Category Archives: Mapping

Google Integrates Zagat into rollout of Google+ Local

Zagat is Google’s great equalizer against Yelp. Google has now demonstrated why it paid $151 Million for Zagat last September by including Zagat, which formerly cost $4.95 a month (or $24.95 per year), as part of its new rollout of Google+ Local. The newly branded service replaces Google Places.

As a result of the integration, which will also feed into Google search results and maps, Google+ users will now be able to see reviews from their friends (and “acquaintances”) when they are looking up local information

While Zagat is known mostly for its 30 point restaurant reviews – more nuanced (and time consuming) than Yelp’s five star system — it now uses the same 30 point platform for 13 categories. More than 100 cities are currently served by Zagat. Outside of the restaurant space, Zagat had previously licensed its system to companies such as Anthem Blue Cross for medical reviews.

At ILM West last December, Head of Local Consumer Marketing Jeff Aguero said “the local experience is mostly disconnected. It is not consistent across user experience,” whether people are engaged in researching, finding, experiencing, reviewing, or sharing. Google’s goals are ultimately to “get more local searches, more customers, more reviews, better content, higher engagement, and more businesses online.”

Geo-Fencing Update: A Discussion with Maponics CEO Darrin Clement

A few years ago, the location of businesses became a big question mark, as well as a strategic issue, as people wanted to shop or dine nearby. These “geo-fencing” issues were especially important for Yellow Pages companies.

Since then, search has become more the norm, along with GPS-based phones, which have location baked into them. What hasn’t changed is that you still need the geo-fencing data tied with other meta data for local discovery. You still need to know what subway line is near, where the nearest parking garages are, or what your choices are for dining when you are visiting your friend in Chelsea.

Companies such as Maponics, Urban Mapping, Zillow and others are still licensing or providing their geo-fencing results. And now, the customer base is more universal among companies in the local space, along with key verticals related to schools, real estate and other verticals. Other companies, such as Yahoo, have used such data to introduce Proximity Search.

The result can be a seamless paradigm that integrates local mapping information with coupons, deals and other merchant information. But not everyone gets it.

“Some publishers still don’t get how to have cross platforms,” suggests Maponics CEO Darrin Clement. “They’re still looking for leads in the social world; still bolting on coupons to their results. They’re too intent on protecting the existing paradigm.”

Clement says mobile users, especially, need seamless roaming of information. He notes that some local services will just use the Zillow API. And it works well for startups. But Zillow only has 7,000 neighborhoods,” he notes. “We have 160,000. Zillow has 100 cities. We have 2,300 cities.”

DMS ’11: Microsoft, at the Intersection of Cool Maps, Search and Local Commerce

Microsoft isn’t doing anything particularly unusual in search. But the assets it is assembling over the next year or two will pack a mighty punch by leveraging all the fast-moving trends, said Chris Sampson, head of worldwide Bing Local search and Emerging Products, Microsoft Advertising. Sampson was speaking at DMS ’11 in Denver.

“From where I sit, I am at the intersection of cool maps, our growing search share and local commerce,” said Sampson. “It is a great place to be at Microsoft.” What is quickly evolving are the troika of “context, time and location.” Each is enfranchised by the rising use of mobile devices, and “really change[s] the state of advertising,” he said.

Local is especially important, and 20 percent of all searches are now location-based — something that has been pushed up by the improving technology capabilities and open APIs for maps and other features. Windows phones, for instance, allow users to turn location on and off based on what time it is and where they are. Deals are being geoparsed as well.

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Where 2.0: Facebook Places Focuses on ‘Pushing Up the Stack’

Facebook Head of Groups Justin Shaffer told attendees at Where 2.0 that one of Facebook’s goal is to develop the largest database of “interesting” places. The collection of places has “really been the focus” of his division for the past four-to-six months he said. At the same time, the database of places is probably something of a commodity for Facebook, and other services. “The coordinates are approaching a commodity. But (we’re) pushing up the stack with services etc.”

Shaffer, former CEO of Hot Potato, a group software site acquired last year by Facebook, said that a “social network” involves storytelling, memories and serendipity. The latter is “where friends check in and find you.” He added that a social network itself can be broken down into three basic elements: “Open,” “Geo” and “Temporal.”

Open would mean your social network acquaintances; Geo would be a friend’s photo of the Eiffel Tower; and Temporal would show the four people that are “here” right now. The importance of Check-ins is “not really where you are, (it is about) who you are with,” he said.

Content-wise, it all splits into the “Open Graph,” “Data” and “businesses.” Data would include places and events, and businesses would include check-in deals and pages. While it would be ultimately helpful to develop standards, Shaffer warned that “everyone isn’t going to agree on meta data or categories.”

Speaking on a panel with Shaffer at Where, Fwix CEO Darian Shirazi, who has just raised a new $4.2 million round from Comcast Interactive Capital, agreed that the basic information is probably approaching commodity status. The challenge is to build a package that it unbeatable, said Shirazi. A listing of “The Top 10 Bars in San Francisco” would be an example.

Content, and geo-tagging of content, “is where this will realistically go,” added Shirazi. Fwix, a 22 person company that started two years ago as a news aggregator, is now expanding into vertical content areas such as real estate and video transcriptions. If Fwix could use places data to win even one percent of Google search results, it would be “huge,” he said.

Local Splash Focuses on SEO Template for SMBs

SEO companies are a dime a dozen. How do you stand out? How about guaranteeing a front page rank on major search engines to SMBs? That’s what Relevant Ads’ Local Splash has done.

The fast-growing SEO company co-founded in 2006 by former executive David Rodecker has built a template for SEO that it hopes to sell to thousands of SMBs on its own, as well as via third parties. It guarantees a Page 1 ranking on a major search engine within six weeks of a contract, based on an extensive business profile that it develops, triggering placements on local maps, local organic search pages, mobile screens, as well as pay-per-click.

Local Splash also provides a bevy of other services for SMBs, including loan outs of its huge roster of exclusive domain names relevant to local business (i.e. It also provide local video ads, merging business information into short, keyword-driven video presentations. The company also registers a Facebook page for clients, and encourages them to use various MerchantCircle tools (i.e. newsletters and coupons).

A recent visit to the company’s new headquarters in Santa Ana,CA shows a buzzing and large new workplace, with telemarketers crammed tight.

The company’s model is deliberately kept simple. It is $199 for a setup fee, and then $159 a month for a standard package. This gets customers into local map and organic result via direct feeds to Google, Yahoo, MerchantCircle, Bing, Yelp, Facebook and others. Other options include $40 and $100 monthly Adwords packages (or higher custom deals).

CEO Steve Yeich, a veteran of the domain registry business, and before that, a local search leader at Overture (and Yahoo, after the acquisition of Overture), tells us that roughly 25 percent of customers take an Adwords package. Yeich notes that the company has primarily reached out to SMBs via telemarketing, although it has some premise sales.

The company’s real growth, however, is its Agency/Key Account business, which targets national brands and their agencies. These accounts currently make up 25 percent of the company’s revenue, but will soon be about 50 percent. The company also has direct sales relationships with various organizations, including the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers (AAFD), a 50,000 member group.

To us, the company may not be all that differentiated from the efforts of third party resellers such as ReachLocal, WebVisible, Yodle and Orange Soda. But Yeich believes the company has a unique offering, especially with its emphasis on map placement and mobile. Such resellers are ideal partners, he says.

HelloMetro: Neighborhood Relevancy Boosts Usage

Sorting content by neighborhoods and ZIP codes can boost usage considerably, as HelloMetro recently discovered. The 10 year old city guide gets over six million monthly unique visitors, and has 1,500 local sites. In a case study published today, it said it has received a ten percent jump in traffic after it started using a neighborhood and ZIP sorting service from Maponics. Twenty-five percent of that boost, or 2.5 percent overall, was directly related to pages organized around neighborhoods and ZIP codes.

The site says its problem was that it had too much content coming in from its 50 writers and various news feeds. But it didn’t sort enough by neighborhood. Searches for subjects, names and points of interest could only be done on a metro-wide basis.

The Maponics technology for sorting neighborhood data essentially solved that. Now, searches can be conducted by neighborhood and also include such features as city resources, shopping ,theater, communities, schools, jobs, and other categories. Altogether, 90,000 fully optimized neighborhood and zip-specific pages have been developed. There are roughly 45 neighborhoods per metro, it noted.

Wooton at DMS ’10: Microsoft Advertising Provides a ‘Local Operating System’

Microsoft will work more closely with small businesses and interactive agencies, offering itself up as “the local operating system,” according to Microsoft Advertising VP of Global Search and Online Marketplace Randy Wooton, who addressed BIA/Kelsey’s DMS ’10 conference today in Dallas.

Wooton said that Microsoft was one of only two companies that had the wide ranging platform that could meet all of today’s SMB media needs –the other apparently being Google. “We can support consumer experiences across any device supporting queries with geographic intent,” he said, noting that it goes beyond monetization via the Ad Center to also include Microsoft’s local business portal services, mapping platform and even its XBox games platform – the “only truly cool thing that Microsoft owns,” Wooton joked.

Microsoft sees tremendous opportunity in the SMB channel. $8 billion is likely to be spent on websites by 2013, and $15 billion altogether. The company is already well positioned via its “search alliance” partnership with Yahoo, which handles 30 percent of the overall marketplace. It also has strategic partnerships with IYPs such as SuperMedia, and DexOne Media,” noted Wooton.

Research commissioned from Bain & Co., by Microsoft supports his thesis. Twenty five percent of SMBs use partners; 35 percent of their total spend is indirect. Those that use channel partners spend 8X those that don’t.