, Los Angeles Florist or San Francisco Florist.

In each of the above cases there is clear evidence on the web that the local address is fake. In the spirit of journalistic integrity I called a number of other local florists close to the listed florist to see if there was a florist located at any of the above addresses and uniformly the answer was: No.

Here is the evidence for just one of the bogus listings, on the search for New York florist at Yahoo (note the distance, name and phone for the first local result): Continue reading

Local Links of Interest

In-car Google Local Search Google continues to push Maps to new platforms and venues. I see this type of market penetration as a way to achieve monopoly status ala the iPod.
Segmenting Local Mobile Search

Good article from Gerg Sterling at SearchEngineLand categorizing and documenting the fragmented nature of local mobile search. As he points out, what he calls “mobile Internet is really four separate silos that will eventually blend to varying degrees.

At this point the only players in all the silos are Google, MSN & Yahoo. With the Telcos, Ask, Local.com, Jingle and others participating in one or two categories. He points out that “we can expect to see increasing integration of the types of functionality that are currently largely separated — the blending of voice interfaces, text and WAP and, potentially, applications that come preloaded on phones (e.g., Google Maps on the iPhone).

Handheld shootout! Google Maps vs. Windows Live Search reviews two Local Mobile Apps mentioned in Greg’s article and concludes that “I’m not a big fan of Microsoft’s search offerings, but this one beats Google’s hands down. It almost makes me forget the raw coolness of Google Maps on the iPhone. Almost.”

Catering to couch Potatoes at the Ballpark

In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Russell Adams reports on the increased use of wireless devices of all stripes at Major League Baseball games (and other professional sports venues) for viewing stats, instant replays, ordering food and participating in game time promotions.

At some venues wireless devices can be rented for $25 per event. The Mariners (who are owned by Nintendo) rent Nintendo devices while the SF Giants’ AT&T Park offers free wireless access.

The following quote from the article intrigued me:

The quest for new forms of in-seat entertainment is being powered by the rise of mobile devices that function as a phone, television and computer. The number of people with a high-speed Internet connection on their mobile wireless device jumped to 11 million from 3.1 million in the first six months of 2006, according to the latest figures available from the Federal Communications Commission. Just in the almost two months since Apple released the iPhone, the number of fans at the Giants’ AT&T Park using its free wireless service to get stats and take part in trivia contests has jumped 50%; in a few games, that figure has reached about 700 fans, according to the team.

This uber-local use goes hand in hand with acceleration of the broader use of wireless devices and by my way of thinking, increased usage of Google Maps and other local data resources. Short term( 1-2 years) I believe that the main beneficiaries will be restaurants and other local tourist services. Long haul (3-5 years), whether other types of businesses will benefit remains to be seen.

Google makes it easier to embed Maps AND generates new Maps traffic

Google’s new upgrade to easily allow Maps to be embedded on a web page has been widely reported.

I figure the test of any new “easy to use” technology and whether it will propagate widely is the “Mike Test”. That is, if I can figure out how to use it in 5 minutes or less with minimal instructions and without calling my programmer. Google’s new embed Map feature passes that test with flying colors.

The ease with which a map and driving instructions can be added to a website will lead to a rapid adoption rate of this technology across the web on many different types of websites. (Adding custom maps is only slightly more difficult.) The result? More traffic to Google Maps. Each of these maps include upwards of 5 new links into Google Maps. The most significant of which (in terms of driving new business searches) is the “search nearby” link.

For most of last year and into January of this year, Google Maps provided little real traffic to most websites. With the advent of the Local OneBox, Google focused attention on their local data that lead to a significant increase in Maps traffic. The same seems to be true of Google Maps on the iPhone as well. Now it appears that almost every website will provide the same. (One wonders whether placing a map on a directions page will influence Map rankings in any way.)

Google has, with the flick of a technological switch, once again put in place a feature that will lead to a significant increase in Maps use. Their ability to drive this kind of traffic to their local product demonstrates why they will be so difficult to beat in the race to dominate this market.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search