Goog-411 Gathering data for gPhone’s Targeted Ads?

Could Bill Slawski’s reporting on a new Google patent provide answers to many of the questions about Goog-411?

I have been curious about the recent Goog-411’s recent billboard campaign and the unusual distribution of the billboards. The boards have been reported in very limited geographic areas around San Francisco and Western New York with showings in settings both very rural and very urban. The ValleyWag had speculated that the billboard experiment was a test for a billboard ad distribution system. That seemed unlikely.

Bill Slawski’s recent article: Second Thoughts on a GPhone: Privacy and Targeted Ads offers specifics on a Google patent that allows for much more interesting speculation about the role of the Goog-411 billboards and Goog-411 itself.

Bill details a patent the describes the collection of caller data that would allow for delivery of targeted mobile ads:

Numbers dialed might be used to look up related information, such as:

  • Geographic locations of the called numbers
  • Names of persons called
  • Names of businesses called
  • Names of organizations called
  • Types of business called
  • Types of organizations called

The above are all things that Goog-411 can and probably does track. He goes on to describe how the patent envisions that this information could be expanded to develop a profile for business types, product types that a caller was looking for as well as a caller profile that inferred ethnicity, economic class, interests and likes. The system could even track post call connection data:

As an example of using such key presses, instead of simply noting that the user called a local theater, by analyzing the voice prompts (which might have been previously crawled (e.g., a list of numbers of voice message systems could be called and crawled by entering numbers) and analyzed (e.g., using speech recognition for example)) and responsive key press responses, it might be learned that the user was interested in a specific movie (”Finding Nemo” versus “The Matrix”), not just that they called a movie theater.

This could result in ads being served related to that specific movie, or based on the genre of the movie (e.g., children’s movies versus action and science fiction movies).

Such a system may require a device that would call dialed numbers (that were followed with further dialed digits), and utilizing speech recognition technology, learn which terms were associated with each of the possible choices.(bold is mine as this is just what Goog-411 does)

Which brings us back to some questions about Goog-411 and its ad campaign:

•Why roll out Goog-411 for free?

•Why have such a limited roll out of billboards?

•Why are these billboards in Limestone, Olean, Buffalo, NY & Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, Ca.?

•When will it be monetized and how?

Bill’s patent offers several interesting clues to these questions. For ad delivery on both the ever mythic gPhone and Goog-411 to really work, it needs both volume and relevancy. Relevancy can best be achieved by sampling a broad spectrum of users, users that come from a broad range of geographic, ethnic and economic status.

The billboards certainly are distributed in a way that data collected from responses to the ad would reflect many purchaser architypes and interests that Google seems to be looking for in their patent.

What better way to develop this data for the gPhone (or any mobile ad delivery system) than using Goog-411?

Google Local Business Center listings propagate like rabbits

googlelocal1.jpgBirds do it, bees do it and apparently Google’s Local Data does it too….recreates your business record like crazy. Some sort of asexual digital reproduction I suppose as some business records start appearing in Google Maps multiple times…not just once or twice but possibly as many as 4 or more (users report as many as 12 records).

Its disconcerting for a business owner to search Google Maps for their single store listing record only to find a plethora of them, some accurate and some not. The problem is widely reported in The Google Groups for Business forum.

The problem partially stems from from lesss than clear instructions in the Local Business Center. If you “delete” a record from your Business Center it actually returns to the index. You are in fact just deleting it from your Business Center control panel. It is necessary to “suspend” your record instead. While this contributes to the multiple listing problem and makes managing them more difficult it is not the core of the problem.

Google’s algorythm (originally described here and here by Bill Slawski) aggregates information on businesses from multiple data sources and websites. These sources are as varied as Yelp, its own indexes, internet yellow page sites, InfoUSA and other buinessnes listing aggregators.

In the ideal world their local algo sifts through all of that data,matches data source X with list Y and successfully creates or augments your business record in Google’s Local data set. It then presents the for the business owners control in the Local Business Center.

But the world of local data and Google’s manipulation of it is far from ideal. Apparently when records are scoured from across Google’s multiple data sources they frequently show up as a new records rather than merged with the existing (hopefully accurate) record.

Google’s expectation is that the business owner will take control of these additional listings and suspend them as appropriate and then wait the 6 to 8 weeks for Google to update their local index. This decidedly low tech response to a hi-tech problem has proven frustrating for the many business owners that comment on the Google’s Maps for Business Group.

Local Links of Interest

Mozilla moving to mobile – a great post from Schrep at Mozilla on their plans in the mobile space (prioritizing mobile platforn, adding mobile developement staff & a version of “Mobile firefox”). Also of interest was this tidbit about why now & available hardware:

Getting a no-compromise web experience on devices requires significant memory (>=64MB) as well as significant CPU horsepower. High end devices today are just approaching these requirements and will be commonplace soon For example, the iPhone has 128MB of DRAM and somewhere between a 400 to 600 MHz processor. It is somewhere between 10x-100x slower on scripting benchmarks than a new MacBook Pro and somewhere between 3-5x slower than an old T40 laptop on the same wifi network. But rapid improvements in mobile processors will close this gap within a few years. There are chips out there today that are faster than the one in the iPhone and integrate graphics, cpu, and i/o (wifi/3g/wimax) on one die. Intel has recently re-entered this market which will keep things interesting. Most exciting of all ARM has announced that by 2010 devices will be shipping with a processor 8x faster than what’s in the iPhone!

CNet has an interesting piece about a partnership between Multivers and Google that:

“will allow anyone to create a new online interactive 3D environment with just about any model from Google’s online repository of 3D models, its 3D Warehouse, as well as terrain from Google Earth.”

The project, referred to as Architectural Wonders project, “will allow virtual-world designers to incorporate not just models and terrain from Google Earth, but also much of the metadata that makes it so powerful: the personal notations and photographs that millions of users have added to it.

While the article is mostly about multiplayer role playing the implications for local are interesting.

Google Phone

NY Times (reg. req’d) has an interesting article on the coming gPhone in which they contend:
•It is an operating system to compete with Microsfot Mobile and nothardware
•It will be an open source linux based phone environment as a means to “take the economics out of the Windows Mobile business”.
•It will be unveiled before the end of the year

Apple with the iPhone has found a profitable way to be a niche player in a much bigger industry. But even 10 million phones is but a niche. Google is attempting its assault on the walled gardens with a more ambitious goal. Obvously neither are entirely welcome by the telephone companies. This article posits that Google’s path inside the wall, is as an alternative to Microsoft and good software.

Does the Google Bulk Upload Change mean Less Mapspam?

On September 27th, SearchEngineTigers.com published a letter from Google titled: Change In Support for Business Locations in which Google indicated that:

If you are currently submitting Business
Locations bulk uploads for inclusion in Google Maps via Google
Base, please begin submitting your updated Business Locations bulk
uploads via the Google Local Business Center found here:
http://www.google.com/local/add/uploadFeed

This change which adds the upload function directly to the Google Local Business Center, consolidates the business center’s function into one interface but could more importantly give the Google Maps folks more control over and review of uploads and potential spam. Let’s hope so.

Local Links of Interest

Greg Sterling has a good piece on the The Debate Over User Reviews

Matt has a winner on Dear Small Business Owners: Put Down Your Ranking Reports and it applies equally well to local search

And Bill Slowski has an interesting patent review: Would You Rent Your Rooftop to Google To Show Ads Upon? (Too bizarre)

And an older (but important) post from Ahmed at TechSoapbox on Local data – categories, tags, structure, and taxonomy. I meant to reference earlier, but still well worth a read

Google is expanding Local info gathering in East Africa as well!

Google Maps to Navteq: We’ll build ‘em with People Power

The recent purchase of NavTeq by Nokia has the potential to have incredible impact in the mobile and internet map worlds. The implications go beyond technology into social and political issues. Minimally the technology will give the largest cell phone manufacture dramatically increased technology in the mapping arena. Maps are the logical future of local mobile search. As location based information takes off, Nokia will be well positioned. Certainly since Google and Yahoo depend on this mapping technology the buyout could affect both internet and mobile use dramtatically.

In this recent Forbes article, Bruce Upbin makes the point that Nokia is unlikely to rock the boat on any exisitng contracts as they will very much need the income to pay off the price paid for NavTeq (50 times earnings).

As for Google and Yahoo’s plan he says:

Web players including Google and Yahoo! (nasdaq: YHOO – news – people ) have less to fear from Nokia owning the service that provides their digital maps — they have long-term contracts with the map databases and they never paid that much anyway. Navteq earns a license fee of about $12 a year per subscriber from Verizon (nyse: VZ – news – people )’s VZ Navigator wireless navigation service; Verizon’s customers pay about $120 a year for the service. From Google maps on a phone, Navteq maybe makes 50 cents per lookup. That favorable pricing structure could change. Nokia said in its conference call Monday that it plans to continue working with all existing partners; it has little choice if it’s going to earn back the money it will pay for Navteq.

But Google is hedging its bets. Michael T. Jones, chief technologist of Google Earth, Maps and Local, says the company never considered buying Navteq. Instead, Google could simply recreate the data far more cheaply by tapping the mapmaking skills of its hundreds of millions of users — a wiki of maps, he suggests.

“Every day more people use our product than watch TV,” he says. “They could go outside their house and draw a line on a map for us.” Drivers wouldn’t dare use such a user-generated map unless it was 100% reliable, but it would suffice for local search. Jones says people in India are already creating digital maps of roads for Google.

Could Google simply recreate the data far more cheaply by tapping the mapmaking skills of its hundreds of millions of users? That seems a stretch.

Google announces satellite imagery upgrade

At the Google Lat-Long Blog Google has announced a satellite image upgrade that will appear in Maps shortly.

Today we’ve published a significant amount of new or updated 60cm satellite imagery for Google Earth, with the Google Maps update to follow shortly. Much of this imagery is concentrated in the U.S., Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, Australia and New Zealand. I encourage everyone to go exploring — you never know what you might find.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search