Experts Blog

What’s New in Local Search for January 2013

By Mary Bowling on Jan 08, 2013 - 02:34 PM

Here is the January 2013 installment of 'What's New in Local Search'. It's been another busy month so I won't waste your time and am just going to dive right in.

  • Comscore tells us that the 2 smartphone manufacturers set to dominate the market are Samsung (running Android) , with 26% of mobile subscribers, and Apple (with its own iOS6 operating system with 18%. So far, the Windows phones are a bust in the US, which is really bad news for MSN and Bing as more and more searches move on to mobile devices.

  • TomTom replaces Google Local Search results with its own TomTom Places Not only is TomTom a data provider to Apple Maps, it also offers a navigation app for iPhones and iPads and another for Android devices. TomTom is also used by tens of millions of Personal Navigation (PND) users on an ongoing basis.
  • Google announces that the Maps API for developers is improved. Anyone keeping an eye on local-mobile search already realizes the significance of apps in that space. Obviously Google is also paying close attention to getting its data out there.
  • People begin spotting content from Frommers travel guides prominently featured, but not labeled as such, on Google+ pages
  • Google gives us newish instructions on how to handle a business that moves locations. This can help to prevent viewers from seeing This place has closed on their listings, which is a pretty big deal for small businesses. Im also hoping it will help with reviews and rankings moving with the new address, as well.
  • Wii U will soon have Google Maps with Street View. While youre initial reaction may be why?, just think about the advertising opportunities it presents for Google and some local businesses. Late night food, delivery, anyone?
  • It may be time to start paying some attention to Nokia Maps, as it expands its relationships with Bing Maps, Yahoo and Amazon. Im making sure all my clients have correct listings at Nokia Maps, just in case.
  • We get an official word from Google on using on review stations and kiosks within businesses. "We also discourage review stations or kiosks set up at your business location that are solely for soliciting reviews." Apparently this will soon become an official guideline (aka RULE). Of course, the use of the word "solely" certainly invites interpretation.
  • Google releases Google+ Communities, which can be an awesome tool for local businesses. In fact, it may become the best way for them to be social where it really matters, with their own audience. But it is frustrating for those awaiting long overdue fixes to Google+Local to see new features before those fixes are made, particularly the multi-location solution that lacking for brands.
  • Loyalty programs and Facebook marketing are seen as good investments by many small businesses. Learn more about whats happening in local marketing from the most recent BIA/Kelsey Group survey here.
  • Google provides us with Data Highlighter, a handy tool to mark up events as rich snippets via Webmaster Tools. Its supposed to recognize and learn from patterns on your website as you use it. So after a while you dont have to tell it which content is about events any more, it will be able to find and recognize it on its own. Right now it only works for events, but Google promises additions soon. While this will help with gaining rich snippets in the Google SERPs, it wont do you any good in Bing. Brilliant, eh?
  • David Mihm and his tools become part of SEOmoz. This gives him the development resources he needs to greatly improve his products and gives SEOmoz the smartest guy in Local Search!
  • At the same time GetListed Local University (which I have been a part of since its inception in early 2010) was spun off as a separate entity, LocalU. Its all the same people, doing all the same things and well be continuing our educational seminars for small businesses and agencies with the help of sponsorship from Google and SEOmoz, in addition to local sponsors, such as SCORE and Chambers of Commerce.
  • Google flexes its muscles and many SEO tools and toolsets are forced to choose between scraping Google data and using the AdWords API. For some the choice was easy and others feel they just need to get some workarounds in place to continuing doing business as usual.
  • Google plans to expand Google Now from mobile devices to desktops to bring its Siri-like, voice-enabled search assistance to all.
  • My favorite thing to whine about, the practice/practitioner mess in Google+Local is not improving and Google still does not provide us with clear guidance on how to make it work properly. The guidelines tell us to create practitioner listings, and Google very often creates those listings itself, but the algorithm merges them with the business listing more often than not. Meanwhile, you cannot merge them in Mapmaker, so the two platforms - Maps and Places continually war with each other. Businesses and agencies are put in the position of constantly dealing with extremely frustrating Google-caused listing guideline violations and duplicate listings which keep reappearing again and again.
  • A new, greatly-improved version of the Google Maps app becomes available for iPhone users and developers can again use Maps in their iPhone apps. The app gets downloaded over 10 million times in the 2 days following its release and becomes the top free app in the Apple App Store.


Google Patent expert, Bill Slawski, explains the newest patent aimed at combating spam in Maps. His patent articles have always helped me to think more like Google and theyll help you better understand the hows and whys of some of the algorthims, too. Facebook Nearby expands beyond where seeing where your friends have checked in on mobile devices by adding search capabilities. Apparently, most of the ranking algorithm for these results is based on social interactions, such as ratings, check-ins, likes, etc . within your own Facebook network, but expands to include those outside of your network, when needed. Your enterprise needs to have business pages on Facebook to be included in the results. If you have a service area business with a hidden address in your Places listing, Google has told you NOT to merge it with the business social or Plus page. If you did it anyway, Google now says to delete the Plus page. Read the specific instructions from Googler Abbie D for managing your service area listing here. AdWords Bid-Per-Call is going away! This is great news for small businesses that can now get back to simple call-tracking for their AdWords ads for just $1 per call plus the regular cost per click. When your marketing success is all about the call, as it is for many service and professional businesses, this is extremely helpful and cost effective. Im already wondering if this will be available via AdWords Express. And Im hoping at some point Google allows us track calls at the keyword level, too! If you havent checked out the Google and Your Business blog lately, give it peak to see what Google is telling small businesses about free Google websites, business photos, events, AdWords Express and more here. In case you havent noticed, Google is marketing directly to SMBs and cutting out the middleman You!