Facebook’s New Place Discovery Feature – A.K.A. “Spam Your Friends”

September 26th, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

Facebook has recently been rolling out new features and layouts, willy-nilly, risking the ire of many users who may be getting upgrade fatigue.

One of the many changes I noticed was a new feature intended to leverage users into promoting “great places” more when they “Like” a location:

Facebook's new Friends Discover Great Places Feature

Wasn’t just having Likes appearing on your wall page sufficient endorsement of a place? Now the service is trying to get you to push status updates for some places when they’re liked, and this just seems overly… pushy.

Is this what they intend to replace their becoming-deprecated check-in service feature? If so, this is particularly lame.

The “Like” activity itself is a form of endorsement and needs no further embellishment.

Google Scaling-Down Local Results? Possible Explanations Abound

September 22nd, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith
Google Place Search

Normal Google Place Search Results

People have reported seeing the “7-pack”, or local integrated listings under Universal/Place Search, in Google SERPs less in the past few days (reported on Search Engine Roundtable and WebmasterWorld). I’m seeing some similar cases where local queries are not invoking the business listings as I would’ve expected previously (such as for “Memphis locksmiths”).

So far, one of the prime theories in the discussion forums is that Google might’ve done that in advance of their antitrust hearings in Washington this week, in order to appear less aggressive by allowing more competitor directory pages to rank higher. I find that theory hard to believe, although it’s possible.

However, another theory is that this could be linked-to the recent rumors I earlier reported upon regarding Google planning to launch some “big changes” to Google Maps on October 1st. I opined that this could tie into their planned release of Google+ pages for businesses, and I think that’s still the case.

If Google were merely showing fewer local listings in the SERPs, I might suspect that Read the rest of this entry »

Amazon’s Daily Deals Is Yet Another Flirtation With Local

September 16th, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

It’s almost, but not quite, shocking to me that Amazon has launched another experiment into local business marketing with the Amazon Local daily deals service. I just got an email promotion for Dallas-Fort Worth area from them this morning:

AmazonLocal Deals

Amazon apparently uses LivingSocial, with which they are an investment partner, to power this service, and it launched a short while ago in June.

There are lots of companies hopping on the daily deals bandwagon, and this has been described as one of many “Groupon killer” competing services out there.

What’s almost shocking to me about it is that Amazon launched an online yellow pages directory some years ago with A9, back in 2005. The product was innovative (the first business directory to provide “Street View” pictures of businesses, perhaps), and those of us at Superpages watched the development with some apprehension. But, they did a very crappy job at SEO Read the rest of this entry »

Google Plus Snippets Launch In Google Maps

September 14th, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

I happened to see Greg Sterling briefly at SMX East today, and he alerted me that Google announced that they’ve launched “+snippets” for Maps, allowing users to share Google Maps pages with their friends in Google+:

Google Plus Snippets in Google Maps

Could this be what the “big changes planned for Google Maps” rumor I earlier reported was referring-to? Read the rest of this entry »

Drop In Major IYP Traffic

September 13th, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

According to Google Trends, it appears there may have been a significant drop in traffic from Google referrals to major Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs) sites:

Drop in Local Directories' Traffic?

Yellowpages.com, Superpages.com, Yelp.com, Citysearch.com, and WhitePages.com all look like they’re dipping in sync.

Is it possible that IYPs have fallen under the treads of a Panda update?

It’s still perhaps early to tell, but it’s looking like they’re all experiencing something similar.

Rumored Google Maps Changes Could Involve Google+

September 12th, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

Google Plus + Google MapsOver the weekend, I received a credible rumor from one of the larger companies I work with. Purportedly, they were contacted by their Google Ads rep and urged to purchase more advertising now, inadvance of some “big changes” planned to happen on October 1.

It’s still early, and I haven’t been able to confirm this rumor as of yet, despite putting out feelers to a number of sources. However, it feels believable because Google Plus has promised rollout of business Plus pages at some point, and it would make very good sense in the case of local businesses to have their Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Post At Bruce Clay’s Blog: 10 Image SEO Tips For Local

July 29th, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

I was excited to be invited to write a guest piece over at Bruce Clay Inc’s blog this week, and my article on “10 Image Optimization Tips for Local SEO“ provides a few ideas to help further enhance a small business’s local search signals.

Bruce Clay is of course a well-known and well-established technical search marketing expert who helped pioneer the field, and I recall reading his work and sitting in on his presentations at industry conferences from the very early days of SEO, back when I was working in obscurity within a big mega-corporation. So, it was a particular honor for me to be invited to foist my thoughts on — I mean contribute a professional article on — his blog!

In all seriousness, I’ve used Bruce Clay’s tools over time, and I believe his LocalPack business listing distribution service is well worthwhile for any business beginning to establish its listing information in major online directories and local search engines everywhere. (And, FYI, this was not a paid endorsement a quid pro quo endorsement by me — Bruce Clay’s people have not asked me to write about their products nor link to them, and I have no financial connection with them.)

LocalPack business listing citation distribution service at Bruce Clay Inc.

I’ve also particularly enjoyed reading work by the various other authors and editors who work at Bruce Clay Inc — Susan Esparza, Jessica Lee, and Virginia Nussey.

Thank you guys for inviting me in to participate on your blog, and making me feel welcome!

Google’s New Content Delivery Network (CDN)

July 29th, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

Google Page Speed Service - Content Delivery Network CDNI posted a piece about Google’s new “Page Speed Service” over on SEM Clubhouse this morning, and in it I describe a bit of how it will speed up websites and thus help with both SEO and user-experience. Those are mostly good things.

But, I go on to compare it a little with old AOL service processes. Like the old AOL service, which used to compress and cache webpages across the internet (sometimes changing those pages for the worse), the Google service is also a little disturbing in the “Big Brother” sense.

Google, through search, already occupies so much of consumers’ time on the internet, and it’s often the first leg or starting-off-point for many consumers’ web interactions. If large numbers of websites also use the Page Speed Service, then Google could be hosting the entire end-to-end experience for the internet.

If they start using their dark fiber network as part of the routing of this new Content Delivery Network, one’s internet usage moves partially off of the shared public grid onto a completely private network. Your user experience would not necessarily be altered, but it’s disturbing from the standpoint of it beginning to build a defacto “walled-garden” experience upon the infrastructure of a single company which begins to resemble the mother of all monopolies.

When an internet experience (or mobile access experience) is completely within a silo, it risks having all sorts of odd rules imposed upon it. Such as a lack of network neutrality, the forcible intrusion of unwanted ads, snooping, and outright suppression of materials not deemed to be in the best interests of the owner corporation.

While Google has been known for being more philosophically against censorship and suppression, and has been a supporter (to some degree) of net neutrality, the potential for issues if they own the end-to-end web experience expand exponentially. The old adage applies, regardless of good intentions: “It’s not wise to put all your eggs in one basket.”

Internet Company Getting Its Name Into Google Maps

June 21st, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

Quite a few sites have reported on how Shiv Nagar, a village in India, has renamed itself “SnapDeal.com Nagar”, out of gratitude to the company which paid to give them running water. But, I don’t think anyone’s reported on how this is going to give SnapDeal.com a free mapvertisement in Google Maps and Bing Maps.

SnapDeal.com in Google Maps of India
Shiv Nagar, India, renamed itself SnapDeal.com

It appears that this was not intended to be a guerilla marketing tactic, but it is a defacto bit of commercial promotion, and once the town’s name becomes changed on maps it will become “mapvertising”.

As you may recall, I’ve written before about how corporate sponsorships can result in towns getting renamed after companies and products (here and here), and Read the rest of this entry »

Google Maps Hates Small Businesses By Launching Local Folksonomy Descriptive Terms

June 13th, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

Google has just announced that they’ve launched “Descriptive Terms” to appear with business listings in map search results. According to them, these descriptive terms are some of the most common terms found in user reviews, blogs, web pages and other online references which describe the business. For instance, if you search for “Barbeque Restaurants”, you might see a business which lists such items as “banana pudding”, “pork chops”, “texas style”, “baked potato” and “chicken poppers”:

BBQ Restaurant Descriptive Terms

So, the cool part of this idea is that the feature will highlight user-generated terms which are frequently used in reference to the business. This is a type of an ontology formed by the vox populi, or common man. More properly, these Descriptive Terms begin forming what’s known as a “folksonomy“, which started coming into vogue with social media, particularly around the concept of tag clouds.

(It’s very slightly ironic that Google Maps has now deployed what are essentially small tag clouds with business listings, since I’ve heard some Google Engineers mildly disparage tag clouds as being potentially un-userfriendly and potentially bad on sites in some cases!)

But, the really UNCOOL part of the new Descriptive Terms is that Google appears to’ve launched these willy-nilly without properly safeguarding against sensitive/bad terms that they can end up highlighting.

With very minor testing, I can see numerous instances where the terms selected by the algorithm are inappropriate and unfairly damaging to the businesses. Read the rest of this entry »