Local Links of Interest

More GoogleClick News: Influential Congressman (Very Publicly) Asks a TON of Interesting Questions (John Betelle – BatellMedia.com)
Lots of interesting questions are asked of Google in the context of the Doubleclick merger. One that caught my attention:
Please explain how Google uses the information or data described in Question 1(a) – (l), including, but not limited to, the following uses: perfecting Google’s search algorithm; operating Google’s advertising programs such as AdWords and AdSense; and research or analysis of user activity on www.google.com.

… 5. In particular, please explain whether Google Maps directs advertisements to IP addresses based on that user’s Google Maps search query history.

Increasing user satisfaction on the mobile web: Technical considerations and a white paper on user satisfaction on the mobile (Martin Kleppmann  Yes/No/Cancel)

The use of internet and web services on mobile devices is expected to revolutionise our attitude to information and communication in the near future. However, in order to attract mainstream adoption, the mobile web must overcome some fundamental user experience problems. In this white paper we approach the user experience from a technical point of view, explaining reasons for deficiencies of the current approaches, and introduce some technical means for improving the user experience.

Google’s Online (Local) Marketing Challenge (via Greg Sterling)

Student groups will receive US$200 of free online advertising and then work with local businesses to devise effective online marketing campaigns. They will outline a strategy, run their campaign, assess their results and provide the business with recommendations to further develop their online marketing. 

Google Maps now promoting Google Maps

Google has done little forward facing promotion over the years so even when they use their own products to promote themselves it stands out.They have started promoting a full range of their map based products on the main map’s page.
google Maps Promo

Previously business owners had to dig to find the button to the local business center. Its about time that businesses were presented with the opportunity to edit their business without having to dig so hard for it. I am holding my breath for its appearance on the main serps page.

Google, Local Search entrepreneurs & sleeping with elephants

Yesterday Greg Sterlng’s blog Screenwerk hosted an interesting guest post: Google should Power the Local Web by Daniel Bower, who is part of welovelocal.com in the UK. He eloquently argues that due to the complex nature of true local, Google should focus on providing tools for local rather than going after Local Search themselves.

His post is well worth a read and provides insight into the reality of local if it is to be meaningful in our lives. That being said I don’t agree with his conclusions that Google should (or rather would):
…further organise the sea of data and to continue to provide highly relevant ads. By abandoning its current centralised local strategy in favour such a decentralised model, it could firm up its position in the space for some time to come.

It appears to me that Google is doing both and that they have a need to do both. They are establishing their leadership in general (centralized) local search & mapping while simultaneously building out tools that can be used to “Power the Local Web” and the mobile web in the niches of the decentralized world.

The market will not be look to Google for those hyper local tools unless and until they have a dominant position in the general local search arena (maps, business search etc). Users won’t give Google the dominant position in General local search unless they feel the same warm and fuzzy about local that they do about general search. This latter state will be achieved via Google being in all aspects of their search consciousness. An example of that is Goog-411.

Some examples of Google’s tool powering the local web currently in many ways (there are more):

Map API
Co-op
Map insert
My Maps

They are rolling these tools out regularly and have not yet hit their stride. Yet you can see the results in the many local vertical mashups and tools that have developed around the google Maps api.

If their goal is to dominate (which is the goal of every good capitalist) then they would need to do so on both fronts. If they don’t continue to make these gains, someone else will. It is the nature of the beast: Gobble up or be gobbled. It is naive to think otherwise. The difference in Local and local mobile search is that they are up against a broader and deeper range of equally voracious competitors (ATT, Nokia, Verizon, Microsoft as well as the GPS makers etc, etc.) than in the general search arena who want to be the gobblers as opposed to the gobbled.

Powering the local web with tools after and while they dominate the general local search categories mirrors their strategy for achieving dominant monopoly position with broader web search. Whether they can leverage their position in general web search to achieve total success (both in general local search and local tools) in local is really the question. Will they be able to hit the jackpot twice? If Greg Sterling’s recent informal survey is any indication they are off to a good start in local mobile search. You can also bet that none of the above named companies are rooting for them and that it would be unlikely for Google to “abandon… its current centralised local strategy”.

I don’t know how this will end up but it will be fun watching titans battle. For any smaller players in the local search field my advice would be: “Be careful sleeping with elephants, its very awkward when they roll over”.

Google responds to a recent local mapspam report

Maps Guide Jen responded today to one of the reports of Mapspam in NYC:

TOPIC: Scam Using Google Local http://groups.google.com/group/Google-Maps-For-Business-Owners/browse_thread/thread/2ec66a24df6021b4?hl=en
==============================================================================

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Tues, Dec 11 2007 2:37 pm
From: “Maps Guide Jen”

We’re looking into this and will take appropriate steps to make sure the
businesses on Google Maps are represented fairly.

Thanks for letting us know,
Jen

On Nov 30, 2007 3:10 PM, Chris wrote:

>
> It recently came to my attention that a certain website
> (www.newyearseve.com) recently registered about a hundred different
> “businesses” on Google Local with different major nightclub, names all
> using variations of the same address:
>
> 133 West 25th Street New York, NY 10001
>
> They don’t actually own any of these nightclubs, it’s just a scam to
> trick users to buy tickets from them. An example of this is Webster
> Hall
>
>
> http://maps.google.com/maps?f=l&abauth=96173e12%3A5flz0VneqLN9IaRtOrI-C2ziXSI&view=text&hl=en&q=webster+hall&near=New+York%2C+NY&btnG=Search+Businesses
>
> One of these is the real Webster Hall, the other is a trick. Can
> anything be done about this type of scam? These types of tactics are
> hurting legitimate businesses.

LocWeb 2008 Call for Papers

LocWeb 2008: First International Workshop on Location and the Web has issued a call for papers for their conference April 22, 2008 in Beijing, China. From their post:

This workshop brings together researchers from academia and industry labs to discuss and present the latest results and trends in all facets of the relationships between physical locations and Web information.

Submission Instructions

We accept original and unpublished papers that are not under review somewhere else. We accept long papers (8 pages), short papers (4 pages), and demos (2 pages). For paper formatting, please refer to the general WWW2008 instructions, which are available at http://www2008.org/submissions/ (please use the submission instructions for refereed papers). Paper submission uses the same service as WWW2008 and is located at http://www.easychair.org/LocWeb2008.

Important Dates

Submission Deadline: Feb 01, 2008
Acceptance Notification: Mar 01, 2008
Revised Manuscript Due: Mar 15, 2008
Workshop Date: Apr 22, 2008

Organizational Details

Workshop URI: http://medien.informatik.uni-oldenburg.de/LocWeb2008
Submission URI: http://www.easychair.org/LocWeb2008

****

Maybe Bill Slawski would hide me in his luggage?

More Mapspam

I have done some reporting on a new, more sophisticated occurrence of MapSpam on Google and Yahoo in an article at SearchEngineLand: MapSpammers Getting More Sophisticated. The story was based on techniques originally described in a post at oooff.com. This newest approach integrates all of the previous ideas of listing a business at a central po box/ mail distribution center, naming the business and domain with your search phrase + location for each of the major markets and linking them back to a website that presents a home page based on those variables.

There have been additional on-going reports in Google Groups-Maps for Business of a more local type of spam where a business will list itself at numerous locations or more likely numerous names at one location. Here is one of the posts:

I work for a company who owns www.NewYears.com. A competing company(newyearseve.com) has recently registered hundreds of fake”businesses” using the address “Suite 7W, 133 West 25th Street, NewYork, NY” and the phone number (212) 724-3900 all with the keyword”New Years” in the title using different variations of the address.

They’ve done this to fool Google into including them at the top of allsearch results that have local information associated with it. Thismust be some kind of new SEO scam and its definitely working. Thesebusinesses do not exist and are taking away from the website thatactually have decent SEO. Is there some way I can report this Google?If its happening to us, I’m sure its happening to others as well.

You can test this by going to google.com and searching for “new yearseve nyc”

It appears that Google has recently removed these listings and the original thread but it is interesting that the mapspam in now appears in specific local markets as well as nationally driven local spam in the major markets. Local has arrived.

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.

Continue reading My (ancient) cell phone as a reading device.

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:

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

Developing Knowledge about Local Search