Google Vocal Local Phone number change & other thoughts

Google’s voice driven directory assistance has removed the 877-GOOG-411 number and now automatically forwards any calls to that number to: 877-520-FIND.

It is interesting that Google has not publicly acknowledged that the experiment is theirs and that the phone number has been changed to further distance themselves. Perhaps they didn’t want to seem like they weren’t focusing around the time of their quarterly analyst meetings. Although this clearly is a focused extension of their search capability. Pushing search out to the cell networks is clearly a way to dramatically increase their reach.

It is not difficult to see how this could be monetized and perhaps it already is being monetized.

1-Make this a generic service that the cell companies could use (remove Goog(le) from the number)

2-Share local ad revenue with the cell companies.

Currently there is not a lot of PPC advertising in the Google Maps section although the number is growing. But Google has partnered with Verizon to sell PPC, Verizon is spinning off their on-line SuperPages and it appears that local listings with local ads recieve a higher listing in the directory. So not only is Google beginning the monetiztion of directory assistance they are certainly planning more.

Redemption in the Gilded Google Age

Google Search for Vacation Rentals Ellicottville NYIn early October I wrote a post about achieving a “an automatically expanded Plus Box” for a client on a valued search phrase (Vacation Rentals Ellicottville NY) BUT having the url Google had associated with the listing pointing to their competitor. After postulating conspiracies and incompetancies on the part of all but myself I determined that I had neglected to enter the client’s URL in the Local Business Center and Google, in its best guess, had made a not so harmless assumption.

I immediately attempted to fix the problem by:

-Correction the local listing in the Local Business Center

- Submitting to Google on their Dissatisfied? Help us improve link.

I didn’t report the aberation to the client preferring the wait and see chicken approach. From experience I knew that local updates might take 2 to 3 months which would have meant that the client would have missed the bulk of her rental season sending visitors to her competitor site. Fortunately, yesterday (and perhaps sooner) Google rectified my mistake and their best guess and associated the listing with the correct url. It took something less than 3 weeks. Continue reading

Google Conference Call talks about Local Monetization

Greg Sterling highlighted some interesting comments. I was intrigued by the comment from an analyst: I know you were doing some testing with some retailers, putting their names in the bullets on the Maps and things. Can you talk about that at all?

It appears that one of the means of monetization is a strong relationship with national companies. This seems particularly true with the restaurants. The result is that you will frequently find chains at the top of the local list. I hope to investigate this phenomenon.

The full transcript is available here  (again thanks to Greg).

Of interest from Larry Page: This quarter, we partnered with Intuit to make AdWords Starter Edition Maps and Base easily available to Intuit’s millions of QuickBooks users. We wanted to make it easier for them to advertise and find customers online, as well as make their information and products and services available on the Internet. We also launched coupons on Google Maps, and we hope it will be an appealing genre for our smaller and mid-sized advertisers. We teamed up with Valpak to provide coupons from current Valpak advertisers.

Over half of local businesses don’t have websites yet, based on the estimates we see and our local business center helps those businesses easily create a web presence so they can advertise online.

Picking Your Categories to reinforce your key words

Google Local Business Center Category entryWhen you enter your business in either Google’s Local Business Center or in Yahoo Local Listings you are limited to entering your business in 5 categories. It is not clear whether Google prioritizes these categories but Yahoo definitely does, allowing you one primary listing and 4 secondary listings.

Since both Google and Yahoo over a very limited number of choices, it becomes critical that you choose categories that are true representations of your business. While Google doesn’t state that there is a priority I think that you want to enter the most important ones first.

But how do you choose when you have more than five categories in which your business plays? My suggestion would be to go to Yahoo/Overture’s Keyword Selector Tool and search on your place identifier (i.e Olean NY) and determine if any of the categories in which you do business is searched with any greater frequency than the other categories. Be sure that your place identifier is the one with the most searches by the searching public. Do they search on your town name (i.e. Olean, NY or Olean, New York) or on your zip code (14760)?

In a recent article at SEOMOZ.org a group of leading SEO experts identified “Keyword use in Document” as the third most important overall factor in ranking of web page in the organic search results (behind Title Tags and Anchor Text Links). In the Local Search world the database is much more structured and much more limited. It appears that the business category fills the role of keyword use.

Continue reading

The Google “Onebox” on general search phrases

7)Using Google adwords in the local listing

In a previous post about ranking well in Google Maps I listed 6 items that seemed to affect ranking. It seems that there may be a seventh. Although the sample size is limited, there is some evidence that having an adword campaign running in Google Maps adds authority to a local listing. The “authority” may lead to the Google “Onebox” (the phrase referring to the inclusion of a map, local information and a weblink) listing in a broader range of circumstances.

When initially available, the “onebox” would usually appear with a search of “business name + local modifier”. However recently I have seen behavior where the “onebox” is now appearing with a more general search of “business activity + local modifier”.

Blumenthals Olean NYUsing the search phrase “Web Hosting Olean NY” returns the “onebox” listing. With the search “Computer Olean NY” it returns a “onebox” as well. As you can see from the example, the authoritative listing is given page dominance on the organic results page and includes significant additional information beyond either a typical organic listing or a typical local listing.

Why is this important? Obviously achieving a #1 ranking on Google is always nice. But this listing goes well beyond that. It provides the local customer with a phone number, full address, a map AND a link to our site.

But for the first time local search phrases have showed up in our logs. Local search has not generated much web traffic previously. Certainly if Googles new “Vocal Local” (see previous post) takes off then it could provide significant phone traffic.

While a listing like this is of little use in many industries there are some in our local market that receive significant searches on “service + location” searches. “Restaurants”, “Jobs” and “Hotels” are frequently used with our local modifier and in those industries a listing like this would provide significant web and phone traffic.

Now to the more difficult question of why and how…. Continue reading

Google Maps goes Vocal

Sahelia Datta has uncovered what appears to be a voice driven directory assistance service for Google Maps. She details both its strengths and its foibles.
The number for this free service:
1 877 466 4411 (1 877 GOOG 411)

Greg Sterling has an interesting analysis in his posting on Brands, User Experience and Mobile. He clearly positions the service in the big picture of directory assistance and local search.

For me the concerns are more pragmatic. Is it really Google results? (yes, they are) Is it free? (yes it is) And is it enough better than current directory assistance that consumers would use it? (Let me know what you think but it sure has promise).

For any of you that thought that optimizing for Google Maps was unimportant, this will certainly shake your world view. It clearly points out why it is important to have a solid listing with Google Maps, be listed in the top three in as many categories as possible and why if at all possible that number 1 ranking is critical on your keywords.

Continue reading

The road to Google Maps Nirvhana is paved with good intentions

In mid- July Search Engine Roundtable noted in a posting that Google Maps results with the map included were displaying prominently in the Google Organic results. Clearly for anyone attempting to optimize for local placement this possibility brought up images of the promised land.

google Map in organicx listingI experimented with tweaking our own listing and in our first listed category out of the 5 categories I had entered we succeeded in having our local listing include a map (and exclude other local listings from the front page). I followed my local guidelines and was able to achieve this ideal placement. That being said I do not fully understand exactly why the listing was upgraded from the normal 3 local text links that appear on the main search result.

But as they say: pride cometh before a fallContinue reading

Developing Knowledge about Local Search