Infogroup’s New Directory Poses SEO Challenge To IYPs

November 9th, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

Infogroup - data aggregator for local business listingsInfogroup‘s Monday announcement of enhancements for their Express Update service mainly focused upon how they could help businesses claim their listings, optimize through an expanded set of data points, and submit their information to the Infogroup database. But, the press release also contained an unhappy surprise for Internet Yellow Pages companies: declaration that Infogroup is also launching an online directory in tandem with the improved Express Update service.

Here’s the key part:

“Express Update will also create public online profile pages for every business in the Infogroup Business Database. This new feature essentially gives all businesses — whether they have a website or not – a visible online presence.”

For IYP companies, this cannot be a good thing. Quite a number of Yellow Pages sites receive business listings data from Infogroup, as well as many other types of online directories such as reviews sites, local social media services, mobile directory apps, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

Google’s Jack-O’-Lantern Logo Celebrating Halloween

October 31st, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

Google’s Jack-O’-Lantern logo celebrating Halloween this year is particularly cool:

Google's Jack-O-Lantern Logo for Halloween

It combines two-dimensional logo design, sculpting, and performance art, since it is a video showing the Google team sketching their designs on the jumbo-sized pumpkins, carving them, hanging out with each other, and then the jackolanterns are lit as dusk is falling, until you ultimately see only the carved letters glowing with flickering candlelight in the dark of night.

Not only is the logo fun, but it perfectly encapsulates the experiential nature of the traditional pumpkin-carving experience, and a bit of the feel of Halloween festivals here in America. The extra-large pumpkins are set on bales of hay in the central courtyard of what appers to be the Googleplex (Google’s headquarters cluster of buildings) in Mountain View, California.

I like that they designed this variation of their logo while still including the basic nature of the letters, so it’s still readable as the word while also capturing the spirit of Halloween.

Will Google Use Spelling & Grammar As Ranking Factors?

October 5th, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

Google’s Webmaster Help video by @MattCutts about spelling and grammar is quite interesting:

In it, Matt answers the question of whether spelling/grammer matter to them when they evaluate a site’s quality for ranking purposes.

I wrote about this exact thing in “Google Penalty For Low-Quality Writing?” over a year ago, and some commenters thought the concept of Google analyzing text to detect bad grammar and misspelling was too farfetched to believe possible. However, I’ve read some of the books on corpus linguistics, and it has seemed to me that it’s well within the realm of possibility.

Fast-forward to now, and Matt has essentially stated that some within Google have done some work on Read the rest of this entry »

Whole Foods’ Sponsored Corn Field Maze

September 30th, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

I’ve written a few times about corn field mazes which can be seen using Google Maps – enter the newest “skyvertisement” promoting Whole Foods at P Bar Farms:

Whole Foods corn field maze ad

The Whole Foods corn field maze advertisement

It’s not the first time “crop art” or corn field maze designs have been used to promote a company. Read the rest of this entry »

Google Maps: New Changes, New Errors

September 30th, 2011 by Chris Silver Smith

Matt McGee’s news piece on SEL caught my eye this morning, reporting that Google Maps now sports a new look and feel. The change was apparently announced late yesterday on the Google LatLong blog (I have to agree with Matt’s aside, their blog redesign is not an improvement).

The change comes after a few weeks of observed changes to Google Place Search and rumors and speculation about “big changes coming to Google Maps” followed by increasing buzz around place editing bugs and map interface errors.

Could this be what all the hubbub was about?!? At first glance, most of the changes seem relatively superficial.

This likely does explain some of the errors I encountered yesterday when attempting to do some searches and driving directions requests – that was likely during their code propagation. However, it still seems to me that there could be other changes on the horizon for when Google Plus for businesses rolls out.

Unfortunately, I can immediately see errors in the code that was just rolled out. For instance, the tooltips which appear when moused-over contain encoding errors, rendering various special characters like ampersands and apostrophes into gobbledygook:

Google Maps tooltip title display error

Read the rest of this entry »

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.