Natural Search Blog


Will Geolocation Become Ubiquitous?

Chris Messina at Citizen Agency has just blogged about how he believes that geolocation data will become ubiquitous for websites to use, and this sort of contextual information about users will form a new layer of information that will available to all internet applications.

I find myself a bit skeptical, just because geolocation data has been around for so long now, and I’ve heard people saying that it will revolutionize how information is presented to us for quite some time. This concept is nothing new, though if you look at it from the perspective that Messina has provided, it’s a fairly compelling-feeling twist as a sort of infrastructure given that could and should be incorporated in the planning and development of any given internet site — particularly social ones — at their very inception.

What isn’t plain is just how integral all the locative information could be, considering the issues of unknowable error rates involved in geolocation data (see the section on “The issue of error rates” in “Geolocation: Core To The Local Space And Key To Click-Fraud Detection“) and consumer interest group resistance to pinpointing of users’ locations based upon privacy concerns (just today there was an article on how groups are complaining to the FTC about the ease of geo-pinpointing of users of mobile devices). I wish he’d touched on those aspects in some way, although I do like the techno-evangelist spin he’s provided on location as a foundational aspect in site design.

Update: Susan Mernit, formerly of Yahoo!, also points out that security is a major concern for applications like dating sites, and that there’s consumer irritation involved with some contextual advertising.

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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…)

Zvents Launches Federated Local Search

Zvents announced today their launch of a new, blended search results page for local content. Now, when you do searches on their site, they’ll bring back results for various businesses, events, performances, movies, store sales and more in your local area. Here’s a screengrab of the newly-blended results page:

Zvents - New Federated Search
(click to enlarge)

You can see little icons to the right side of the listings which indicate what type of listing each result represents.

Google’s move to Universal Search in the past year and their recent move to expand out the local one-box results from a few listings to ten would indicate that user-testing is showing blended results to be a very popular item among search engine users. Zvents move to provide blended results makes them a very strong contender as a provider for local search and content technology. As Greg Sterling mentions, Zvents is a provider for syndicated content for third parties like newspapers, and they’re clearly positioning themselves as a potential backend for other local content sites wanting to have functionality similar to Google’s.

From trying out Zvents’ new functionality, (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…)

The Kelsey Group Puts Print Yellow Pages On Notice

Walking FingersOver at Media Post, The Kelsey Group is quoted today saying that the erosion in usage of print yellow pages is likely to fall off at a higher rate this year — by 10% this year, compared with only 2% to 3% erosion in recent years.

They state that a combination of factors such as more users going to internet yellow pages and local search engines combined with a recession are propelling the rapid erosion. Concerningly, one can extrapolate that if print YP usage is dropping, advertiser dollars might also follow the herd.

As Greg Sterling points out, The Kelsey Group has historically been a very staunch defender of the print YP industry, so this article is a bit of a gut-punch to people in the legacy print business, even though anyone watching the trends over the last few years won’t find it all that surprising.

One thing the Media Post article doesn’t mention is how (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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ReachLocal Becomes Authorized Google Adwords Reseller

ReachLocal
ReachLocal announced today that they’ve formed a strategic alliance with Google to become an authorized Adwords reseller. Kevin Heisler at SEW reports that this will give them a leg up on competitors in local search who won’t benefit from the same status in the Google ecosystem.

ReachLocal also sells local ads into Yahoo!, MSN, Ask, AOL, and my old company, Superpages.com.

I was privileged to be given a tour of the ReachLocal offices here in Dallas back in September, (more…)

Upcoming Appearances

SMX West Speaker Badge 2008I’ll be speaking on the “Local Search, and Blended Results” and “Online Retail and Blended Results” panels at the SMX West conference in Santa Clara, California, February 26 – 28, 2008.

Quite a few sessions at this conference are focusing on “blended results” — the new paradigm that has been affecting search results pages layouts and listing rankings. Each of the search engines have been looking into folding their various specialized, vertical search contents into the main keyword search results pages in order to better expose that content and facilitate usage of those features.

Google’s introduction of Universal Search during 2007 was probably the most attention-getting paradigm shift in terms of bringing search marketers to realize that they frequently need to achieve good placement in each of the specialized vertical searches like Images, Local/Maps, Video, News, and etc. to help guarantee rankings and ongoing market-share.

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Superpages.com Adds More User-Generated Content to the Local Mix

About a week ago, Idearc announced that Superpages.com had introduced more user-content features.

Superpages adds Web 2.0 Features
(click to enlarge)

Previously, the primary component of user content on the site was limited to user ratings and reviews associated with business listings.

Some of the new features this recent upgrade added include allowing all users to enhance basic biz profile information, uploading pictures of organizations, wiki-like biz listing “blog” features which could allow simplistic blogging by businesses and/or could be used as a consumer comment or Q/A zone for each business since any user could submit info to them.

Of all the top online yellow pages and local search sites, I believe that Superpages may now have the distinction of having the greatest (more…)

Infospace to Merge with Marchex?

MarchexAt least, that’s what this Forbes article theorizes as one possible explanation, quoting a Wall Street analyst:

“Scott Sutherland, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, said the most likely scenario is that the company will take InfoSpace private to save money or merge with the search and media company, Marchex, whose executives are former executives at InfoSpace.”

Just yesterday, I expressed a bit of confusion about why InfoSpace made deals to sell off their mobile services to Motricity, and sell off directory services to Idearc’s Superpages… (more…)


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