The Foursquare update, according to Matt McGee of Search Engine Land, will add “Foursquare data into Bing Maps to show checkins, tips, badges, mayorships, and so forth from Foursquare’s API. Bing says this is rolling out in stages, so some users may not see it yet in the applications gallery.”
Additionally, McGee writes, Microsoft has added 2.4 million square miles of image data into Bing, and given the option of taking the Bing Maps World Tour, which takes users through all of the new image data added to the maps service since its inception in August 2009.
The improved integration of Foursquare into Bing Maps, experts say, may be the most important of the additions. As localization functionality continues to become more and more important – thanks to the growth in internet-enabled smart phone use – such features will be crucial to future search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
On December 3, 2009 Greg Sterling had posted an article saying that Google Suspends Local Listing Ads – For Now. Well it seems that they have suspended them indefinitely since they completely remove the section of their website that was deticated to the local listing ads. Take a look at the screenshot below:
This is what I end up on after performing the search query “Local Listing Ads” (LLA) and click on the number one result, Google’s own page dedicated for these ads. Well it seems that the beta test didn’t go over as well as they thought or they are about to launch some nationwide model.
If you are unfamiliar with Local Listing Ads, they are/were an advertising medium that Google offered to it’s Local Business Center clients where they would pay a flat monthly fee to have a advertisement placed above the map-pack and below the search field. This advertisement was given a blue pin icon so it could stand out from all the red ones.
I thought this was one of the best values for a local business since you are paying a flat fee to have arguably the best position on the SERPs. One downside seemed to be that more competitive markets would yield rotating LLA in order to keep the clicks equal. If your market was not highly competitive the value appeared to be greater on the consumer’s end.
Google announced the beta release of Local Listing Ads on October 6, 2009 and suspended them on Dec 3, 2009.
The ads were only released in the San Francisco and San Diego metropolitan markets.
Google Maps is a great tool for local businesses, but can be a complete headache when it creates multiple or duplicate listings for your business. This makes the job of obtaining a “Lucky 7-Pack” position very hard. Your companies value-added information, reviews, photos and more can be split between multiple accounts making optimization very difficult.
Most of the time this is caused by Google’s algorithm pulling in the same or similar information from multiple reliable sources. This can also occur when the local merchant does not realize he/she already has a Google Local Business Center Profile and creates another. Any way it happens the outcome is never good.
The main problem in having numerous listings is the division of information, reviews, and possibly URLs, and even photos and videos.
Google states, when you find out that you have duplicate listings you should follow the following steps:
I personally have followed the above instructions numerous times successfully.
The Small Business Online Coach states that 30-40% of his clients have some sort of duplicate content.
PLEASE NOTE: The above method only works for unverified listings. If you believe that your listing has been owner verified without your consent please go to the Google Maps Help Forum and start a thread asking one of the Google Maps Employees to possibly give you a helping hand.
I have encountered a few cases where one of my customer’s LBC listing had been verified by someone else, possibly a competitor or a spammer. I reported the listing using the More > Report a Listing tab on the profile page then played the waiting game.
After reading Mike Blumenthal‘s post on Google’s new feature, Nearby Places, I just felt like I had to write this. I did a local search for the most popular Chinese food restaurant in Petaluma, CA to see what places this new feature recommended. Take a look below to see what was yielded for the search “Lily Kai Chinese Petaluma, CA”:
If I was a competing small business I would not be happy about this update one bit. It is only a matter of time before Google places advertisements at the bottom of those listings. They could potentially place the new “enhanced listings” there to attract the reader’s eye to their restaurant. The addition of rich snippets is very important to these Nearby Places listings too. If your business has 5 ratings that average 3 stars and a few of your Nearby Places have solid 5 star ratings you actually might loose a customer. This is opening the doors for automated content aggregation companies to take a leap into the local scene by signing a content partnership with Google. This allows Google to take rich content provided by companies like CitySearch, Yelp, InsiderPages, and yes… even DemandForce. and have it get merged into your businesses local profile.
Greg Sterling posted yesterday about Ads Entering the Google ’7-Pack’. These ads are actually called Enhanced Listings that Google is now featuring in the map pack. This was also noted on Mike Blumenthal’s blog post titled Google’s “Enhanced Listings” for Local earlier today.
You will notice that the Golf Club at Boulder Ridge is highlighting photos. This is just one of the many options that Google allows you to choose to highlight.
Google says that you can use any of the following enhancements to jazz up your listing.
- Website for your business.
- Photos of your business.
- Videos of your business.
- Coupons for your listing.
- Menu for your restaurant.
- Reservations page for your business.
- Driving directions to your business.
“The enhancement types you can select depend on what information you already have available in your business listing. If you want to highlight a video, for example, you’ll first need to add a video to your business listing. Once you’ve done that, the option will show up in the menu for your enhancement types.”
There is a $25 monthly fee that gets paid to Google to create an enhanced listing for your local company. There are no bids or keywords to optimize for either.
The Burlison Law Firm chose to highlight some of their videos, in order to persuade the viewer to click the link.
Not only does your listing get highlight next to where you appear in the maps, but you also get a nice icon to accompany the map its self. This should improve the click through rate of your listing since it is a way to separate your map listing from your competition’s.
Localeze, the premium business content provider has struck a partnership with Microsoft, rumored to give Google a run for their money. Microsoft will use Localeze’s 14 million business records to fuel Bing Local as well as Bing 411. This value-added content should give Microsoft some steady ground to stand on when going head-to-head against Google for the same local space.
Microsoft will use Localeze’s 14 million records as well as their 500,000 premium listings which are business-verified and passed through Localeze’s software to create Gold Sourced Content for local search. The premium listings will not only include information such as name/address and general contact information but value-added content like hours of operation, products and services offered, credit cards accepted, photos and more.
This news is great since Bing has been pushing for iPhone and other smart phone developers to use Bing’s SDK in the development of their smart phone applications. Developers now have another reason to use Microsoft’s search feature and local listings database for their apps.
The local listing space is getting competitive, yesterday AT&T announced the launch of its own local listings site, Buzz.
Several thousand users of Google’s Local Business Center (LBC) were recently surprised to find that they had received confidential LBC analytics information from other LBC users.
Google sends out a monthly newsletter to its LBC users that includes product news and Web traffic statistics related to users’ business search listings. As a result of an employee’s mistake, several thousand newsletter recipients received statistics for other people’s businesses.
No sensitive personal information was disclosed, a Google spokesperson said. Exposed data consisted of the number of times the account owner’s LBC listing appeared in Google local search results, the number of times searchers clicked on the listing and the associated Web site, and the number of clicks seeking further information and driving directions.
“Shortly after sending the newsletter to a small portion of our users (less than 1%), we discovered that some e-mails included incorrect business listing information,” a Google spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement. We promptly stopped sending any further e-mails and investigated the cause, which we found to be a human error while pulling together the newsletter content. We’d like to apologize to all the business owners affected and assure all our users that we’re working hard to ensure that nothing similar will happen again. Those affected should have all received a corrected e-mail.”
Google LBC users like David Dalka, a business development and online marketing strategy strategy consultant, reported receiving one of the errant e-mail messages and suggested that the incident could harm users’ trust of Google. “If the Google Local Business Results were sent to many people, this could likely be as serious as the AOL data breach,” he wrote.
AOL’s 2006 breach exposed about 20 million search terms and phrases used by 658,000 of its subscribers, so it’s not that serious, but it’s nonetheless embarrassing and something that Google doesn’t want to repeat. The company is exploring ways to automate its newsletter to remove the potential for mistakes of this sort.
Mike Blumenthal recently made a post about Google sending out the wrong Local Business Center information to some local businesses. I am not sure how this happened, but I have heard it was human error. Luckily none of the information was ‘sensitive’. The Local Business Center is a work in progress, and will make mistakes from time-to-time. The followed up with some apologies to businesses that received this incorrect data.