“The most relevant results” sort of…


One of the interesting results that I covered in previous posts ( here and here ) was the occasional and glaring difference (using the same data set) of the results in the Google Onebox Local Listing and the Maps top results.

In a recent NY Times article (reg. req’d) and often in the past a Google spokesman has said “We will continue to innovate our search technology to provide users with the fastest and most relevant search experience on the Web.” Which is the most authoritative? Which is the most relevant?

It is hard to have two “most relevant” results to the same query (Restaurant Buffalo, NY) from the same search engine. It certainly leaves one wondering why Google can’t really decide.

Google Organic Onebox Local Results Google Maps Results
1)Anchor Bar - A.Hyatt Hotels & Resorts: Hyatt Regency Buffalo
2)Kuni’s Sushi Bar B.Adam’s Mark Hotels & Resorts
3)Hyatt Hotels & Resorts: Hyatt Regency Buffalo C.Buffalo Marriott Niagara
D.Anchor Bar
I. Kuni’s Sushi Bar

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Sources for Google Map’s Restaurant Local Listing data


AllMapDetailsA-P1-10LineIn Part 1 of this series I reviewed which directories Google is using in creating their Local Listing for Restaurants. In Part 2 I looked at their sources for reviews and ratings and its impact on ranking. In this third installment I will review the aggregate results of all data Google uses in providing information for the Local Listing in the restaurant industry and some of the implications for optimization.

Google Map’s ranking algorithm is complicated. This summary reviews Map’s sources and from that one can glean some ideas about what influences ranking. Clearly though the underlying rules rely on different weighting and factors that have yet to be determined (although we can make some good guesses).

In fact it is clear that Google Maps and the Google Organic Local Onebox results weight the same local listings differently. My simplified analysis does not (and can not) establish definitively what these relative weights are. It can however point us to the data sources that Google is using and perhaps allow us to develop models for improving rankings.

Here is a summary all the details that Google Maps captured for the search Restaurant Buffalo, NY on each listing that I analyzed:

Restaurant Ranking Details (# of Directories) Referring Web Pages Number of Reviews Stars Rating Business Type
A 8 176 57 4 Hotel
B 8 385 76 3 Hotel
C 8 451 15 4 Hotel
D 5 156 37 5 Restaurant
E 7 260 18 4 Hotel
F 7 383 5 0 Hotel
G 4 73 29 3.5 Restaurant
H 7 81 26 3.5 Restaurant
I 5 57 25 5 Restaurant
J 6 78 4 0 Restaurant
K 2 12 2 0 Restaurant
L 3 48 0 0 Restaurant
M 1 55 3 0 Restaurant
N 7 190 8 0 Restaurant
O 3 28 10 0 Restaurant
P 7 89 6 0 Restaurant

There is a lot of information in this chart so here are some different ways to look at the info…. Continue reading

Which Restaurant Review sites are used by Google Maps?


Reviews Vs RankingSeveral weeks ago I did some research on which directories Google Maps referenced to provide details for their local search.

Matt McGee of Small Business SEM suggested looking at which review sites were used as well. I took the same approach and analyzed which sites were used to provide review/rating detail to Google Maps. Here is the summary of the list in alphabetic order:

Review Site Total Reviews
ChefMoz.org 10
Dine.com 4
Dine.com 39
Frommers.com 3
Insiderpages.com 17
Judysbook.com 36
MobilTravelGuide.com 1
Mytravelguide.com 43
Travelocity.com 22
Travelpost.com 98
Tripadvisor.com 93
Yahoo.com 78
Yelp.com 2

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Google Plus Box now standard?


Update 12/21: The PlusBox is now visible in FireFox and Safari on the Mac
Matt Cutts recently wrote of a New Google UI feature: Plus Box. Several things interest me about this announcement:

First and foremost it is another push of local data out the main Google search window. This will continue to make Google Maps data more accessible to the average user and do so in a way that doesn’t disrupt the clean Google interface. This is consistent with previous Google behavior and my ideas about their long term strategy that I noted in the past.

matterofthai1.jpgIt is also of interest on several tactical levels. Firstly, the feature which Matt noted on December 9th is still not available to everybody. When I search on Matt’s search phrase I do not get the “Plus Box” (but I am happy to have a name for it). Apparently this is due to the fact that is currently only working on IE and will soon be available for Safari, Firefox Mac and Opera. Continue reading

Here today and gone tomorrow! Where did Google Click to Call go off to?


clicktocall1127b.jpgThe news of Google rolling out Click to Call spread like wild fire last week. I expressed optimism about the service while some, like Matt McGee expressed reservations about its impact.

Pundits not to worry. Its gone today. Not sure what happened to it either. When I searched today from Olean, NY it was gone. However others are reporting still seeing the feature.

Which On-line Directories provide details to Google Maps


Google Maps attempts to gather authoritative details of a local business by crawling & parsing the semi-structured data of on-line directories (see also Bill Slawski’s patent summary). I was curious which directories they actively use to fill in the details section.

To start answering that question I analyzed the directories listed Google Maps in the restaurant industry, one of the industries that clearly benefits from local search. I analyzed the local listings of the first 16 restaurants listed in the Buffalo, NY market and summarized which on-line directories Google is using. Continue reading

Example of Google testing integration of local & organic


Greywolf at threadwatch.org had an interesting post on Google testing the inclusion of Google Map data with the organic results beyond what they are currently doing.

Obviously Google will be pushing their local data further into the mainstream at every opportunity and I expect to see  experiments of this ilk as they determine what really works moving the local data set into broader distribution.

Will free long distance service accelerate adoption?


I and others (see Bill Slawski’s posts) have lamented the step child stature of Google Maps and Google’s apparent unwillingness to push it out to the consumer. It has always seemed to be such a valuable service that was hidden away and hard to find. Greg Sterling talked of the difficulties with the Coupon feature. I have noted how hard it is for a business to find their way into the Local Business Center. The Google Maps new Click to Call feature may be the feature that signals the tipping point in its adoption.

My wife makes frequent business calls to Canada and they are expensive even though we are only 80 miles from the border. So I checked to see if the Click to Call feature would help us out. It doesn’t. Google doesn’t provide the feature on Canadian listings. However, it dawned on me that they are essentially providing free long distance calling for business to business calls in the continental U.S. This feature could save me almost $20/month on my Verizon Freedom Calling Package.

Here is Matt McGee’s read on adoption. He thinks that the average user will be slow to pick this up. I would contend that there is now a compelling business argument, at least smaller businesses will adopt this technology. I would agree that it will not initially find broad “consumer” adoption but that if they can get businesses looking at Google Maps they will drive adoption in a number of ways:

-It will bring participation from a core audience that will drive Google Local success long term: the small business owner.

-It will familiarize them with the interface and perhaps encourage them to engage with Coupons and the Listing Center

-It will spread the word about Google Maps within these businesses and their employees.

-When coupled with the new Mobile Map functionality (See Walt Mossburg WSJ 11/15/06) it increases the likelihood of adoption from synergy.

Now there is a strategy to accelerate adoption!

P.S Here are some good comments about the possible downfalls and strengths of the technology and here are some interesting comments by Donna Bogatin on the possible motivations of Google

Google Maps Click to Call now live


google Click to CallOn November 2, I noted a beta of the Google Maps Click to Call feature. The feature is now live and out of beta on Google Maps listings. To see the feature you must be in the list view. It works flawlessly, asking your phone number, dialing the listing and then ringing through.

According to a poster on this site Google’s Click to Call service is provided by VoIP, Inc.. That has not been verified. Their website can be viewed here. It was reported in January of this year in a number of on-line journals that Google was using their services for the beta.

Now we all wait for Google to move this feature onto their main organic results page so that it is truly useful and not just a very cool technology that most people can’t find. Typical users rarely make it into the Google Map listing area and they miss out on coupons as well.

Although if it is active on Mobile Maps that would make it accessible and useful. If someone verifies this feature on your cell phone let me know how it works.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search