Local Links of Interest

Gate Keepers, Digital Gazetteers and Folksonomies – Part Two – Mike Dobson, Exploring Local

Who provides authoritative cartographic information now that the Mapping world has moved online? TeleAtlas and Navteq are primarily interested in selling navigation services and thus only focusing on gathering navigation information in countries with significant transportation infrastructure. Who will fill the gap in providing reference mapping for all the other types of map information traditionally collected particularly in the less developed world?

Google Wins Street View Privacy Lawsuit – Thomas Claburn, InformationWeek

A Pennsylvania judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against Google (NSDQ: GOOG) for invasion of privacy, vindicating the company’s Google Maps Street View image-collection practices.

Last May, Google filed a motion to dismiss the case that disputed the Borings’ privacy claim, questioned the Boring’s claim of mental suffering, and chided the couple for seeking to protect their privacy without taking steps to make their public court filings private.

“Plaintiffs have drawn the public eye upon themselves and the view of their home they claim is private,” Google’s motion states. “Plaintiffs did not seek to file their Complaint under seal, they unnecessarily included their street address in the Complaint, and they did not ask Google to remove the images of their property before they filed suit.

HTC Android Vodafone ‘Magic’ Is Better than G1 – Greg Sterling, Local Mobile

The G2 is sleeker and more polished. Do we have an iPhone challenger yet?

Google Maps Proves More Locksmiths in NYC than Cabs

David Mihm alerted me to an interesting tidbit about the new K- Pack. The new Google Maps feature showing more than 10 business in the Maps view, conclusively demonstrates there are more Locksmiths than cabbies in NYC. On one small block in Chelsea between 22nd and 23rd Street on 9th Avenue, Google is showing 10 locksmiths. I guess I never realized exactly how competitive of an industry it really was.

Here is a view of the locksmith business listings arrayed around the centroid of NYC near Times Square:

One just doesn’t have to travel far in the Big Apple to get their locks fixed…do you think there is any chance that Google would go back and clean up their index?

Google Maps: Enhanced Map View and other tidbits

Google has introduced an enhanced business listing Map view in Google Maps that they have referred to as “1000 is the new 10” in the Lat-Long blog announcing the rollout. The new Map view provides an additional layer of dots that indicate that there are more relevant results than can be shown on one page.

New Map view

While Google is in the process of passing Mapquest in total visits, user engagement with Maps has historically been shallow. Mark Law of Mapquest noted in a  November interview that: MapQuest also has a deeper level of user engagement as demonstrated by 113% more pages viewed per visitor per month than Google maps and visitors spending 78% more minutes (13.8 compared to 7.8 minutes) on MapQuest verses Google Maps. 

This appears to be an attempt to educate users about the depth of information available in Maps and encourage them to dig a little deeper into the product.

Maps offers two views of business listing data, the Maps view which is the default view upon entering Maps directly and the text view visible upon entering Maps via the Local 10 Pack. This new pin dense view is only visible when entering Maps directly, not in the text view that is the default view when entering Maps via the Local 10 Pack.

In related Maps news, Google rolled out an introductory Local Business Center video tutorial and a new LBC glossary over the past few days as well.

Google: Claimed Business Records No Longer Can be Hijacked

Google has recently informed me that the vulnerability that has led to the hijacking of claimed listings has been fixed and that business listings that have been claimed can no longer be compromised.

The hijackings, common in the Locksmith business, were first reported very early last summer and fall. There have been numerous reports as recently as Feb. 11th in the Help Groups. The legitimate records took on the appearance of merged records showing multiple phone numbers and the url of the black hat Locksmith. The “bad” phone number often displaying first and showing in the Local 10 Pack.

Google, is not going back and identifying hijacked records nor proactively repairing them. If a particular record has been hijacked, the business must notify Google through the groups for the bad data to be removed.

In September and October, I received several emails from Search Marketers serving the Locksmith industry that claimed that it was possible for claimed listings to be compromised. In the absence of technique and proof, I wrote (erroneously) at the time that it did not seem likely and that it was more likely that the blackhats were simply using the community edit feature (wrong).

However in mid December, one of the Locksmith SEM’s provided both specific techniques and concrete proof of the vulnerability. At that time, the information was forwarded to Google. It is likely that Google had knowledge of the exploit well prior to that point.

The hack was simplicity itself and seemed to exploit the same flaw that causes the merged record problem. The “blackhat” would create, in their Local Business Center account, a new local business listing with exactly the same information as an existing Locksmith with a high Local 10 Pack standing. The fields would be identical to the legitimate listing with the exception of a different phone number which Google would verify against. Once the new record was validated, the content would merge with the other data in the cluster but take precedence as the most recent. Once the record was secure in the wrong LBC account, the URL could then be changed.

When asked what a business owner who suspected his record had been hijacked should do, Google noted:

“Basically we’d tell users to make sure that they have one and only one correct, up-to-date, verified listing in their account that is not rejected for content problems. If they think that their listing falls into the “hijacking” bucket, they should let us know in the help forum.”

“I’d just be cautious to really delineate what types of listings this situation applies to. I am worried that people who are seeing third-party provided data are going to think this is them, and if that’s the case then all we’ll do is send them to the Local Business Center.”

Porn Mapspam Creeping into the Local 10 Pack

In a new development in the mapspam world (as if we need new developments), it was reported in the Google Maps Help Group that the search: Auto Insurance Los Angeles, CA is now returning not just mapspam but porn mapspam.

This listing does not appear to be a “community edit hijack” but rather a “legitimate” claimed record (or possibly a hijacked legitimately claimed record) in the LBC. Now when Danny Sullivan suggests that Google clean up the Mapspam in Google Maps, we know what he means. Leave it to LA to be at the forefront of this new effort. 🙂 Although I should be careful not to give those folks any new ideas.

I always exhibit a certain lack of imagination when it comes to monetizing the “business pospects” of Google Maps. But this one engenders all sorts of thoughts of income opportunities for the enterprising Search Marketer… Continue reading Porn Mapspam Creeping into the Local 10 Pack

Maps Vs. Mapquest: Hitwise has Mapquest still in the lead

Heather Hopkins has posted updated Hitwise traffic for Google Maps and Mapquest:

She noted: “A few weeks ago I thought I was onto something very hot. I was getting ready to announce that Google Maps had caught up to MapQuest in share of US Internet visits. I decided to wait a week to be sure things held. Since then, MapQuest has regained its lead and is widening the gap on Google Maps.”

Compete shows Maps as having passed Mapquest in overall traffic. But as Heather points out the nature of the traffic is dramatically different. Most Maps visitors (61%) come from Google on non branded searches whereas most of the Mapquest visits come from branded searches.

Google Maps Needs a Public Face

Google Maps has no real public persona that equates to Matt Cutts on the organic side of the Google house. Cutts has taken on the role of guide, teacher, disciplinarian, webmaster liason, diplomat, conveyor of the company line and industry  spokesperson for Google. You may not always agree with him but he has earned our respect.  

There is no one from the Google Maps team with the same standing in the Local community. Carter Maslan occasionally has the public interview & Jen Chin (aka Maps Guide Jen) attends conferences and is the occasional poster on local blogs and now in the Google Helps Group, Maps Guide Jade posts to the Google Maps Help Forum Announcements

Maps Guide Jade, a relatively new addition to the team, makes regular public proclamations….they tend to the cheery, energetic, over the top and occasionally polyannish statements of an enthusiastic 22 year old (I am guessing here…my age bias is showing 🙂 ).

She tends to hyperbole and some of the statements she makes are questionable (i.e. “Google Maps is the #1 mapping destination site globally”). Others seem to me just wrong. Here is one that I noticed where she recommended that businesses make a community edit of their business rather than claim it in the LBC when making a move: 

Just moved location for your business? Or the information Yellow Page provided online isn’t quite up-to-date? No worry! The function of the user edits of business data in real time would solve your problem in no time.

I am glad that Google has decided to give Maps Guide Jen some help in the forums, every helping hand makes the job of getting an answer to pressing questions easier….but I think it is time to give Google Maps a consistent, technically oriented, mature, and measured public face with whom to communicate. My vote is for Jen but if not her then someone else that is given the ability to speak freely, publicly & in a timely fashion on Google’s behalf.

Time to refine the Local 10 Pack?

One long standing complaint about the Local 10-Pack has been that on certain searches it returns multiple results for the same company.

In July of 2008, Eric Enge interviewed Carter Maslan, Director of Product Management for Google Maps. In the interview he asked Carter whether it was appropriate to have single company dominate the listings such as on the search Public Storage San Jose CA:

Eric Enge:…See how 8 of them are from one vendor, and the information presented for each of their entries is identical?

Carter Maslan: Yes, in that case, even though there is nothing inherently wrong with a single business ranking prominently in the top results, we are working to modify the way we handle cases like that. The challenge spans multiple areas around the quality of the data, the way we index it, the way we score it, and the way we present the UI in showing it.

So we are working on variations on ways to handle those cases better, but that’s not to say that there’s something inherently wrong with one business having a prominent presence in the top ten.

There must not have been much wrong with the listings…now 10 out of the 10 listings are from one vendor:

I am as big of a fan of a good algorithm as the next person but if a disparity of knowledge in the market place allows this sort of manipulation then something is not right with the algo. The challenge may “span multiple areas around the quality of the data…” but it is time (past?) for the “variations on ways to handle those cases better” to be rolled out.

Local SEO Tip: Google Maps loves Panoramio’s Geotagged Images

If “citations” are the new link than it appears that georeferences are the new citation.

Geotagging of photos, a common georeferenced data type, is gradually making its way into the mainstream. There has been a clear and steady integration of the technology into consumer products and a growing consumer awareness of the feature. Android and iPhone now automatically geocode images and iPhoto has recently been upgraded to include the ability to geocode photos. This all is making it easier for end users to learn about and implement geotagging in their personal workflow.

In a late 2006 piece, When will GeoCoding impact Local Search? I noted that it might be 5 years before geotagging of images was widely adopted throughout the marketplace and it had significant impact on local search. We are definitely well along that path.

Flickr and Panoramio have long had the capacity to geotag and display these images in a mapping context. The use of georeferenced data sets is rapidly increasing across the Internet and particularly within Google products. Google Maps added the capability to show geotagged photos in a given area. Google has added geotagging to Blogger and Maps has long been indexing KML files & the related photos for georeferences. Clearly Google Maps & Earth like end user generated georeferenced data and photos.

Now however, business listings within Google Maps are boldly showing geotagged images within the User Content area of the listing. It appears that Google Map’s actually loves geotagged photos when they come from Panoramio and there is every reason to believe that it is helpful in Maps ranking.

Having an image like the above included in your business listing at Google involves a few simple steps:
Continue reading Local SEO Tip: Google Maps loves Panoramio’s Geotagged Images

IYP Directory Scam Alert: MoreYP.com – More YellowPages, Inc

I received not one but three calls during the last week of January asking to confirm my listing for the Yellow Pages. Each time, the call attendant would assure me that I was NOT approving any charges as they talked over a computer response system. On the third call, I asked why they needed to call me 3 times and the Supervisor noted that the two previous attendants were not as experienced as he…(now I know at what). Apparently on the their third attempt, I did, unwittingly, approve a $39.95 charge to my monthly phone bill. I just received the written confirmation in the mail today.

For my (unauthorized) $39.95/mo here is what I get:
Online Internet Yellow Page Listings – your business will be listed in over 40 directories
Enhanced Listing – Nation Online take your basic listing and supercharges it.
Search Engine Submission – As part of our program we submit your Website (or our local profile page…) to over 35 major search engines…
Local Listing Portal – Easily update your internet Yellow Page listing in minutes with our secure online link. …

Their local Better Business Bureau offers up a rating of D on MoreYP.com – More YellowPages, Inc with this report:

Complaint Experience

Our file contains a pattern of complaints from consumers who allege they were contacted by this company and told “we are updating our records for the Yellow pages, and need to verify we have the correct information” Consumers state they were led to believe they were talking to thier current Yellow Page provider and were just verifying the address. During the verification process consumers state they can hear a recording in the background that they are unable to understand. Consumers state they are then charged an additional fee on their phone bill of $39.95, which they did not approve. The company responds to complaints by cancelling their agreement or an explanation of their sales process.

Well More YellowPages, Inc is nothing if not persistent. I guess you need to be if your business plan is predicated on this premise.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search