Natural Search Blog


Google Maps Introduces User Review Snippets in Listings

The Google Lat Long Blog announced today that they’ve introduced little snippets of a user review with each business listing for which they have reviews data:

User Review Snippets in Google Maps
(click to enlarge)

To me, this seems like a bit of an experimental feature, since I tend to want to see a sampling of multiple reviews to try to get a balanced picture of what to expect from a business. Of course, one can click through and view multiple reviews, but why would I only want to see one sample — is there something being done to try to select the most-typical review for the business, or are they only selecting random ones? (more…)

Opt Out of Google Street View?

The guys over at Google Sightseeing noticed that the Google Streetview camera in Fairbanks, Alaska apparently got covered over with plastic bags, obscuring some of the images that were shot.

Google Street View Obscured by Plastic Bag

This led to speculation that some enterprising residents had perhaps purposefully obscured the cameras out of privacy concerns – though, that seems moderately unlikely to me since I doubt most people know what the car even is when it’s tooling around, shooting photos of places. (more…)

Where’s Waldo in Google Earth

In a very clever bit of marketing, Canadian artist Melanie Coles has created a large rooftop image of the iconic character found in the popular Where’s Waldo? book series.

Where's Waldo in Google Maps?
(click to enlarge)

The image is located somewhere in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was created with the specific intention of being findable via Google Earth (warning, I have the location pinpointed in a link and geocoordinates at the end of this post). It will be a while before Waldo can be found in Google Earth (or in Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or MS Live Search Maps, for that matter), because there is a time lag in between when satellite images and aerial photos get updated in those services — so, it could be six months to a year before the image is really findable and viewable online.

The image was created as a demonstration of a viral game for Coles’ graduation art project at the Emily Carr Institute. Her blog statement on the project says: (more…)

Independent Contractors Excluded from Google Maps

My article on How To Get On Google Maps Without An Address pubbed today on Search Engine Land – it outlines one of the top most frustrating issues facing some small businessmen who need to have listings in directories without including their street addresses. Google Maps, by policy, does not display listings for those who do not have street addresses, so smaller providers who might actually provide the best quality service work are left out in the cold when users perform local searches. Independent contractors (like plumbers, electricians, building contractors, etc) are the most affected by this issue, but some other businesses are also impacted.

My perception is that this lack of what is something of a standard among traditional yellow pages directories is due to Google’s desire to provide best user-experience. In a map search display, does it make sense to display items which can’t be pinpointed to the map?

My opinion is that it does make sense to do so, (more…)

Google Sending More Traffic To Google Maps

The New York Times today reported on a recent Hitwise post by Heather Hopkins highlighting that Google was now sending about three times as many of their users over to Google Maps comparing a week ending January 6th with a year ago.

This is apparently due in part to Google recommending Google Maps instead of recommending other mapping providers in addition as it had been doing early last year. (more…)

Google Testing New Local OneBox Layout & Addresses in PPC Ads

Greg Sterling this morning mentioned that Google is apparently experimenting with allowing full street addresses to appear below the URLs in PPC ads.

Even more interesting, this thread at Webmasterworld now reports seeing a new layout of local listings within Google SERPs — their screengrab shows the Google Maps onebox results on the right side of the page, apparently above the Sponsored Links ads.

Is this just usual UI/Usability testing, or could this segue into more unrest for the local SERPs?

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Google Maps to Embed in New Magellan GPS

Barely one day in advance of the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show opening in Las Vegas this week, Magellan issued a press release about their next generation of GPS navigation devices, highlighting how they will come integrated with Google Maps to provide local search capabilities.

Magellan 4050

John Hanke, Director of Google Maps & Earth is quoted, saying, “We’re pleased to be partnering with Magellan to provide users with detailed, relevant local information while on the road. Magellan devices are powerful, interactive tools for navigation and discovery that serve as a cutting-edge platform for Google’s robust local search capabilities.” (more…)

New Terrain Feature on Google Maps

The Google Operating System blog alerted us to how Google Maps quietly added a new “Terrain” button and removed the “Hybrid” button which combined Satellite and Map content. The official Google Lat Long blog reports that the “hybrid” feature can be accessed by clicking the Satellite button and the clicking on/off the “Show labels” box that appears in a dynamic drop-down.

The Terrain content can look pretty dynamic for mountain areas and other places with dramatic elevation contrasts like this area for the Grand Canyon:

Grand Canyon Terrain
(click to enlarge)

I’m not sure just how valuable this is for the majority of users — (more…)

Google Maps Now Sports Special Logo Treatment

I noticed that Google Maps started using a special logo treatment this morning:

Special Google Maps Logo Treatment

The logo is apparently promoting Geography Awareness Week 2007.

Google has done various logos promoting holidays and other special events on the main Google logo for quite a number of years, but I believe this is one of the first ever done on one of their vertical search properties. Unfortunately, the logo doesn’t link to the special event page, and it looks a lot like a roasted turkey — the smallness of it makes it hard to read visually, so I’m betting a lot of Google Maps users won’t have a clue as to what this is signifying.

Update: the Google Lat Long blog mentions their support of Geography Awareness Week.

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WikipediaVision Mashes Up With Google Maps and Wikipedia

An addictive little mashup called WikipediaVision has combined Google Maps with live data on updates from the English Wikipedia to display the geolocation of people editing articles in near real-time. The map rapidly pans back and forth across the world, pinpointing the locations of users who have just edited an article, and displaying the name of the article and its hyperlink.

WikipediaVision
(click to enlarge)

It’s interesting and hypnotic to sit and watch where in the world (more…)


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