Google Maps and the wrong URL

There has been a large uptick in reports in the Google Maps for Business Groups of wrong URL’s being assigned to a business listing in Google Maps and the Local Ten Packs. These reports often speak of nefarious competitors, hijacked listings or lost business.

I have written about this problem in the “archeological” past (here and here) and noted that this assignment of URL’s was an artifact of an over aggressive Google algorithm.

However, the posts in the group and inquiries from peers had become so numerous that I inquired of a Google whether there had been a recent change in the algo or whether just more people were noticing. The response was, that more folks are noticing.

We are experiencing a new wave of newly (and poorly) educated business owners who are taking note of the value of Maps but are clueless as to how to handle this and other “features” of Google Maps. So this post is directed to them (if they make it this far in their quest).

1-Take control of your listing in the Local Business Center

2- DO NOT  leave the URL field blank even if you do not have a web site

3- Either enter the URL for your business profile from another local site that has good details or create a profile page at one of the free web site sites and use its URL.

4- If you feel uncomfortable doing the above then put into the Local Business Center until you have either created a new website or taken step 3 above

Allowing Google to automatically assign a URL to your business listing is roughly akin to the oxymoron of allowing the Commander in Chief to be in charge of Military Intelligence. A we have learned, neither has worked very well.

Google LBC Communications Options Explained

Earlier in the month, Google upgraded the Local Business Center with additional communication options:

A number of readers expressed some confusion about the feature. Maps Guide Jen was kind enough to elucidate its limited function in an email exchange that we had recently.

Mike: Could you give us any insight into the new Business Communications feature in the LBC…when will it be functional, what sorts of things we might expect to get from it and what “Receive notifications when changes are made to your business listings” means?

Maps Guide Jen: The new communications feature in the LBC is functional already; the way it works is that if we make any major changes to the LBC (for example, this latest UI change) or if we have any news that we think Local Business Center owners should know about, people who have selected the choice to receive notifications will hear about them directly.

Mike: Has it been used by Google yet?

Maps Guide Jen: We haven’t sent anything out yet! But we will 🙂

From what I can gather the “Account Updates Receive notifications” feature is likely to include notifications for system wide updates such as the recent UI refresh and is not intended to provide any additional granularity at this point.

Local SMX 2008 Wrap Up

David Mihm has the best single source for information from SMX Local.

Hopefully over the next few weeks I will be able to summarize the research that he, I and a number of others have been doing elucidating the correlations of measurable attributes to Map Ranking.

Google Maps: LBC “Fix Incorrect Marker Location” Returns

Martijn of points out that Google has added back the ability to fix an incorrect marker location in the Local Business Center. The new implementation is cleaner with a larger map view. This feature was removed when the LBC was upgraded in June and its absence caused a large number of complaints and questions in the Maps for Business Group.

Google Maps LBC Word filter bars XXX business name?

Our formal business name is but the Local Business Center does not allow the use of a web url in the business name field. I didn’t worry too much about it other than to be slightly annoyed. It has forced me to address what a business name should look like in the age of Local search.

However this business poster in the Maps for Business Group definitely has an issue:

TOPIC: Google won’t accept our business name, which is a pet store called
Pussy & Pooch

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Tues, Jul 29 2008 11:41 am
From: “P&P”

Our downtown Los Angeles pet store is called “Pussy & Pooch”. Unfortunately Google Maps isn’t allowing us to use the word ‘Pussy’. Our business is not adult oriented in any way. There doesn’t seem to be a way to contact Google Maps directly about this.

Does anyone know a way to contact Google Maps directly? Thanks!

This might be one of those situation where an internet DBA would be appropriate. And just what exactly is a Pooch? I am anxiously waiting to see Map Guide Jen’s response.

Google Maps Update Moves to single box search field

Google has rolled out a UI upgrade to the map side view of Google Maps. The new interface provides a simplified single search box to businesses & places of interest and a new cleaner interface to directions.
Google Single search box upgrade (blue line) to Maps

Unfortunately, the Text View that is the default view when Maps is entered via the Onebox, still retains to the older, tabbed, multi-field interface. I look forward to similar update in this area as well.

Google Maps: New User Content Tab

Having been engaged in research on local, prepping my talk for SMXLocal & traveling, I haven’t paid that much attention to the bowels of Google Maps of late, so this could have been present for quite a while. But Google has added a new tab to the More Info display for a business record in Maps:

This content is taken from maps that I created  for this client in MyMaps. Historically, the content in these tabbed areas of Maps have correlated well with ranking.  Whether this is the case or not remains to be tested but obviously this indicates that Google thinks that User Generated Content from MyMaps is important enough to elevate to this level of visibility and reinforces my standing recommendation to create these sorts of  geo-referenced signals for Google to key in on.

Local SMX – Search Trends in Local

I have recently returned from LocalSMX and hope to blog on the event, incredible people and our research relating to Maps over the next week. But I wanted to touch on one of the keynotes delivered Frazier Miller of Yahoo (summarized here by Greg Sterling).

Frazier noted that growth in local queries at Yahoo experienced 76% year over year growth compared to a roughly 35% Y/Y growth in the previous year. He noted that the average user was querying 12 times per month vs 8 and that the query strings were moving heavily towards 3 and 4 word local queries from 1 and 2 (plus locale).

What struck me as so significant was that this growth appears to be occurring despite a flattening or downtrend in the long standing leaders of short tail queries in the local space like hotels, restaurants and real estate. Here is a Google Trends screenshot for real estate + locale:

This downward or flat trend is apparent in many of the queries that are dominant in local search: restaurants + locale, hotel + locale, lawyers + locale.

My sense of this conflicting trends is that this is actually a positive trend for a number of reasons….

Continue reading Local SMX – Search Trends in Local

Indian IT Firm outsources Local US Mapspam to itself

I frequently check my own record for Web Hosting Olean NY in Google Maps and when it popped up with this one box result my eyebrows raised a tad to see a new web hosting firm located at Vidhyapati St in Olean.

Olean, while it may have a number of Asian and Indian residents, typically has streets named after US Presidents, classic American Trees and the original thirteen states.

I found even more irony in Google’s claim that the “placement on the Map is approximate” (I’ll say):

Upon a little investigation it become obvious that Olean wasn’t the only market that was targeting, with over 2,000 listings in the US at 307 Vidhyapati St (which just happened to be the same address as listed in their Whois record in Indore, India ) in one town or another:

I had recently decided that since Google had posted their mapspam reporting tool, I would limit my mapspam reporting. This case is so rich in irony, that I couldn’t resist. This is one IT outsourcing firm that gets the job done!

Google LBC Upgrades Business Communications

Google has recently added a new feature (hats off to Martijn for the heads up on this) to the Local Business Center allowing a business to receive more communication from Google. Of particular interest is the option to “Receive notifications when changes are made to your business listings.” These preferences can be changed at any time going forward in the “settings” area of the LBC.

It is not clear exactly what types of changes are covered but one would hope that it would include new reviews and updated information. In theory, this will allow a business a much better feedback loop on their listings and offers the beginning of a glimpse of the possibility of using the Local Business Center for customer relations management.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search