Friday, November 30, 2007

Following Google Local

The Google Maps API team has opened up their files. Depending on where you are looking on Google Maps you will have different functionality and information. For example, in India, you'll get geographic titles and business listings on the map, but there are no driving directions.

See the Google speadsheet for more information. According to the spreadsheet, there are 18 counties that support business listings. Thanks to Pamela Fox, now we know where our the Google coattails can drive local business...

identifies the major geographies and major types of information including geographic titles,

Saturday, November 03, 2007

OpenSocial - Has Two Uses

Googles launched OpenSocial this week. OpenSocial is a content sharing standard that allows two primary capabilities:

3rd Party Embedded Content
Popular websites like LinkedIn and MySpace were previously limited to what their technology teams could create. With OpenSocial, these site no longer have to develop all the information tools on their site. By embracing the standard, popular websites can allow for any web information tools to be added to their site; some examples have already been created such as calendar sharing, event organization and music listening.

Content Syndication Standard
The corollary to 3rd party content integration is that OpenSocial allows for websites to re-published their content and information tools. OpenSocial boasts 250MM users through its current partners, while that is a great jumpstart, the effect of a content sharing standard is far reaching and has substantial long-term implications. By embracing the syndication standard, however, you have in effect limited the possible growth of your own website (see the end of new social neworks).

Easy Use and Implementation
Behind the scenes the coding for either use is simple. It is basic HTML and Javascript encapsulated in an XML file, so all the cool AJAX and web features are available. Unfortunately, compiled code libraries such as .Net won't work out of the box. See sample OpenSocial code.

While OpenSocial will commoditize the social networks, we still embrace how Google gives away the number one position.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Trump Advertises for Competitor - "Your Fired"

In search marketing, you usually don't want competition. However Madza was more than happy to take the opportunity to show everyone the advantages of the MX-5 Miata over the Solstice; especially when Donald Trump is behind it!

Pontiac created a large marketing stunt sponsoring The Apprentice show. The car was the center of attention in the show and to find out more Trump asked guided viewers to simply perform a Yahoo! search for "apprentice car".

Incidentally our partner manages the marketing campaigns for Madza USA. They we're able to immediately added that keyword to the search campaign and wa-lah, nstant traffic! Thanks Donald!

Result: On the top of Google and Yahoo! for "apprentice car" was Mazda's ad showing the advantages of their car versus the Pontiac. After having spent millions to sponsor the Apprentice, failed to spend enough to lock in the top position for "apprentice car" allowing Mazda to get all the traffic.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Googling Over Yelp

This piece is a continuation of the Search for Google returns Yahoo story six weeks ago.

I've been asked if Google has corrected the potentially embarrassing error in their local search results. Well, the Yahoo company address doesn't show up, however a couple of other, seemingly random listings do instead (Eastridge Mall, and Fresca).

Googles phone number returns a different business.

These new results are businesses that we're reviewed by Yelpers who also reviewed Google Inc. Confusing? Let me clarify:
  • Google Inc is a registered business on Yelp with several reviews from other Yelpers,
  • Yelpers review other businesses, providing lots of great content (Google Maps loves it too),
  • All reviews are on one page; along with each respective business identification (name, address and phone)
  • Entire web page is associated to a single business entity in the Google Maps database,
  • Even though the phone number (650) 318-0200 is owned by Google Inc., it is actually not associated with any registered business in Google Maps or any other info databases! (yes, irony).
  • A different company is now fingered as being a relevant result for this query.
Upon deeper investigation, an interested local-SEO points was identified:
Single Business to Web Page Association. This is an common assumption to local search engines; associate a webpage (or domain) to a single business location; however Yelp proves the point here. There are several business listings shown on the Yelper review page; however it all only helps a single business listing. Even when another business with accurate information is found, that webpage is NOT being associated to it. That means all the content on this whole site is only benefiting one company. Even more interesting is that this applied to businesses listed above and below the business. (which is the case for the Google phone number too).

Point 3 is the most crucial for local SEO. Implication here is that a Yelper profile can only help to optimize a single business on Google Maps. This means that a business won't really get a benefit from a big-time reviewer. Unless your luck like Fresca, being SEO'd with every listing here; you're better off getting more reviews from smaller people than one review . The bottom line is that Yelp is more a benefit to users than it is to businesses (which I think Yelp would agree), but interesting to see how Google effectively decided that too.

Anyway, I wonder how long it will be until Google fixes their own business listing. Maybe we should offer Google Inc. the RelevantYellow placement verification service to cure the issue!

About the Author
David Rodecker is President of RelevantAds, a service that gets local businesses online through local search.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Search for Google returns Yahoo!

I consistently preach that it is crucial for businesses to ensure that their identity is protected and highlighted online. When users search for business products, services and contact information, they better be able to find you instead of your competitor.

I came across an ironic competitor search result today when using Google Maps. A search for Googles business location actually returned Yahoos!

You'll notice that I queried using their phone number (650) 318-0200 (number source explained below). This is a technical contact number, not the companies primary number, as a result they don't have it associated with their primary business location information. Nevertheless, it certainly isn't Yahoo, their major competitor!

This is a case of an contextual misidentification. The web page at has address information of the Yahoo office, but also shows the Google contact phone number. The query for the phone number is contextually found in the web page which is associated with Yahoos business location.

Local search has many levels of algorithms, contextual relevancy on top of structured data
and unstructured information. Most of the unstructured data comes from web sites and webpages. Some webpages are included in local search when they can be associated with a business name, phone number, address. All the content on the page is then indexed for search, but with a lower relevancy confidence as compared to a structured data match.

Google can easily solve this problem by associating this secondary phone number with Googles' business listing.

By the way, in case you're wondering where I got this internal phone number for Google, it is listed on Yelp.

About the Author
David Rodecker is President of RelevantAds, a service that gets local businesses online through local search.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Why Local Search Can't Be Standardized

Search engines operate differently, it's what makes them distinctive. They provide different information, organize data in unique ways, and rank results differently. Local search is no different, however local data is much hard to come by. The majority of US business are not represented accurately online. The problem is lack of verified business data.

Most of the popular local search destinations and search engines allow business owner to freely submit their information; however very few businesses take up on the offer. Either because off lack of knowledge, but also because there are many destinations such as Google, SuperPages, Yahoo, etc. Submitting to one has limited benefit in the overall marketplace. It has prompted some to call for standardizing local search data.

Technology standards are a great. RFC 822, for example, provides for the standard in transmission of email. A business information standard might allow for a business owner to submit and see their accurate information and special deals spread across the internet. And although users and businesses owners would love to see it, it’s not likely to ever happen. Unlike email, this proposal won’t get the support of service providers and users alike; largely because it doesn't make business sense. Destinations thrive on their differentiation as I wrote local business is different everywhere. Beyond the lack of a business case, there are substantial technical issues:

Data fields. Where do we start? I'm working of the premise that businesses want more than a name and address; after all that information already exists in domain records (whois) and hCard is already a standard. RelevantYellow supports over 3 dozen structured data fields to uniquely define a business; while most business won’t require that many we should they should at least specify Category and coverage area.

Category. Practically every provider has a different business category ontology. The U.S. Government has defined and re-defined business category several times; making it difficult for data providers to latch on to, especially since new types of businesses are evolving each year.

Coverage Area. A business may be located in Fountain Valley, CA, however its customer base may be limited to a few city blocks, the county, metropolitan, state, nationwide, or worldwide. This information is currently not well defined, used or verified. However, this is the primary how search engines charge for advertising. Ideally, however, consumers should be presented with businesses that truly service their area, not the highest paying advertiser.

Type of exchange

Email standards were popularized not because of centralizing message formats, but because it allows for the transmission and syndication of content. Can business information be that clearly distributed and trusted? Most internet directories are relevant to a specific region or category. An open standard would open the door for spam where we could see a Miami florists ending up in a California lawyer directory.


Content sharing is popular with the person producing content and users; but just as news agencies and video websites act in silos, we are not likely to see local destinations supporting a content syndication standard.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Pasternack: SEO is brain surgery

  This is in response to Dave Pasternacks assertion that "SEO is not rocket science". Dave has created quite the stir in the SEO community which I don't find as well deserved. See my article "What's wrong with Dave Pasternack".

  I don't think that Dave Pasternack is really saying that much. As Matt Cutts points out, anything is rocket science until its understood. Since the Google search engine isn't open source, it is not fully understood by outsiders and thereby rocket science. However our society mastered rockets 50 years ago; my college calculus teacher has some great stories of what and how they learned. Even nowadays, even my 10 year old nephew can build and launch a model rocket. Rocket science isn't the right word any longer.

  Most web publishers merely submit our content online and just witness what happens in the search results. Blackhats will go the extra mile in an attempt to reprogram the search engine and get it to do something it wouldn't normally do.

So for the Blackhat, SEO is Brain Surgery
  • Programmers = DNA or the brain builders
  • Manipulating that brain to do something it wouldn't normally do requires brain surgery.
Blackhats could probably never qualify as certified brain surgeons. Not to mention that their patient (Google, et al.) is not inviting the operation. So perhaps the scenario is more like being tied down with your skull cracked open by a voodoo witch doctor.

  By the same reasoning, Gray-hats are at least guilty of brainwashing.

Last Note: Pasternack may be a Gray/Black Hat?
  As we pointed in our Dave Pasternack contest page, there are 4 distinct pages on the net that Did-It has published about Dave Pasternack. Why in the world is this? He probably does not understand or posses the capability to safely redirect without loosing Page Rank. Furthermore, his company website has duplicate versions on two domains: and

Three types of SEO, Three SEO Persons

I've been asked a lot about SEO. There is quite a diversity in what this term and practice means. SEO is often considered the art and science of publishing your website, but in fact it has broader extensions. Also, the practice of SEO can be good, bad and outright nasty.

Three types of SEO:
I) Website Principles. This is often this is performed by a web designed. The purpose is to get your web pages constructed in a way that search crawlers can digest. Google has published basic guidelines on this.

II) Information Organization. A good website will contain a lot of valuable information organized in a natural way. The point is to create a simple pathway to expose your sites information. Many, if not most, websites fail here by either being too flat, with 1,000's of choices on one page, or too deep requiring several clicks to get where you want to be.

III) Data Publishing. Going beneath your webpages, most websites have a database. The powerful search engines really want that data and your webpages are mearly the way that you've exposed that information. There are many ways in which the search giants are taking data these days. Learn more at Programming Search Engines. themselves, there are more There are more ways to give information to search engines than you might realize.

The bulk of SEO practice I, basic principles and then they over-publish that with link-exchanges and the like.

Three SEO Players:
I) Web Designer. This is your traditional web designer who knows how to construct your webpages, create site maps and the overall principles to getting a website included by the search engines.

II) Publishers and Social Fiends. These persons find means of creating buzz towards your website. They know that the more inbound links, the better. They probably have several blogs and affiliations by which they will refer links to your site.

III) Information Architect. This is an individual which can look at the data your site has and find multiple ways of parsing it. They will construct an organized tree like structure to navigate your site. They recognize that search engines also apply data structuring techniques and may find ways of publishing raw data through means other than HTML web pages (as is often talked about in this blog).

Three Psychologies of SEO:
I) White Hat. This is a true, and ethical approach. White Hat's won't over-publish or misrepresent their websites or information.

II) Black Hat. A Black technique is one which is not likely to be invited by the search engines. There are many ways to go about this, but they are all considered wrong in the eyes of the search engine and likely the general user audience. In its worst form, this is considered webspam (as coined by Matt Cutts who heads up the webspam team at Google).

III) Gray Hat. Somewhere between the lines. It might be invited in the eyes of the search user, however it is a question, competitive technique. Since there are few official rules of engagement, many black-hats would consider their strategies to be gray.

It is known that Google will ban sites practicing some black-hat techniques. It is also believed that being associated with these sites could reduce your sites value

Friday, January 26, 2007

Adword Blocks Migration To Yahoo

The feature which allowed Adwords campaigns to quickly be converted into Yahoo campaigns has been removed. Bulksheet download allows clients to retrieve detailed settings on the configuration of ads, keywords and campaign configurations. Advertising agencies had grown accustomed to using the Bulksheet files and will have to change. Yahoo, themselves, openly support and instructed clients to import Adwords files.

Search Agencies and Advertisers relied on the feature to synchronize their search campaigns. Steve Wiideman, a search marketing expert in OC, told me that he's used the feature to manage campaigns for his clients for some time. “I was surprised that Google even allowed this loophole,” In fact, Steve was trained by Yahoo to use the Google export.

Oversight Until Now?
Steve and others are convinced that Google conscientiously removed the feature to stifle their competition. “I used to convert my 30,000 Google AdWords ads into Yahoo ads. But not anymore!”
But was it intentional? An why was it only changed now if the practice has existed for some time. Google hasn’t publicly announced the minor change and I’ve asked them for clarification on the basis of the change.

Google Upsetting Their Users
I would be moderately surprised if the change was directed at Yahoo since it affects users. Besides the Yahoo ad integration; the export is also used by 3rd party analysis tools and custom reporting. While the change might be a good business decision for AdWords, it does go against the Google’s stature of ethics. The export was simply allowing access to your own data. As Steve pointed out, “It's a move that will likely affect the larger advertisers, making it difficult to synchronize settings across the two search engines”.

In the past, Google has been extremely open with it’s users and clients.
The search engine opened the doors last year by giving away #1 Google search result for free to the social community of Google users. The integration of Google Base with AdWords has allowed RelevantYellow to extend even more local business data more content to AdWords and search.

Mission Control
Google mission is to collect and organize the Worlds information. Their algorithm specializes in delivering the right, relevant information.
Is this an early sign that Google will take ownership of your data?