Natural Search Blog


Check Out New Google Maps Labs Features

Many Google Maps users may have missed the recently added button, allowing users to opt-in to try out some of the Google Maps Labs beta features. The Labs options can be accessed via the new little icon button found in the upper right of the user-interface, if you’re logged-in to your Google account:

Google Maps Labs Icon Button

The new features might also reveal some secrets of Google Maps ranking factors. It’s definitely a space that’s well worth watching for local search marketing experts.

Guerilla Marketing & Google Maps

My article on “Six Odd Tactics For Getting Ads Into Google Maps” posted today on Search Engine Land, and I believe many of my regular readers should find it moderately entertaining. The piece covers how some elements of guerrilla marketing have found their way into some Google Maps advertising patents, and also how some others have used creative means to get messages into Maps via “roofvertising”, “skywriting” and more.

Google in Digital Graffiti

Those familiar with Natural Search Blog may remember some of my similar past work here outlining laser graffiti ads on buildings, roofvertising, marriage proposals in Google Maps, “earth art” geoglyph ads, and sponsoring town names as an Ultimate Local SEO tactic.

It’s not surprising to see guerilla marketing tactics finding their way into Google Maps. Not only does Google itself seek to introduce disruptive technology innovations, but I expect that as Satellite and Aerial photos may get more frequently updated in such interfaces we’ll be bound to see a whole lot more efforts from people trying to get messages conveyed through the Maps interfaces.

The real question I’m left with, is if Google resells ad space on pictures of people’s rooftops and billboards, would they owe anything back to the original property owners?!?

Google Maps Should Consider A Canonical Phone Number Tag

Google Maps, local search engines, internet yellow pages and other online business directories often receive biz listing info from a great many sources and must merge it together (see my description of this in Eric Enge’s interview with me). When this happens, loads of variations in the business’s name, address and even phone number can cause listing data to fail to be merged. All this makes me think we might need a “Canonical Tag” for phone numbers! Read on, and I’ll elaborate… (more…)

Quova Awarded Patent for Improved Geotargeting

Quova Logo - Location MattersQuova recently announced that they were awarded a patent for various methods which improve geotargeting accuracy and capability. My understanding is that Quova has been using these methods for quite some time already, prior to receiving the patent.

Here’s Quova’s description of the innovations:

“Quova’s newly added patent describes a method for determining the geographic location of an Internet user based upon combining trace routes, user registration information, host names with textual patterns that reveal geolocation information and Internet Service Provider (ISP) service area information. These trace routes describe the pathways by which data moves through the Internet. Each node or ‘hop’ in the trace route is identified by an IP address. These interconnected nodes can be used to recreate the topology of the Internet. Each geolocation can then be assigned to these IP addresses in order to determine the location of each node, up to and including the end user’s IP address and the geolocation of that end user.”

I previously have written about Quova in my extensive article, (more…)

Ucrime.com Google Maps Mashup Provides Campus Crime Info

Ucrime.comUniversities and colleges all over were interested in reporting on the launch of Ucrime.com recently, a Google Maps mashup (from the same folks who created Spotcrime.com). It maps out campus crime incidents for slightly over 200 universities.

Texas A&M University Crimes Map - Ucrime.com
Crimes at Texas A&M U (click to enlarge)

One of the very earliest Google Maps mashup applications was another site which also pinpointed crime data with its real-world locations: ChicagoCrime.org, created by Adrian Holovaty. Graphically displaying crime info and statistic info onto map locations is one of the more compelling applications for online maps, IMHO. (more…)

Town Creates Smiley Face in Google Maps

Saw this interesting thing on Slashdot today:

Hoax Smiley in Google Maps
(click to enlarge)

Apparently this Russian town got a crowd of people to don yellow slickers and stand in a large smiley face pattern so that Google Earth and Google Maps could capture them in their next update.

Trick is, the Google Map screen-grab appears to be a very obvious hoax by a blogger dubbed “Heiner Wolf“. According to these photos, people really did turn out to form the smiley face — I would guess as part of a radio station promotion. But this blogger transposed the people onto the Google Maps image of the area. Lame!

There are plenty of instances of messages appearing in Google Maps pics, if you want to see real ones: examples of roof ads, cool things in Google Maps, marriage proposals, and the infamous Swastika Building.

Google Street View Icon In Party Clothes

The Google Street View dude icon is suddenly sporting a party hat and balloons:

Google Street View Guy

Assumably the special icon is celebrating Google’s 10th Birthday, though there’s no mention of it on the Google Lat Long Blog.

Google Adds Data to Georgia Maps?

Google announced additional map data for Georgia today on the Lat Long Blog, along with a few other countries.

This announcement comes on the heels of explanations a few weeks ago about why Google Maps was missing data for the Georgian Republic. A number of sources on the internet had claimed that Google had yanked map data for Georgia in order to not be facilitating the war that sparked in the region with Russia. Google stated that this was untrue — that the region had never had detailed roads displayed because they didn’t have a good source of information for the area yet. (I was one of the people duped by the spurious claims — surprising, since it’s patently apparent that the Russian military would ALREADY have good maps of their region!)

Map of T'bilisi, Georgia - illustration for Google Maps article
(click to enlarge)

However, even though it’s great that Google is beefing up their map data, I have to say that publicising it and releasing it as they have done seems terribly precipitate. If you look at the screengrab above, you’ll see that the map data they added is just city name labels — no streets or roads connecting them up — and not even dots or outlines to show where the cities are actually located! (more…)

Text In Street View Could Be Used For Quality Improvement

Philipp Lenssen at Google Blogoscoped observes that Google could potentially use OCR (optical character recognition) to attempt to derive text from signage and such within Google Street View images in order to create further enhancements.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Street View
, Los Angeles.

However, I see a much more immediately valuable use that could be put to text scanned from the images — quality improvement of address pinpointing functionality. (more…)

Marriage Proposals Via Google Maps

What is it with Google Maps that seems to inspire people to propose marriage?

Proposal 2.0 - Marry Me Leslie
(Click to enlarge – Marry Me Leslie)

Googler Michael Weiss-Malik, a member of the Google Geo Team, planned ahead and stood at the side of the road when the Google Street View pictures were being updated in a drive-by photo shoot. (Read Michael’s explanation of what he did and why.) Google has been aggressively expanding Street View images this summer.

Michael isn’t the first to have a marriage proposal appear in Google Maps. Here’s a few more we’ve collected in the past: (more…)

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