Apple All In on Indoor Mapping

Apple is slowly and steadily moving into the local space long occupied by Google and doing so with a slow and steady intention. I noticed with the rollout of their business listing product, Map Connect, that they were soliciting venues for their indoor Mapping project. Clearly they are looking for large scale venues with large traffic flows (minimum 1 million a year) to engage in the pre-release phase of the project.

It motivated me to research the project and I came up with an interesting timeline that speaks to their seriousness and to a lesser extent some of their goals in this arena. Clearly they view the space as important. And clearly do not plan on leaving it to Google.

The timeline:

March 2014: With Acquisition, Apple Looks Indoors for Future of Maps

The company has acquired WiFiSlam, a start-up company that helps to improve the accuracy of indoor maps and other services by locating the user’s position inside a building more accurately. Indoor maps look like they could become a new battleground between big companies seeking a cartographical edge on their rivals.

WiFiSlam could give Apple some of the smarts it needs to make iPhones better navigation devices when they are under a roof. WiFiSlam says its technology can pinpoint the location of a mobile device to “2.5m accuracy using only ambient WiFi signals that are already present in buildings.”

April 2014 Patent Indoor Directions (reported on 10/16)

..the application describes a method of seamlessly transitioning from a map displaying exterior elements like roads and buildings to one that shows indoor elements, like stores and restaurants.

This technology is designed to work with iBeacons, Apple’s Bluetooth Low Energy emitters designed to make iDevices location aware indoors.

An example of the patent application in action could be searching for an car parking space. Using its outdoor-to-indoor mapping technology, Apple Maps would first direct users to a car garage, then to a specific parking spot once inside.

Users would be able to specify specific criteria for their search, which would then be automatically initiated at some point in the journey, such as when the user comes within a predetermined distance of the designated destination.

Indoor mapping information would vary based on the type of building. For instance, if the indoor structure happens to be a mall, the supplemental information may include the location and name of each store, special sales, discount coupons, the shows and showtimes of an in-mall theater, and restaurant menus.

May 2014: Apple nabs indoor navigation company CEO

Apple has reportedly hired the cofounder and CEO of indoor location startup Wifarer for a “leadership role” — but did not acquire the company — in yet another sign that the iPhone maker is gearing up for a strong mapping push in its next-generation mobile operating system.

Wifarer cofounder Philip Stanger is said to have joined Apple in February, leaving his own company in the hands of a new CEO.

The company will likely leverage previous acquisitions Embark, HopStop, BroadMap, and Locationary to provide improved geolocation, more detailed point-of-interest data, and public transit routing.

June 2014 – Apple Is Launching A Vast Project To Map The Inside Of Every Large Building It Can

Apple has embarked on an ambitious program to use the sensors in its iPhones to map the large indoor areas of stores, offices, event spaces and commercial buildings,

Foeckl says. “It will be important to see how fast venue owners adapt to the technology and add venues. Google has more venues mapped at the moment, but it looks to be easier to add venues to Apple’s new indoor mapping service.”

iBeacons don’t specifically create indoor maps. Rather, Apple appears to be hoping to persuade building owners to upload a map of their space, and then iBeacons could in theory be used to automatically validate the map’s accuracy as iPhones receive their signals. That automation would be a huge step — currently, Google is validating its indoor maps by hand,

The new online application to participate:Invite

Continue reading Apple All In on Indoor Mapping

List Your Business on Apple with Maps Connect

Greg Sterling has reported that Apple has rolled out Apple Maps Connect, a small business listing option for Apple Maps.

The service is dead on simple, designed for one off listings for the business owner or someone acting on their behalf. It isn’t clear the maximum number of businesses that can be associated with and verified from within one Apple account and there is no apparent process for bulk uploads at this point.

The process requires an Apple ID to login and then takes you through a 5 screen process to phone verify your business, add the street address, adjust the pin position, add category, hours and social media links (for additional information and verification).

The category selection appears minimal and given the need to navigate into a top category before you can find a specific category, annoying. There are 23 top level categories and each has from zero to 40 or so sub categories. It is difficult to find a given category as it may not be obvious which top category it belongs under and many are obviously missing. Is assisted living a real estate or health care choice? Neither, they don’t have the category.

Phone verification is the only verification option available. I did not get to try it but I assume that it will have all of the issues with PBX and VOIP that Google has (it often failed) but there is no fall back to a post card if phone verification doesn’t work. The phone verification system seems like it will fall prey to the same spammers, scammers and reprobates that have attacked Google and it will be interesting to see how Apple deals with the onslaught. Perhaps the Apple ID requirement and having a credit card on file will provide more accountability and penalties if one is caught cheating.

The fact that Apple is getting into the listing business argues that Apple feels their local database is not up to snuff (a statement of the obvious). The takeaway is that that their primary business data suppliers Localeze, Factual and Acxiom are not delivering enough freshness nor completeness for Apple’s tastes. I often find myself using Apple Maps for directions but falling back to Google Maps or Yelp for location information.

The other possible reason could be that perhaps Apple has some desire to have a direct relationship with small businesses going forward. It would make sense given their Payment and iBeacon strategies that they may want a direct one to one relationship with more store fronts.

Love to hear your impressions.

Update 10/22
Phil Rozek has scraped the Apple Maps Connect categories and made them available on his site. He notes that there are only 671 of them so get ready to be frustrated.

Gregory T’Kint added that this rollout is US only.

Sign in requires an Apple ID
Sign in requires an Apple ID

For more screen shots:
Continue reading List Your Business on Apple with Maps Connect

Google + Local Pages No Longer Supporting GA Tracking Codes

Update 10/24: I have tested the ? and it now seems to be working. It appears that Google has fixed this.

Update: Solution found! Tony “Tiggerito” McCreath has figured out that apparently the problem is caused by the ? in the GA code. If you replace the ? With a # symbol it works, redirects without the ugly error message and still provides the data to GA.

Historically if you wanted to measure traffic to your site from Plus page for local you could add a Google Analtyics tracking code to your site’s URL.

Whether this is a bug or not or permanent change is not yet clear but since around the first of the month if your link in the G+ Dashboard to your website includes a tracking code, Google throws off this ugly message. This new behavior was pointed out to me by Alyssa Vanderpool of RedNovaLabs in the Local U forums.


We have inquired of Google whether the action is as intended or is a bug. Until such time though as we find out or its fixed, you should remove any GA tracking codes added to your local listing.

Update 4:00 PM: Sharon Conner of Sleeptrain pointed out in the comments that this is not affecting when the listing shows in search results and I have determined that it isn’t a problem from Google Maps either. It only manifests itself when clicking through from the G+ Page. Thus not a bad as originally thought and most likely a bug in G+ rather than some intentional policy change.

One Very Strange Survey – Is Google Getting Into the Data Distribution Business?

This survey from Ipsos, a market survey company, claims to be on behalf of Google. If that is true then the questions are quite bizarre and really makes one wonder what Google is up to. Is Google looking to replicate what Yext has done with real time data distribution? Or just shooting an arrow across their bow? Update:  Google has confirmed that they in fact did send out this survey.

I asked Yext if was their survey and they said that it wasn’t theirs but they had heard of it from some of their clients.

If the survey is in fact not from Google then it would seem that the survey world seems to following in the footsteps of 29Prime and just claiming its from Google to increase participation.

Either way very strange. I am sure you will agree when you look at some of the questions:


Click to view larger

See more of the survey questions:
Continue reading One Very Strange Survey – Is Google Getting Into the Data Distribution Business?

Pack Tests Continue

Here is a slight variation on the Pack results that Google has been testing. It was visible yesterday on IE (which I don’t have on my machine so I can replicate).

The “more” links take the searcher to a brand search rather than a knowledge panel. In being more explicit than the current roll over it will do two things – be a more obvious call to action to the user and thus more likely to be seen AND count as another search on Google thus providing one more opportunity to show an ad>


My Business Locations Business Accounts – A Tool to Manage Social in Bulk

Google has just announced the availability of My Business Locations (i.e. bulk) Business Accounts. Essentially this feature allows for an easy secure way to add social managers in bulk and to transfer the ownership of the bulk account or parts of the account to another users.Business accounts provide a safe way to share management of your locations with multiple users. “Business accounts are like a shared folder for your locations–a simple way to share access to a set of locations with coworkers.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 7.41.17 AMIn the past ownership and management has been associated with the location. Google has abstracted ownership from a listing level to an account level and the listing locations or a group of listings locations can be associated with that account. And that business account can have an owner and managers.

Perhaps this goes without saying but maybe not. The bulk accounts needs to have been upgraded to the My Business Listing status before these new business accounts can be implemented so if your account has not yet been upgraded, you need to continue waiting.

Forum post
Help Center Articles
Create a business account

Creating a business account is straightforward and quick with two straightforward steps. Note that the business account needs to be verified for the locations.

1- Select the link to create the account and add a name

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 7.41.34 AMScreen Shot 2014-10-14 at 7.42.17 AM2- Request verification of that name for the email account if it has not already been granted.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 7.45.21 AM

Free Google Local Duplicate Listing Finder Tool

Finding duplicates for the same listing with the Google local index is critical. Unfortunately the new Maps is terrible at it and G+ creates too many false positives. You can revert to the old Maps and its increasingly quirky behavior or MapMaker to find the duplicates in the Google Local index but both of those are slow and somewhat clunky. Michael Cottam has recently released a lightweight duplicate Google Page finder tool to do just that.

He developed it for a large medical clinic that that had a huge mess on its hands between the clinic’s, Google’s and the practitioner’s handiwork. It uses the Google Places API and the “Geocode API to get a lat/long from a postal code, to narrow down the results from the Places API text search to a 10km radius around the zip”.

It works on both business name and phone number even though the interface indicates just business name. Is fast, simple and does one thing well. Give it a try.

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 10.34.10 AM

Google Local Pack And Carousel Tests Continue

Last week Dr. Pete from Moz shared a new type of carousel replacement that was starting to show in some browsers. It was seen yesterday as well by Daniel Klotz of YDOP and by Max Minzer. It is similar to the test of the carousel replacement from early August but with the Map missing.

Darren Shaw of Whitespark also shared a new 7-Pack that DOES include the Map embedded in the results as opposed to floating to the right.



Obviously testing continues. If and when, if ever, we will see changes is anyone’s. Given the persistence of the carousel replacement test, I think we will see a change but it is not clear the final form.

Your Google My Business Performance Report for September 2014

Google is sending out a new My Business Report via email to verified owners of listings. The report is attractive with meaningful calls to action to visit the My Business or to contact Google Help even if the report is glaringly inaccurate. On the several reports that I have received so far, the review number for the month over counts the number of reviews received on Google by anywhere from 3 or 5. You would think that Google could count better. This lack of accuracy on the review received calls into question the other stats as well or at least makes them suspect.

The links to email, calling and the help center are a welcome and clear messaging that should drive folks to those support options before they go to the forums. I love the idea of monthly reporting if that is what this is. In the past Google has sent these types of reports out one month but then never again. Thumbs up for sending and the clear call to action, thumbs down for the inaccuracy. Judgement pending on the regularity.

Update: Linda Boquet pointed out a post in the forums that really highlights a signficant issue with the report for multi location businesses:

Since the company name is the same at each address the emails we received were all identical. The subjects are all the same and the content of each email is the same (save for the number of people who saw the business and asked for directions). There is no information contained that would allow us to quickly ascertain which location we are reviewing data for without clicking the link to view details. As you might imagine, when you have 450 locations that isn’t terribly practical.

Obviously, correctly identifying which location the report applies to is critical. Equally important for businesses in this situation would be some sort of roll up report. That assumes that Google will do this report more than once.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 8.43.30 AM

Post Pigeon Geo Assessment – How Did Traffic Change by City

It has been a little over 2 months since the Pigeon update. And while quality issues continue, with some listings taking a hit and others gaining, Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry seems to have netted out with slight gains in web traffic similar to what she saw immediately post update. Her total web traffic was down but her in-market traffic has shown a 5% uptick in the cities surrounding her in NY State and 13% gain in nearby markets in Canada that frequently shop in the US.

It is difficult to impossible to assess her MyBusiness analytics to know how things worked out on that end, given the inability to compare time periods and the lack of detail in the reports (boo to Google on this front).

As I noted immediately post Pigeon, Barbara had stopped showing in the 7-Pack on strong Buffalo centric head term searches in Local Pack like Jewelry Buffalo (although she and 2 other strong jewelers continue to show above the pack in organic). Thus I was curious to dig into the geo data to see where exactly the increases were and if there was a discernible geographic pattern to the increase.

You can see from this chart that web traffic on from Buffalo has decreased by 37 uniques when comparing the time period before Pigeon to the time period after, dropping from 258 visitors to 221. That was more than offset by increases in visits from suburbs just to the south (Cheektowaga) and north (Tonawanda) which saw 154% and 52% increases respectively.


Using the new My Maps, I exported the differences by city and plotted them.

It is somewhat easier to see the major shifts geographically if you zoom in although even there it is difficult to ascertain an obvious pattern. Given the lack of keyword data it is impossible to tell exactly what terms are driving the traffic in each city.

It seems likely that the extremes (Buffalo, Tonawanda and Cheektowaga) seem to be driven by new geo results within Pigeon. Those cities with smaller changes could just be normal variation or could be driven by changing results due to the update.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 5.45.52 PMKey –

Purples Stars = Plot cities that increased

Red/Orange circles = plotted cities that decreased.

Barbara’s location is the black pin.

One of the “features” of Pigeon was to localize results down to neighborhood level. This meant a narrowing of reach so that those in the suburbs were often left out of city wide searches. This, for some, was offset by searches in in the nearby suburbs or neighborhoods. Cheektowaga is a mostly residential area with little high end shopping. It is likely that Barbara Oliver is one of the closest jewelers in that context. Clearly the decline of Buffalo based searches was due to the decreasing radius of Buffalo based searches. But that assessment raises the question of why did Barbara loose traffic from her “hometown” of Williamsville that has both residents and high end shopping and the even bigger drop in the next neighborhood to the east, Harris Hill?

I think plotting this geo information can additional nuance and understanding to your search results. I am not sure that it better helps to understand Pigeon although it does demonstrate some of its affects.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search