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 Google Plus Box now standard?

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 Which On-line Directories provide details to Google Maps

Example of Google testing integration of local & organic

Greywolf at 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.

Which business classes benefit most from Local Search

Which business sectors would be best served by optimizing their local listings? Clearly not all business types are searched on equally and some are not searched at all.

To develop the data to analyze I went to the Overture Keyword Selector tool and typed just the city name with no state modifier for 4 relatively small rural cities (populations from 2000 to 50,000):
-Jamestown, NY
-Olean, NY
-Wellsville NY
-Coudersport Pa

I then removed any result for any city that was obviously not the one I was looking for (ie wrong state), removed all Not for Profit searches (hospitals, schools, govt. etc.) and removed searches for specific businesses. The list I was left with included the ambiguous “city + business type” or the non-ambiguous “city + st. + business type” search frequency results.

The outcomes offered some surprises…. Continue reading Which business classes benefit most from Local Search

In Confusion there is Opportunity

We are in the embryonic days of local search and it is confusing. Confusing to the small business person as Anita Campbell pointed out in her blog and confounding to experts as Bill Slawski pointed out in his piece on the idosyncracies of Google Map’s Local Search data. There are many who wonder if Google’s passive marketing is enough to drive the use of this “transformational” technology.

But in all of this confusion there is opportunity for the SEO specialist or small business marketing consultant or developer. In these early days, the firm specific knowledge that you build, understanding these technologies and helping clients leverage the local opportunity will provide you with a service that you will be able to profit from for the foreseeable future. The investment that you make in understanding the nuances of Local Search now will pay off many times over the next decade as you help your clients gain an advantage in their market.

Google and Yahoo are focused on the multi billion dollar local ad spend and their Local Search products are the thrust of that focus. Google is taking its mission to monetize “all the world’s information” to your neighborhood.

Monthly, perhaps even weekly we are seeing new hardware and software technologies that are pushing local data into the hands of consumers. If you just track Google’s developments (Google Local, SMS messaging, Google Earth, 520-FIND, Mobile Maps, Mobile G-mail) you see refinements in both sophistication and rapidly expanding hardware platforms for distribution of Local Data and an increase in the rate of release.
Our job now, as I see it, is to help small businesses take advantage of these technologies to reach their customers and to cut through the confusion. What do you think?

Google Maps and Library Listings -a replicated Bill Slawski experiment

I wanted to replicate Bill Slawski’s test of how well Goole Local handled libraries and see if our rural libraries faired any better in having the correct URL associated with their local listing. I was also curious if other information could be teased out of the results.

I searched on four rural libraries with & without State Location qualifiers:

Olean NY library & Olean Library

Salamanca NY Library & Salamanca Library

Cuba NY Library & Cuba Library

Wellsville NY Library & Wellsville Library

The results were, like Bill’s, all over the board from spot-on accurate listing of the website in the local listing to results that were incorrect to the point of indicating the website of a library on the other site of the state.

Here are some of my conclusions:

Continue reading Google Maps and Library Listings -a replicated Bill Slawski experiment

Developing Knowledge about Local Search