Merchant Circle has trouble getting it right

I have in the past criticized Merchant Circle’s marketing tactics. However, my recent interview with Chuck Bruce of Central Valley Vacuum and Sewing Center, allowed me to see them from the merchant’s point of view and, for a moment anyways, allowed me to see them in a different light. I figured that if they could make Chuck happy and help him in his retail struggle, they couldn’t be all bad, despite the many Merchant Circle complaints amongst search professionals. If Chuck said that they were a stand up company than who was I to proclaim otherwise. Maybe I just needed to adjust my point of view.

That attitude didn’t last long. I had re-judged them too soon. They are in fact tacky marketers. They have been actively posting stealth comments in my recent In The Trenches interview.

New comment on your post #1750 “In the Trenches: the reality of SMB Marketing- Bruce’s Sew Handy Interview”
Author : Local User (IP: ,
E-mail :
Whois :
182 Page Views a Month from the MerchantCircle listing. Clearly generating some traffic from there.

They didn’t just post once but have done so 3 times with three different identities. 

My note to Merchant Circle:

You are welcome to come and discuss the issues in Local on my blog. You probably have a lot to contribute. But when you come, come as you are, don’t be skulking around. I can accept warts, I have a few myself. I just can’t abide you using my blog to surreptitiously promote your services.

Google’s StreetView hits Cow Country

When Google announced the “doubling” of Streetview coverage in the LatLong Blog a week ago, I didn’t think much about it. I presumed that it meant that they were now covering the top 100 metro markets instead of the top 50.

When I saw the StreetView of Devil’s Tower, I expanded my expectation to include well known tourist stops. I didn’t expand my expectations to include the rural hinterlands of the United States, including the low density cow country of upstate Western New York and NW Pa. I was wrong! 

They don’t cover just the city of Olean, a small rust belt town of 15,000 in rural upstate. The expanded Streetview covers  many of the small burgs on the lonely drive from Buffalo, NY to Dubois, Pa (pronounced Dew Boyz), and many of the back roads through Allegany State Park and into the Allegany National Forest.  My 10 minute drive into work along a rural ridge of the Allegany foothills is always a pleasure. I never expected to be able to share it with you.

View Larger Map

To see my daily commute, just head North (to the right) in the StreetView above.

In the Trenches: the reality of SMB Marketing- Bruce’s Sew Handy Interview

The Local Search Marketing industry is in its infancy. The following interview covers the good, the bad and the reality of SMB Marketing and how far there is still yet to go for SMB’s to take advantage of its power. 

Chuck Bruce of Bruce’s Sew Handy, caught my attention when he gave a testimonial for Merchant Circle in the November email newsletter that MC sent out. I was curious if he was for real or just another Merchant Circle marketing fabrication so I gave him a call. In the third week of November, we had an extensive conversation about his market, marketing strategies, his relationship with online local listing services and the tough economic times that he is suddenly confronting. To use one of Chuck’s phrases, he is a stand up guy.

Continue reading In the Trenches: the reality of SMB Marketing- Bruce’s Sew Handy Interview

The Cat that almost stole Christmas

In my never ending quest to ferret out interesting tidbits about Local Search, I receive a number of Google alerts. Their news algo is pretty good and turns up a number of things that I would otherwise miss and my life would be the poorer for. Occasionally it will turn up news stories that are outside my specific query but have some interest none the less. Here is one recent example: 
Google News Alert for: free 411

Owner: Bobcat that clawed Santa Claus rabies-free
Newsday – Long Island,NY,USA
AP An exotic cat that drew blood after biting a volunteer Santa Claus at a charity event in
Atlantic County has been vaccinated.
See all stories on this topic


It noted in the story that “the man playing the jolly elf said the cat named “Benny” appeared terrified because dogs were nearby at the Santa Paws photo event for an animal-rescue group in Hamilton Township.”

I am happy to report that Santa Claus IS NOT going to die due to Rabies and he will be making his appointed rounds albeit with a bandage on his arm and he may need some extra help.

Now what was that bobcat doing at a charity event? And why are rescued dogs being used in a publicity stunt? Weird times.

Google Business Group Survey – Not from Google

Update 12/11/08: Cathy has pointed out, and I believe correctly, that this survey is NOT from Google. 

If you were the “Lord Ruler of Google” what would you do to improve the local search results? In the Google Maps for Business Owners, Someone Google (NOT…this is my error …) has invited users for feedback on their Local business listing efforts. The survey, which is very short, is available here:

The survey had some interesting questions pertaining to the importance of business listing accuracy and spam. There were several questions that stood out (notice in the last one the question about paying for local):

Continue reading Google Business Group Survey – Not from Google

SMB PPC Ad Spend Drop

Noa Gertin of Palore has recently completed some interesting research on SMB PPC ad spends. They looked at over 3000 SMBs who advertise online, on different websites, out of which they focused on 300 businesses who also advertised on search engines in the past 5 months. They filtered out nationwide chains and all SMBs with more than one office location and only looked at PPC advertising, not longer term advertising commitments. That not withstanding, the drop is significant.

Average Monthly Search Engine Ad spend

Their methodology does not allow one to extrapolate all SMB spending in all internet mediums but gives an idea of the rapid contraction in a certain sector of the advertising economy amongst a clientele (the one store operation) that can make these quick decisions. I would love to see a plot comparing these 300 with the other 2700 businesses that were surveyed to see the difference.

Google Maps: MyMaps Missing In Action – Google remains Quiet

Updated 12/10/2008 7:00 AM:Last night, Lior of the My Maps Team posted below that the problem has been fixed. Maps Guide Adam noted it as well yesterday mid afternoon. There was a sigh of relief in the groups that was audible even in western New York.

Today in the Google Maps Troubleshooting Group there were numerous complaints about serious problems with lost MyMaps.

Here is a sampling from today’s topics:

* Map missing ?? – 2 messages, 2 authors
* Problem Updating and Editing in My Maps – 2 messages, 2 authors
* My map has disappeared. HELP! – 3 messages, 3 authors
* PLEASE HELP – MANY MONTHS OF WORK SEEM LOST – 2 messages, 2 authors
* Saved map gone! – 5 messages, 5 authors
* My Maps – Data Missing From My Custom Map – 1 messages, 1 author
* Google maps I created have disappeared – help! – 1 messages, 1 author
* My push pins went missing and I cannot save new ones! – 3 messages, 2 authors
* Sorry, we’re having technical difficulties. (Error code 22) – 1 messages, 1 author
* Any update on lost work?! – 1 messages, 1 author
* My Map data has disappeared – 1 messages, 1 author
* HELP! My custom Map Won’t Load – 1 messages, 1 author

Lots of folks have committed a great deal of work to Google MyMaps and now their work seems to be missing. The lack of communication from Google is leading to a strong sense of despair amongst MyMaps users. For a large, smart company, Google can act awfully dumb sometimes, particularly when confronted with this sort of PR problem. The problem was best summed up in this plaintive post:

Continue reading Google Maps: MyMaps Missing In Action – Google remains Quiet

Local Links of Interest

Google Maps Doubles Streetview Coverage – Google Lat Long Blog

we’re doubling the amount of coverage in the United States. This will bring Street View to some new cities, like Memphis, Birmingham, and Charleston (SC), and also to a few states for the first time, like Maine, West Virginia, North Dakota, and South Dakota. 

Google Local Business Referrals is Shutting Down – Matt McGee, Small Business Search Marketing

16 months after its launch, the Google Local Business Referralsprogram is shutting down. Google will close the program at the end of this month.

Google Profile Information and Partner Content Providers: Should there be Disclosure? -Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea

A recently published patent application from Google explores how location information, and other information associated with a mobile device, or a desktop computer could be collected as “profile information” about a searcher, and could be used to present a searcher with search results specifically tailored for them.

MIT Mobile Web – MIT

Take a look at mobile done right. The MIT Mobile Web offers up-to-date information, optimized for different types of mobile devices. Find people, places, events, course news, shuttle schedules, and more. 

AT&T Hopes for Single Smartphone OS (PC World) –
PC World

This was reported quite widely last week and the implications are interesting. This doesn’t affect devices like the iPhone or the Blackberry using AT&T’s network. It applies to which OS is on AT&T’s branded phones and essentially pits Microsoft Mobile against Google Android and the now free Symbian OS from Nokia. It makes sense that they would want to support just one OS internally for both design and customer support issues. Since ATT has such large market share in the US, a decision could significantly impact the long term efforts of each of these three to be a significant force in US handset sales. Which do you think they will pick and why?

Local Search: How not to succeed in business without really trying

Update 12/10/08 10:00 am: Google has apparently removed 7098 of these bogus listings. But for reasons beyond my comprehension there are still a few left in the index.

Update 12/10/08 7:00 pm: Google has apparently removed all of these listings. appears to be a local search firm like many others. They offer a Google Maps listing service for $49.95/mo with a one time setup charge of $249.95. Unlike some local search firms, PromoteLocal is so confident of their skills that they proclaim: “Don’t Just Get Listed, Dominate Your Competition With: First page placement in the Google Local Listings every time!, New SEO technology used only by PromoterLocal“. Elsewhere on their site they guarantee first place listings.

Their website doesn’t happen to list their address. Whois indicates that they are located in Orem, UT. In today’s Google Maps for Business Owner Group they were reported to be spamming in Sunnyvale and in Fairfax.

Google Maps seems to think that they possess somewhere on the order of 7,107 locations across the United States with over 400 in the NYC area alone and with business names like “Always On Top Marketing Houston” and “Advertise Real Estate” in Bowling Green.

Perhaps it is a generational thing or a lack of vision on my part, but why would a company predicate a business strategy on such a thin “advantage? I can understand getting laid off by a large corporation. I can’t understand laying off yourself when your lame business idea is found out. Why put any effort into such a short term process? Is the cash really that good?

Developing Knowledge about Local Search