Google Groups Upsell to Adwords

The following snippet from the Google Maps For Business Owners Group highlights one of the intrinsic conflicts of interest that Google confronts in all of its properties. While they are unwilling, particularly in Google Maps, to provide any guidance on best practices lest they give away their secret sauce, they do want you as an advertiser.

While the advice given by Maps Guide Summer is basically sound, it would best be presented if the Guides in the Group were able to be more forthcoming about bugs, best practices and necessary techniques to best utilize the Maps environment. As it is now, they seem unable to provide meaningful answers on a range of very troubling issues.

TOPIC: How do I get my business in the local results – on page 1 like the
results below?


== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Tues, Feb 12 2008 1:49 pm
From: “”

Hi Jeff,

The local business results that you see are all chosen by an algorithm
that takes many factors into consideration. There currently isn’t a
way to assure that any particular listing will show on the first page
of the Google Maps search results or on It’s likely that
these listings will shift over time, so periodically take a look for
any changes.

Some businesses have gained a bit more visibility by applying to be
part of the Sponsored link program. To learn more about that, please

Maps Guide Summer

On Feb 7, 8:55 pm, Jeff wrote:
> Can anyone help? I am trying to show up like the businesses below on
> page 1.
> When I type in: Norcross Carpet Cleaning.
> Thanks,
> Jeff
> —-

Google Coupons Expiration Date Bug Workaround

In December I reported a Google Maps Coupon Bug where if you entered an expiration date the coupon would never show up. It appears that the bug still exists although in slightly less virulent form. There have been a number of reports in the Google Maps For Business Groups where if you select an expiration date the coupon defaults back to no expiration and no date appears on the coupon:

TOPIC: coupons not allowing expiration date

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Tues, Feb 12 2008 7:01 am
From: bullwinkle

Hmm…Jen I think you’re not understanding. Nobody is doing anything
wrong. Clicking on the radio button and selecting a future date from
the calendar then clicking on continue, results in being returned to
the local tab instead of coupons, then clicking on the coupon tab
reveals that the coupon is now activated but there is NO expiration
date, it says “Never Expires”. Going back into edit, shows that the
“Never expires” radio button is once again selected. We cannot set a
date and have it “stick”. It’s that simple. It’s not rocket science,
it’s just plain broken. I’ve tried it repeatedly with both Firefox
and ie7 and neither works. It appears that the only thing we users
can do, is to not use google coupons!

For now the only solution to having an expiration date is to manage the process manually. When you create a coupon, enter the expiration date manually on the coupon body and then be sure to remove the coupon at the end of your promotion

Local Links of Interest

How To Get On Google Maps Without An Address – Chris Silver Smith, SEL

[Google] essentially said that they should try to get an address in the city because Google did not display businesses that didn’t have addresses—after all, he quipped, one can’t pinpoint something without an address on the map. He suggested that those businesses could rent a post box to accomplish this.

I found this suggestion surprising and a bit disappointing. I’d rather expected him to declare that they expected to soon deploy a new version that would allow some method of displaying local businesses that didn’t have specific addresses.

I’d actually recommended that businesses might use rented mail boxes to get better Maps rankings as a sort of “extreme local search tactic” way back in January of 2007, but I did that while figuring that few businesses were likely to actually do that. The tactic is apparently not so “extreme” after all. Google Maps help provides similar advice.

Hearing this method recommended by Google was surprising to many of us, because it seems like something of a hack—it is a hack. The expected/needed functionality isn’t there, so you have to resort to doing something nonintuitive/unnatural to make it work.

Not only is it a hack as Chris points it open to abuse as I have pointed out in the past.

Captive Viewers+Demographic Knowledge+Location Awareness= AppleTV2’s Targeted Local Ads?

While reporting on Apple’s mobile strategy at MacWorld I was enamored by the elegance and usability of Apple’s AppleTV2.

It solved a problem that we didn’t know we had (how to avoid driving to BlockBuster), was easy to use, very cool and consistent with Apple’s overall strategy of using the computer (or 2) as the center of the personal digital information flow.

It also struck me that Apple already had all of the elements in AppleTV2 that would make for compelling local ad delivery: location awareness, attentive audience, knowledge about tastes & interests, a credit card on hand (just one click away), demographic information and more that I hadn’t thought of. I dismissed the idea as it seemed that Apple was not even remotely discussing the idea. I should have known better than to think that Steve Jobs would leave money on the table.

This recent patent review from AppleInsider opened my eyes to both the incredibile potential of the idea and the thought that Apple had obviously put into the idea. The patent reviews the use of context sensitive widgets that can pop up on your TV screen as a funtion of the music that you are listening to or the video that you are watching. These widgets could be preprogrammed into the media or if “the content is broadcasted, such as live television, then a widget could potentially be downloaded as part of the broadcast signal from a cable head-end, or provided through a separate communication such as an Internet connection, and then displayed over the content.”
Continue reading Captive Viewers+Demographic Knowledge+Location Awareness= AppleTV2’s Targeted Local Ads?

Google Maps Category Mystery Part 3: Solved?

Update 02/11/10: Google has dramatically updated their category syntax. These Google LBC categories have now been placed in a searchable database too located on the Google LBC Categories page of my website.

Update 12/20/09: I have a new list of current categories at Google Local Business Center Categories – The Complete List

The most oft repeated complaint and the biggest ongoing mystery in the Google Maps for Business Group has been: “Why can’t I be in the same category as my competitor?”

In Part 1 of this series, I gave some examples of the type of complaints that Google is seeing several times a week, in Part 2 I provided some background on the early research and the difficulty with categorization. I have also decided to provide a Part 4 with additional analysis so I will cut to the chase and spill the beans.

The upshot of the previous articles (Thanks to Miriam for clarity):

• Google is pulling categories from SuperPages
• These categories are not available in LBC
• SMBs are frustrated to see their competitors being shown in these desirable categories when there is no way, within LBC, to be added to them
• Google is telling people to suggest categories, but is not implementing these suggestions
• Google responses have been unhelpful!
• This problem has gone one for over 18 months
• And the complaints are coming into Google 2 to 3 times per week

It appears that with lots of research, dogged questioning of Maps Guide Jen and testing, by Patrick Hagerty with Foxtail Hill Window Replacement in San Francisco the answer has been uncovered.

Patrick and I had been corresponding and testing all possibilities since early June, 2007. He felt that it was necessary for his business to show for the search: Window Replacement San Francisco. We quickly identified the category as SuperPages in origin and his competitors were there in strength. Over the months he attempted everything that I suggested including (but by no means limited to): being sure that he had correct SuperPages categorization, that his site was optimized for the phrase, that he had updated his optional fields in the LBC with this information and more. None worked. Until…
Continue reading Google Maps Category Mystery Part 3: Solved?

Local Links of Interest

Google News’ New Local Angle – Greg Sterling, SEL  detailing Google’s new local news service, similar to

In CBS Test, Mobile Ads Find Users  – Laura Holson, NY Times

CBS plans to announce on Wednesday that it is trying one of the first serious experiments with cellphone advertising that is customized for a person’s location. Its CBS Mobile unit is teaming up with the social networking service Loopt, which allows its subscribers to track participating friends and family on their mobile phones. 

Porn, not ‘localisation,’ is what users are searching for  –

Content, not local information, is what most users are looking for when using search on their phones. And, as on the fixed Internet, much of that content is pornographic, Farhad Divecha, director of search-engine-marketing agency AccuraCast, told delegates at the recent Mobile Search Conference, held in London. 

Study: Free Mobile Directory Assistance To Overtake Paid  – Mark Walsh,

Google Experimental Interface Upgrade

I am of the opinion that Google Maps in all of its forms is the future look and feel of search for Google, particularly in the mobile world. There has been a number of subtle and not so subtle changes that have increased Maps integration into general search as well over the past month:

• The introduction of the Local 10-Pack into the main search results
• integration of geotargeted data into Google Maps
• increased visibility of that data with a “Show Search Options” Maps interface upgrade
• the recent upgrade to Google Experimental that added map view.

There has been a subtle but important change to the Google Experimental view within the past few days that further integrates a maps view into the main search results in a way that could conceivably be rolled out to the wider Google audience:


I personally prefer the Google Experimental  view as I use the Map view regularly and the timeline view enough that it is worthwhile to have it available. This recent interface change is more consistent with Google’s design ethos and thus seems destined to become more widely available. Continue reading Google Experimental Interface Upgrade

Where does a Psychic turn when they need an answer? Google Maps

On late Monday afternoon I received a call from Elissa Heyman, a Psychic Counselor from Santa Fe, NM inquiring as to how she might show up in the Local OneBox for Psychic in Santa Fe, NM. I was intrigued that a pyschic would turn to me from results she found in Google. After a bit of due diligence to make sure that she wasn’t some sort of flim flam artist I decided to take the case.

What interested me was the fact that Google, Yahoo or SuperPages had no record of her business. She had operated out of her home for a number of years and had never registered the phone number with the phone companies as a business number. Her website, which ranked well in the organic results, had been in place since at least 2004 but she had managed to avoid being identified as a business by all of the major data collection players.

Entering her new record (as opposed to editing an existing one) in the Google Local Business Center I learned several things:

•The Business Title field allowed an almost unlimited length for her business title. When editing an existing record the length seems to be limited to some small percentage of increase but with a new record the sky seemed to be the limit.

•There was no verification of any sort required. There was no automated phone call to answer, nor post card sent with a required PIN entry. It just accepted my entry with no questions asked. Hmm….

•The record was listed in Google Maps almost immediately. I went to check Tuesday morning and the record was visible in Maps. It was not yet in the OneBox but there is every indication that the OneBox has some sort of waiting period before it ranks Maps data.

•And finally I was able to get listed with other Psychics despite the fact that a category for it doesn’t exist in the Local Business Center(details to follow).

Perhaps now I will have another resource to figure out some of Google’s more cryptic behavior. 🙂

MerchantCircle makes me feel…

Last week I received an automated email from Yahoo Local that hit the target for automated communications. It sent me relevant information in a timely fashion about something that I cared about. I was impressed. I had encouraged Google to follow a similar path. But alas not all surveys work equally well.

MerchantCircle must have been reading my blog as they also sent along a request to fill out a survey. While the email and survey were an improvement over MerchantCircle’s previous bait and switch (see here and here) promotional efforts the survey still didn’t quite make the grade. email.jpg

The survey questions all seemed pointed to MerchantCircle wanting to know how good of a prospect I was rather than what information I might provide to actually improve their service:


MerchantCircle has a history of less than stellar promotions. This one, like all of theirs, came unsolicited and filled no particular need of mine. It seemed like they were more interested in my money than in my opinion. Again, another lesson to be learned. They are getting better, but still a ways to go.

I can only imagine what their sales promotion manager is like. Here is the full survey if you would like to look at all of the questions.

Google Maps Category Mystery Part 2: Backgound

On of the long standing mysteries in managing a Local Business Center business listing for Google Maps has been:“Why does my listing not show up in the same category as my competitor?”. There has not been a topic more frequently raised in the Google Maps for Business Group and one that has been more evasively answered by the Google staff. (For an example of this saga see Google Maps Category Mystery Part I: The Problem.)

Categorization has provided fodder for philosophers & scientist since Linneaus first created binomial nomenclature as a means to understand and classify all living things in the late 1700’s. The battle lines have been drawn between the “lumpers”, those that think there should be fewer categories, and the “splitters”, those that think that there should be more categories. All categorization is an arbitrary human artifact that helps us to more easily understand the world around us. There is no one answer to the “correct” number of categories of any given group.

Business categorization is no different. Add the needs of commerce, the power of computer search and the vagaries of the multitude of ways that humans can search for things make the problem even more vexing. What seems like a simple question: What categories should be used to classify U.S. Businesses quickly becomes a complicated problem that has many solutions. The fact that Superpages has a full-time staff team devoted to Taxonomy Development shows just how complicated.

The SIC code (standard industrial classification) system has roughly 1,500 categories of US businesses. The newer NAICS used primarily for economic analysis has roughly 1200 categories. The SuperPages which has both an offline and online needs has approximately +/-8000 categories and iBegin uses approximately 10,500. Google on the other hand uses only 520 categories and this remains unchanged exactly one year later. (Go here for a complete list comparing Reuben’s 2007 findings and my 2008 results.)

Clearly Google has not added a team of taxonomists to deal with this problem of increasing their limited category sets to a more complete set. Google has not added even one category to their list in the past year despite their exhortation to make suggestions. They obviously fall into the category of “lumpers” in the taxonomy debate although probably due to financial or programing concerns more than philosophical ones. The problem of matching such a small number of categories to a much larger category obviously creates its own very difficult problems.

As we have seen, their category strategy has generated a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst the businesses attempting to control their business record in Google’s Local Business Center. Perhaps if we could just understand enough about how Google uses its categories we could answer the question: How can I get in the same category as my competitor? Obviously the problem is complicated, and Google’s most recent response “The Google Help Center is your friend” does little to shed light on this.

Given that Google gets most of its data from data providers the question that needed to be answered were two:

•Who is the primary provider of categories to Google Maps?

•How does Google relate its limited number of categories to the categories of its suppliers and the greater business world?

Continue reading Google Maps Category Mystery Part 2: Backgound

Developing Knowledge about Local Search