Google Adds Mirror Dice to G+ Local Pages


Google has added a new feature (props to Matt Gregory for pointing this out) to the Google+ Local pages that allows a user to add custom fields to any given business listing. You can add things like the name of the person you deal with at the business, their birthday and unique contact information. The final output, a private, personalize contact card, is similar to the details from Google contacts that shows on a G+ personal profile of someone in your circles.

Perhaps I have a lack of imagination but this is one of those features for which it is hard to see its regular use. It could conceivably be part of a CRM system, it probably integrates with GMail and perhaps is a way for Google to draw relationships between the social graph and the business graph. But one has to ask why?

Did you ever ride in a car that had chrome pipes & fancy spinner hub caps but you always felt lucky when you arrived at your destination? And then the owner, for the next upgrade, added mirror dice rather than fixing something substantial? Well that’s what seems to have happened to your Google+ Local page.

Google+ Local pages have plenty wrong with them, significant and substantial problems. This is true whether with you are working the +Local page  via the old and decrepit dashboard or attempting to manage it via Plus… but now Google has added an ability that you are unlikely to use. Go figure.

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Google Local Search Results Where None Have Gone Before


At a recent Local University, Googler Joel Headley indicated that Google desired to increasingly show local results whenever pinned results were appropriate and Google was able to show them. One area where this has become apparent is in Real Estate which are once again showing a broad range of pinned blended and pack results.

In 2009 Google rolled out an expanded real estate listing product. However that product was dropped in January of 2011. Before that period and until very recently, Google did not return any blended results for most real estate searches and the only local search in real estate that returned pack results was the very specific “realtors + city” search. Searches like homes for sale + city and houses for rent + city did not return 7 packs. Even the search real estate + city did not return pinned results.

However, at least since August, these searches are once again returning local real estate firms in the results. When Google does not have strong web + local inventory but thinks that there should be a local result, they will return a three pack. When there is solid inventory of local business listings that are doing well on both organic and local, Google is now consistently returning blended results.

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The Customer (Or Was it Groupon?) Made Me Do It – Owner Review Responses at Google+ Local


Accepting Responsibility in your owner responses

Some things should just be left unsaid. This Gainsville auto detailing business obviously had troubles keeping their Groupon customers happy. It is unclear exactly who was to blame the business or the customers.

It doesn’t really matter as the customers left a number of bad reviews. This business couldn’t leave well enough alone and decided to respond to the bad reviews anyway.

Of course it was the customers fault. What would you have done in this situation?

Here is an example of many:

The moral(s) here are clear. Continue reading

NetMarketShare: Mobile Market Share Passes 10% for First Time


Netmarkshare is reporting that aggregate mobile usage has passed 10% across all websites for the first time. The bulk of that usage is attributable to iOS which comes in at ~60%. Obviously not all of that usage is truly mobile as the iPad has become an early evening and late night alternative to desktop browsing. It is now time for tablets to be tracked separately from mobile phones so that the market can better understand the distribution of usage.

It is also interesting to note that Google has a market dominating 89% share in the mobile search market. So while usage on mobile devices might be moving away from browsing Google’s domination in the market makes it obvious that focusing your mobile ranking efforts there is a no brainer.

Is Siri Sick (of Local Search)?


Siri has been making lots of stupid mistakes lately in local search. Mistakes that it’s younger sibling, Apple Maps, is not making. These are simple mistakes that were not there when Siri was the only game in town. Is she just looking for some more attention? Is she thinking of heading in some new direction or is Apple Maps just sending her the wrong way?

Here are two example searches that return totally crazy results that Apple Maps gets essentially correct.

Note that Siri can not even find one jeweler in or near Williamsville and returns results that are 26 miles away while Apple Maps returns relevant results:

(click to view larger)

I have found these types of results to be fairly widespread while I was traveling last week. Here is another example (Hotels Allegany NY) :

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GPSBites Interview


I did an interview in GPSBites where I was asked to muse on my background, the current state of mapping,  the fate of PNDs & mapping companies and the near future of the intersection of mapping and commerce. Here is a snippet of a much longer interview:

2. You recently published your own survey which was designed to gather feedback from users of the new iPhone map application for iOS6.  You stated that you did not believe the recent Apple maps issue was going to affect Apple sales, and in our view Apple must share a similar view as they went so far as publishing an apology on their home page which even recommended customers use rival solutions in the interim. 

However, they certainly are facing some challenges.  If you were heading up Apple’s cartography division, what recommendations would you make to the company on how they could improve the experience and application moving forwards?

I am not sure that I agree with the premise of the question. It assumes that Apple does not understand cartography and mapping. And that I have significant insights to provide to them.

Assuming that Apple is stupid or just uneducated is a dangerous assumption. Taking potshots at funky maps is an easy target. Remember it was not that long ago that Google was losing whole towns, repeatedly.

Mapping is hard. Apple knows full well how hard mapping is and they knew full well that they were going to have difficulties coming into this. When they announced Apple Maps in June 2012 I can not imagine that they would blow that marketing opportunity by announcing that their new Maps product had a “few” problems. NO they went ahead and presented it as the most innovative mapping product ever. Whether it is remains to be seen but  in some ways they are where Google with mapping was in 2008, in some ways ahead of that and in some ways behind it. But to assume that they need my advice is to ignore a lot.

Apple has been a late starter in several industries that they ultimately succeeded in leading or developing a very strong market position. They came to the already existing MP3 player market with one device. Over the years as they developed the necessary skills they came to dominate that market. When they entered the phone business NO ONE thought that they could succeed. But their smart phone still sets the standard and has significant market share. They continue to grow their PC market share to a healthy position after being at death’s door in that market. So they know how to succeed as an underdog, how to build out the capacity AND knowledge, and plan for the appropriate growth when they enter an existing and competitive market.

Mapping is in some ways different but in many ways the same.  It takes time to build up the institutional knowledge and the people necessary to compete head to head with the likes of Nokia/Navteq and Google. This knowledge can not be built over night and you can’t ramp up all the necessary efforts or staffing in one fell swoop.

Apple could have taken an easier way out of the mapping dilemma and their conflict with Google if they had partnered with TomTom or Mapquest, both of whom already had turn by turn apps working well on the iOS platform. They didn’t. Apple chose to go it alone. The real question that we need to ask (of Apple) is how much of the stack are they intending to own and of the parts that they don’t own, how are they going to get them up to the world class standards that they surely know that they need.

In choosing TeleAtlas, they chose a company with incredible underlying technology but limited resources. Apple has a history of making significant investments in their partners to gain a competitive advantage. By giving TeleAtlas access to the massive amounts of geo data generated by the iOS6 crowd Apple may just have provided TeleAtlas the information that both TeleAtlas and Apple need to compete.

We live in interesting times and Apple’s foray into Mapping promises to make it even more so.

Google+ Local Reviews Now Showing Descriptive and Not Numerical Scores


Update: Google not only changed the output of the review content but they changed the interface at the time of review creation to have users select from the descriptive phrases as well. See photo below.

Last week at Getlisted Local U Advanced in NYC, Googler Joel Headley noted that “descriptive terms (poor, good, very good excellent) are going to be integrated into Zagat review interface more going forward”.

Reader Kerry Fager just pointed out to me  that they are now doing just that on the overall annotation on each review on the G+ Local page.

Will the descriptive terms make it to the front page? Certainly the descriptors are more meaningful and if we take Joel’s comment at face value, then we might see this elsewhere.

Why the change? One assumes that “it improves the search experience”. It makes the otherwise obtuse Zagat numbering system into something understandable by mere mortals. :)?

Note: As noted in the comments, there appears to be a concurrent problem with displaying owner comments on the reviews. Most, perhaps all owner comments, are missing in action. Search teams are being dispatched.

Update (10/12/2012 9:00AM): Reports of missing owner responses came in via Twitter within minutes of the release of the product on 10/10. These reports were funneled to Google who fixed this bug by mid afternoon yesterday (10/11/12).

When more granular detail is available (ie Quality, appeal & service or Food, service, decor) Google is now breaking those out individually as well:
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“We do not support this location” Update


Earlier this summer, Google removed a large number of residentially located service area businesses (SAB) from the index for not hiding their address. While Google was trying to clean up the index, a number of  these SABs were removed in error. It turned out that Google was unable to restore many of those erroneously removed to the index. Some business listings have been restored but others have been waiting now for a number of months.

Google updated their guidance on this issue last night:

We currently do not support this location

Here’s the state of these listings now (October 8):

Sevice-area businesses who are experiencing the “We currently do not support this location” message should –

1.) Check to make sure you comply with the quality guidelines, particularly hiding your address, if appropriate.

2.) Once you’re sure you comply, contact the support team (select the last option).

3.)  If possible, the team will reinstate listings that are OK.

4.) Sometimes, the support team cannot reinstate a listing, even if it’s OK. These listings cannot be brought back because of an issue that we’re still working on fixing. The support team will send an email back saying the listing is down due to a technical glitch. When we have an update, we will follow up with all of the people who got the message about the technical glitch.

What’s the status of listings in #4?

For listings in #4, there isn’t much course of action other than waiting. Please know that our team’s doing everything we can to get them reinstated when possible.

Hey guys,

Good news — we’ve been able to bring back some of the listings that incorrectly had the “We currently do not support this location” error. Many previously deleted service area businesses that had their addresses correctly hidden a few weeks ago are back.

If your listing’s not back yet, please know that we are still working on it. In the meantime, please review the quality guidelines and this article on service area businesses. Make sure your listing complies.

Thanks,

Jade

For those of you still experiencing this problem, there is only one option. File your request for reinclusion via the Google for Business Help files and wait. Note that if Google is unable to recover your listing quickly then you have no choice but to wait for their engineering solution. Businesses that followed Google’s original advice to recreate their listing have not had any success.

This recent email from Google support sent to me by Kane Jamison of Hood Web Management  clearly indicates that Google is working on these listings on a first come first serve basis:

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Developing Knowledge about Local Search