Archive for January, 2011

City Centroids Replaced By Outlines In Google Places

Monday, January 17th, 2011

I’ve often mentioned how Google Maps/Places has used distance from city centroids as a major ranking factor. Indeed, Google still mentions how distance is a local ranking factor (most recently they stated this in a LatLong blog post on how local search ranking works).

However, there is some compelling evidence to show that they’ve become more sophisticated than they were earlier after Google Maps was born. I believe they’re increasingly using city and ZIP code region outlines when determining the local relevancy for businesses.

First of all, Google’s introduction of Service Areas this past year demonstrates very obviously that they’re incorporating city and ZIP region outlines with local business data. In addition to being able to specify the more traditional radius from a centroid, the tools within Google Places allow you to specify specific cities and ZIP codes as service areas, and their map indicates a rough polygon outline of selected regions. David Mihm first pointed this out to me last year, and you can see it for this example of a business which offers service to the Fort Worth area:

Google Places Service Area Polygon Outline

You can also get a business’s service area to show up outside of the Google Places administrative interfaces, in the Map interface itself, by clicking on “Show service area”: (more…)

Trust Seals May Be Super Local Ranking Factors

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Over on SEM Clubhouse this morning I posted an article about how online trust seals could increase conversions for local businesses. That proposition is not all that controversial, when you connect the dots. Lots of research finds support for the idea that trust seals increase consumer confidence for online retailers — and online retailers need this, since there’s often mistrust of the safety of making online purchases.

However, confidence is also needed in order to translate online traffic into offline customers. For local businesses, this is key. It is hard in some industries to tell if the online presence represents a real, actual business. As I touched upon in an article earlier this month, there are quite a few false business addresses cropping up in Google Places and elsewhere, and these undermine consumer confidence.

So, the logic seems fairly solid to believe that if you can increase consumer confidence in a website, by extension they may have a higher initial trust in the business itself. For businesses relying upon people visiting their premise, this could be key to improving referral rates from online sources.

Of course, the value proposition just may not be there. Many website certifications and trust seals may be costlier than their worth to offline businesses. This is why I suggested some lesser alternatives, such as making local chambers-of-commerce badges.

SuperGuarantee badgeThe issue of trust is very key to getting a consumer to choose your business. This is why some local business marketing companies have created trust badges and guarantee programs. For instance, the SuperGuarantee program is one such, and for a while was considered to be a primary strategy for that internet yellow pages company, which has otherwise struggled with survival as consumers turn from print media to online resources such as Google Maps.

The SuperGuarantee program was a fairly good idea. The concept of leveraging a trust mark and guarantee program is an overall good idea for internet yellow pages (even if the program was obviously very derivative and immitative of similar services offered by other companies, such as the ServiceMagic Guarantee, and even if it never quite lived up to being the “savior of yellow pages” it was virtually touted to being).

From a business’s perspective, it might be a good proposition, if you count it as mainly an advertising/promotional cost. Statistics indicate that very few consumers actually avail themselves of money-back guarantees in most cases. The question of whether the SuperGuarantee ever actually has achieved sufficient consumer recognition to be valuable to businesses is still up in the air. I’m not sure they have done enough promotion of the badge and service to reach critical mass with consumers.

However, I’d say that even with services that have lower overall consumer familiarity, merely having an independent service providing you with an endorsement could give you a leg up above similar competition which does not have any endorsement.

There are quite a number of industry-specific and product-specific rating services which might be valuable to display on your website. For instance, among attorneys the Super Lawyers rating might well be worth gold. Super Lawyers magazine names attorneys across the United States who receive highest point totals, as selected by their attorney peers and through independent research they conduct. The Rising Stars names each state’s top up-and-coming attorneys.

Super Lawyers - trust seal badge

While the Super Lawyers guidelines won’t allow recipients to directly call themselves “Super Lawyers”, having the association with the Super Lawyers designation likely makes an immediate impression upon consumers. If you’re protecting your business or getting representation for an upcoming divorce, don’t you want to avail yourself of the cream-of-the-crop? Having such a badge would provide an immediate differentiator.

I first became aware of Super Lawyers a number of years ago, when I saw a special section for them in my Texas Monthly magazine.

The more controversial idea I floated in my article on trust seals is whether Google may be using or planning to use the presence of trust seals on websites as a ranking factor. I don’t have any stats as of yet which indicate for certain whether Google or other search engines could be using the trust badges for ranking.

However, I think they could easily factor in, because I think that Google is increasingly using some indicators such as the click-paths of users in determining whether webpages are relevant to search queries. Some metrics such as “Bounce Rate” may be factoring-in, and badges which are linked to related information pages on the certification service sites might well provide Google with indication that consumers are finding the presence of that info quite valuable on your website.

The iPhone Comes To Verizon Finally!

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

The Verizon iPhoneSo, my prediction that the iPhone was coming to Verizon has finally panned out as the official Verizon Wireless iPhone page is now live! The CDMA iPhone was confirmed at a press conference hosted by Verizon at the Lincoln Center in New York today.

The planned arrival comes just a hair late for me. As my earlier prediction stated, I intended to get the Verizon Android if the iPhone wasn’t coming soon enough, and for various reasons, mainly involving timing, I went ahead and got an Android.

I’m actually still very pleased with my Droid X by Motorola, and I’ve been studying how applications leverage its various transitions and the overall user-interface style. The Android has one significant advantage over the iPhone in my mind, because of the Google operating system. While I am somewhat platform-agnostic, being fairly comfortable with Microsoft, Apple, UNIX, etc — I primarily use a Microsoft PC because I still feel the need to experience the internet on the same system/browser combos used by the majority of people out there. (I’m not at all saying that Microsoft is better than Apple!) (more…)

Local Search Technology “Patent Troll” Expands Lawsuits To Target Hundreds Of Retailers

Friday, January 7th, 2011

A recent post by a member on WebmasterWorld alerted me that GeoTag is widening their local search technology lawsuits to include many more companies. WebmasterWorld sharply limits forum members from mentioning particular links, but I think the member was referring to this GeoTag Inc. v. Royal Purple Inc. et al patent suit.


The WebmasterWorld forum member refers to GeoTag as a “patent troll“, which I think may be deserved. He mentions that this company went after Superpages, YellowBot, Yelp,,, and many other IYPs in the past. I was aware of some of this where it concerned Superpages, but I will not comment upon that.

There has been some supposition that GeoTag might be going after relatively small targets before eventually working up to go against a major target such as Google. It’s my opinion that a number of these companies have likely settled in order to remove a nuisance or to avoid risk of an outright loss in court.

It’s also my opinion that a larger target such as a Google Maps or Bing Maps might eventually stand up to them if they were to go after them, and force a legal decision which could void out their ability to enforce this sort of claim any further. I think it may be that their claim might not have merit when considering the full scope of related prior art — although I’m certainly not an attorney. (more…)

Poor Taste: Lay Off 100s Of Employees, Then Write A Blog Post Advising How To Retain Employees

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

SuperMedia Cracking UpIn a blog that SuperMedia operates to provide advice and information for businesses, they published this surreal post on “Employee Retention During a Corporate Restructure” at the end of December.

SuperMedia has been laying-off employees in droves over the past two years, as they struggled through revenue decline, heavy debts, Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, and subsequent cost-cutting (possibly paving the way for a three-way merger between SuperMedia, AT&T and Dex One). So, “corporate restructure” is an accurate term for what SuperMedia employees have been enduring for quite some time, if not an understatement on a massive scale.

So, publishing a post on how to retain employees seems downright… odd under the circumstances.

The article advises a number of tactics for employee retention (my interpretation/paraphrasing): (more…)

McAfee Labs Lists Geolocation Services As Top Target For Emerging Threats In 2011

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

On December 28th, McAfee Labs unveiled their 2011 Threat Predictions Report, and they’ve listed Geolocation Services as one of the top targets for cybercriminal activity in 2011. Geolocation services particularly include services involving check-in activities which publish your location. Geolocation services include Facebook now, as well as Twitter, Foursquare and Gowalla.


From my perspective, McAfee’s inclusion of geolocation services is unsurprising and perhaps even overdue.

I wrote back in 2007 how geolocation technology is core to click-fraud detection, as well as for credit card sales, banking, and user profile verification.

Just a couple of common risks involving geolocation services involve criminals being able to use your current location information in order to victimize you. Obviously, if a criminal knows where your home is, and you’re involved in a geolocation service which is showing that you’re located in another city or across town, they could rob your home. (more…)

R.I.P. Bookmarking Services

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

The year 2010 may have marked the demise of social media bookmarking services. Quite a few bookmark sharing services were discontinued last year. Simpy, Gnolia, and Backflip were just some of the best-known ones.

Social Media Bookmarking Services Being Discontinued - Rest in PeaceIn their heyday, some of these services may have been considered to be the next big thing in online social media plays, but something changed in the past few years, making their usage begin to decline and they became less-preferred by venture capitalists.

Probably the biggest impact to them was the growing dominance of Facebook. People are using Facebook to share links with one another, and also using the “Like” button more to collect connections to content. (more…)

What’s Happening In Yellow Pages Land? Perhaps A Trifecta Merger Between AT&T, SuperMedia & Dex One

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Back in September I predicted a merger between SuperMedia and Dex One. However, there’ve since been other developments and rumors coming out of these yellow pages companies which lead me to suggest a possible “trifecta” — a three-way acquisition/merger could be in the works between AT&T’s Yellow Pages (NYSE:T), SuperMedia (NASDAQ:SPMD), and Dex One (NYSE:DEXO).

Trifecta Merger Between AT&T Interactive Yellow Pages, SuperMedia, and Dex One Corporation

These three companies operate some of the largest print and online yellow pages in the country, with AT&T Interactive operating, SuperMedia operating Superpages, and Dex One operating DexKnows. Read on for more speculation and observation on my part. (more…)

Happy New Year’s Day 2011!

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Google’s “doodle” logo for New Year’s Day today has the “OOGL” of the logo replaced with Roman numerals for two-thousand-and-eleven, and the background of it is full of fireworks going off:

Google New Year's Day Logo, January 1, 2011

Though not as well known, the letter “G” was also used as a shorthand Roman numeral in the Middle Ages to represent four-hundred, and the uppercase “E” was used to denote two-hundred-fifty. If we included these two numbers, the sequence might be read as 2011 – 400 + 250 = 1861. (more…)