Maps Are For Travel, Not Local Search

Chris Linnett writing on SEL today offered the thought; "Imagine Local Search Without Maps". I have. Not daily or even weekly, well maybe weekly or whenever I use Google Maps.

Chris writes;

"........Similarly, I may need someone to repair the lock on my front door that is old enough to qualify as ancient. Well, local search is about discovery as well. I do not need to see where all the locksmiths are on a map; the locksmith is coming to me. But by providing me the tools to narrow my search of locksmiths by such variables as services offered, brands of locks, pricing, customer feedback, and more, I may be able to discover just the one my neighbors rave about for older locks..."

I don't need to know where the plumber starts his day. I don't need to know where the tree trimmer keeps his chipper.
And it's not just me. When I present Google Maps to clients I get quizzed to the importance of being listed there. Typically they say "do people really use this?" I assure them people do.

I think Yahoo! has it about right. Take a look at how Yahoo! treats maps as related to local search. Try the same search on Local.com. Note how the maps on both sites are tucked away nicely on the side. My new favorite local database is Yellowbot.com, it's clean and the data, mostly supplied by Localeze.com is fresh. The map bears the confusing* "got peeps" slang under the nicely sized map on the right side but otherwise this is how a local search site should look.

Confusing as in how do I convince an attorney client this may be a site to keep an eye on for advertising purposes down the road. Most professionals don't follow contemporary street slang. The Urban Dictionary defines "Got Peeps".

It's not pretty!


Inexpensive Website Solutions From SiteKreator

Many small businesses I approach with marketing proposals don't have a website. Those without a website generally fall into three categories. Either a relative is helping them, they paid someone who builds websites and it's still in progress or they don't know where to start. They all believe "getting on the web" is expensive. It's not.
I blogged about solutions from Yahoo! Local awhile back and briefly touched on web hosting solutions from SuperPages.com. Both fit the bill for most small outfits and come in under $20.00 per month.
Another simple website solution provider is SiteKreator.com. Of the three I prefer SiteKreator.
The designs are simple, clean and affordable. Packages run from $7.95 to $39.95 monthly and offer "unlimited" pages. Simple editing caught my eye. It looks as easy as Blogger which means even moi might feel comfortable at the controls.
No further need for bugging your teen nephew or the friend of a friend to put together something in spare time. Definitely no need for the local bakery to pay thousands for a simple layout.
Those days are gone.

Got Rid Of Adsense For Awhile

I had to remove AdSense from the blog. Google was sending ads that had nothing to do with material written on here or on searches made by me. The lifestyle oriented questionaire they have been pushing for a couple of weeks now might be deemed as offensive by some.
The last thing I wish to do is offend current or potential clients.


MySpace Appealing To Advertisers

From AdWeek.com via Yahoo!,the MySpace profile for Adidas Soccer has over 83,000 friends much to the pleasure of Adidas and engineered by their ad agency Carat Fusion, a division of Aegis Group.

"Figuring out how to befriend consumers is top of mind these days, as MySpace and Facebook loom ever larger in the daily lives of young consumers. According to the Carat Fusion-MySpace research, social networking users spend 11 hours online per week compared to 9.4 hours watching TV. Non-social networking users watch TV 11.5 hours and spend 8.7 hours on the Web. While social networkers still watch TV, 68 percent said their favorite time to visit social networks is during prime-time TV hours in the evening....."

Regarding MySpace, Sarah Fay of Aegis Group says;

"It is more than a media opportunity. It also shows, she said, that advertisers need to take a leap of faith with social-network programs that some of the extra "momentum effect" will not be quantified for every campaign."

Bottom line, it works and it's not difficult to implement.

Google Maps Now Displaying UGC

Google Maps is now including UGC link options for searchers on the bottom of local search results.

See user-created content New!

On first look some of the sites Google considers include;

Travelandleisure.com (not really a UGC site)
Propsmart.com (real estate)
KeyHole.com (Google property)

Google also favors pages saved by users of their new My Saved Pages, part of the new MyMaps feature.

How to take advantage of this;
Map your business on Virtual Globetrotting (if it can get by the editors). Join the Keyhole BBS groups. Have your friends and better customers or clients get a Google account and save the map to your establishment on Google MyMaps.
Get accounts at Wik, Platial and the other sites mentioned.

Adding user generated content follows the addition of reviews to Google Maps results earlier this year. Google is favoring what users think about local business, museums and tourist spots etc.
UGC (user generated content), local community and review sites play a big part in marketing your local business. The news today affirms our belief and provides another tool to assist our clients in gaining search share in the categories.

Also on the subject of UGC, how does user generated content size up for advertising purposes? BlueLithium Labs came out with some interesting figures on how UGC ads convert vs. non UGC.

Other Bloggers posting on the topic;
Helen at NonLinear
Greg Sterling at Screenwerk


New Design For Google Blog Search Results

Google Blog search results page now sports a design similar to Google web search results. Notice too how Google has inched blog results closer to sharing the search home page. Blog search is first up for choices on the drop down menu under "more." How long before blog search gets home page positioning? It seems unlikely it will come at the expense of "Images", "News", "Video" or Maps" (local).
Maybe Google will have to expand the vertical search options tabs?

Update: I am seeing the old Google Blog Search page design on some searches. The link above still directs to a page with the new design.


So Many New Social Sites/Tools

More social/web2/community oriented sites coming online. No one knows which of these new sites will catch on or offer value to a small business. Our practice is to put client links on as many of these sites as is practical. If one out of every 5 or 10 become favored by Google or Yahoo! then the effort is worth it.

Todays sampling of new sites with social implications is Menuism.com. Menusism's tag line, "Menuism is a social network around restaurants and dishes that helps you find better food in the US and Canada". Restaurant owners will want to pop a link here and point preferred customers to hit the site with objective reviews.

Next up are sites brought to light by Greg Sterling are a couple of newspaper owned sites TribLocal.com and NeighborsGo.com. Chicago or Dallas residents may make use of these two.

Another site with intriguing implications for real estate is YourStreet.com. StreetAdvisor.com is another in this space. I posted on StreetAdvisor awhile back. My real estate clients (with one exception) saw the potential for StreetAdvisor instantly.

Who Turned On The "I Need A Blog Switch"?

Yesterday I fielded three phone calls from folks looking to start a blog. Real estate, community board member and a close relative seeking to promote a family event. I think it's great. One common trait among those looking to get into it is how confusing the software appears to them. As simple as Blogger.com is to use it is daunting for many.
The community board member decided a blog was not the best idea once she realized it would be visible by anyone in the world. (requiring registration for users was not an option)
The family member was sent to Blogger and she is up and running. She hasn't figured out hyperlinks yet, we'll get to that today.
The real estate company is finding competition in their niche has a head start so their battle for views in the community will be a test.


Calendar Oddity On May 6th

At Three minutes and Four seconds after 2 AM on the 6th of May This year, the time and date will be
02:03:04 05/06/07.

This will not happen again in our lifetime.


Rich Site, Poor site, Everything Else Falls In Between

I'm a bit humbled after viewing the blog design for Cooking With Amy, which sports a brilliant use of the Blogspot platform. The design is credited to Cat Batacan. Amy runs this blog for a total of ZERO dollars for hosting or domain costs. Wow.

Contrast this with Conde Nast's business property Portfolio.com and the $125 million price tag for that site and associated pages. Battelle posted on the news earlier today.

Conde Nast probably could have hired Cat for oh say........ $1,000 per page across the board and saved Uhhhh $124, 500,000 or so, ya think?

Yeah I know there is more to it but come on.

Thanks for the inspiration Cat and Amy. More of our clients want blogs and we are in the learning phase of blog design and content development.
We won't copy but it's tempting.


Another Mousetrap

Reading today the news and interesting columns on SEL I found a profiled sponsored link to Firefactor.Coffeecup.com. The company lures you to a "free firefactor mini-report" for your website so I thought I would give it a spin. I inserted one of my blogs into the form and waited the 10 minutes they suggested it would take to have the report sent to my email inbox.
Once the "report" arrived I clicked back to the site to get the information. Surprisingly I had to insert my password. I had no account (didn't know I needed one) so I could not access the report. There was no ready link to open an account to view my report.

There was however information on how I could upgrade for a full report for a fee. I felt misled when I was directed to the pay account page.
All I wanted was the free report but I was expertly herded like a sheep to the trough to a checkout stand. It seems anyone signing up for the "for fee" service will get a broad website report and submission to various search directories and engines. I won't go far into that mess here but generally companies that promise submission to dozens, hundreds or thousands of search sites are looking for easy money.
Be warned submission to many of these sites may invite email and solicitations that could drag out for months. Agents for many of those sites will hound you to "add on" for special placement on their self proclaimed important "niche" websites. Neither your business or web profile will be enhanced by submission to sites like iKenya.com, EnlacesBolivia or Szukaj.com. (resolves to Ebay by the way)

There is NO substitute for manual insertion to key directories and search sites.

After some searching I did get to the account page. They sent me a password and I got to look at the report. Some good, some bad about my site but it all led to a push for the upgraded version. The optimization packages they offer may be top grade, I don't know. I can't speculate on that side of their service. I'll assume they provide OK options for people who click through for those services.
I sense some tricky marketing tactics that prey on the unsuspecting and it makes my job harder.

Every client I talk to is brand new to advertising on the Internet. They see it as confusing, complicated and expensive. As a search marketer one of my main tasks is to unmask the confusion and make the process less complicated than it appears. Small business has had it with traditional marketers (yellow pages, newspapers, radio etc.) who long held a vise grip on client accessibility. It would be too easy to obfuscate or misrepresent opportunities for business owners.

I am not an old media marketer but suffer from the reputation old media marketers built. Too often when I mention to a prospective customer what I can do for them I see the glossy eyes, the blank out. They have been continuously assaulted by smooth talking YP and radio people for years.
Marketers in this new media don't need to obfuscate, misdirect or skew data and facts. It is not necessary.
When I see confusing marketing strategies I know my job will not get easier and understand fully why marketers are loathed.


Must Read Blogger Jim Boykin

There are many search marketing bloggers I consider to be daily "must reads" that include Beal, Odden, Sterling, Sullivan, Baker, Wall and Schwartz, (sounds like a law firm) but one that sticks out is Jim Boykin's Blog.

No one in this space is as transparent. Jim's business website We Build Pages is a virtual gold mine for link and page building information. Jim offers somethings very few do and that is a look at his rates. It's rare to find a business in this industry that lays out the their fees for services. He doesn't treat the subject as a state secret and I appreciate it.
Anyone with a desire to understand link building, page building or blog building should visit Jim Boykin's Blog and get the feed for their reader.


Google Voice Local Search

This is BIG! Google Voice Local Search was launched today in Google Labs.

Google states;

To try this service, just dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) from any phone.

"Using this service, you can:

  • search for a local business by name or category.
    You can say "Giovanni's Pizzeria" or just "pizza".

  • get connected to the business, free of charge.

  • get the details by SMS if you’re using a mobile phone.
    Just say "text message".

And it's free. Google doesn’t charge you a thing for the call or for connecting you to the business. Regular phone charges may apply, based on your telephone service provider.

Note: Google Voice Local Search is still in its experimental stage. It may not be available at all times and may not work for all users. We’re fine-tuning the service to get better at recognizing your requests."

How important is it to be listed on Google Maps?


New Tools

Topix.com is "Calling All Editors".

About editing on Topix

Topix Editors are an elite group of users that post interesting and relevant articles to share with their communities. Editors receive special tools enabling them to find and promote stories on pages that are read by millions of users. Editors can even post their own original articles and photos.
Anyone with a passionate interest for news in their community is encouraged to submit an application.

As location editor you (along with roboblogger) are a gatekeeper for articles and help keep spam out of user forums. Being an editor could act as a great tool for real estate agents who need to keep the pulse of particular locations or markets.

YellowBot (beta) is a new Internet Yellow Pages play with a friendly and inviting interface. You can submit a business which is great. One negative is the GenX phrasiology used throughout the site like "off the heezy" for business ratings or "got peeps" indicating spots on a map. Their demo's must indicate like minded hip urban twenty-somethings or perhaps they really believe such slang is mainstream.
I don't know or care what "heezy" means so I won't use their ratings system. I will suggest clients submit their business but most are there already because Localeze is the bus. info provider.

Finally Microsoft Office Live offers a free website and supporting tools. Christine Churchill has a great review on Search Engine Land.