Are Website Testimonials For Real? How to Find Independent Reviews You Can Trust

When you are searching for products or services online, often you are reliant on the information contained on the website which naturally tells you how wonderful the company is and how they pride themselves on excellent customer service.

However, as so many websites all claim to offer the same services, how can you tell which is the most trustworthy? [Read more...]

Court Rules Yelp Must Reveal Identities of Anonymous Reviewers

A court has ruled that Yelp must reveal the true identities of people who have left reviews on Yelp. Specifically, Yelp has been ordered to reveal the identities of 7 people who have left (bad) reviews of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning in Alexandria, Virginia. This court ruling sets a precedent for online reviews, and, more specifically, the reviews by anonymous reviewers on Yelp. [Read more...]

Google Bans UPS Store Locations for Google Maps Listings

The UPS Store

I knew this was coming at some point, and perhaps we all knew that Google has been starting to crack down on local businesses who have their Google Maps listing using a UPS Store as their location. Now I have what I would call official notification from Google that this is not just a policy but something they’re starting to enforce: Google has rejected a new local business listing that has their address set up at a UPS Store.

This local company is based in Tucson Arizona, and does business nationwide, but only online. The whole entire business model is based on visibility from their website and the owners of the business work from their home. Customers do not come to their location.

Google Places for Business

This local business owner set up a Google Plus account, verified Google Authorship, and set up the Google Local / Google Maps listing. Going through the steps that Google provides for entering the data into your business listing on Google Maps, the business owner entered his business address, which they’ve been using for years: the local UPS store, with a suite number. After all, it’s their official business address, registered with the State, and they receive all their mail there. No harm, right?

Wrong.

Google has decided that this legitimate local business is not allowed to be listed in Google maps. Here’s the letter this local business received from Google, after signing up for a Google Places for Business listing. The business owner:

Entered all the requested data
Went through the verification process and requested a postcard.
Waited two weeks.
The postcard never showed up.
Requested another postcard.
The postcard never showed up.
Filled out the form saying they never got a postcard.

Shortly thereafter, the business owner got the following email, which he forwarded to me:

From: local-help@google.com
Date: March 25, 2013 3:46:40 PM MST
To: XXXXX@XXXXXXXXX.com
Subject: RE: [8-XXXXXXXXXXXXXX] Google Places for Business Help

Hey,

Thanks for contacting the Google+ Local Team. We’ve looked at your account and it looks like your business is not eligible for display on Google Maps per our quality guidelines.

Specifically, do not create a listing or place your pin marker at a location where the business does not physically exist. P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations.

Check out our quality guidelines at this link to see what types of businesses we’re looking for on Google Maps: http://www.google.com/support/places/bin/answer.py?answer=107528

Thanks for your understanding. If you have any further questions or concerns I’d be happy to help.

Have a Good One,

Bruce
The Google+ Local Team

So, why, Google–do you let someone go through the entire Google Places for Business listing process, wait two weeks for verification, receive no postcard, and then tell the business owner, nearly a month later, that their business is not eligible for listing in Google Places for Business? [Read more...]

Google Maps to Start Charging Businesses for Service

According to a report, Google is going to start charging for usage of their Google Maps service. Google will charge businesses that are “heavy users” of their service. If a business gets more than 25,000 map requests per day, then the business will have to start paying to allow their users to use Google Maps.

According to the BBC, there is a rumor out there about the fee. Apparently, Google will charge businesses $4 per 1000 “hits” or “views” of the Google Map of their location.

Google maintains that this new fee for Google Maps usage will only “affect 0.35% of users”. I am not sure if that actually means that it will affect only 0.35 percent of Google users, or whether or not it will affect 0.35% of users (meaning businesses that are listed in Google Maps).

Thor Mitchell, product manager of Google Maps API said, “We understand that the introduction of these limits may be concerning…with the continued growth in adoption of the Maps API, we need to secure its long-term future by ensuring that even when used by the highest-volume for-profit sites, the service remains viable.”

This new Google Maps fee is going to hit mostly the larger businesses, especially the Travel industry. I suspect that certain websites that are the heaviest users would be websites like TripAdvisor and Expedia.

The new fee will begin being charged starting January 1, 2012.

You can read more about the Google Maps usage fees here:
http://www.nma.co.uk/news/google-to-charge-for-maps-api-usage/3031432.article

http://dailyconvo.com/10277/google-to-charge-for-google-maps/

Manage and Distribute Business Profile Data Free to Online and Mobile Directory Publishers

Looking for a free way to manage your business profile data? Better yet, Would you want to distribute that data for free to online and mobile directory publishers? What if you change your address or phone number or add additional locations? Would you like to add your business profile data for free? Well, here is a great new option.

UniversalBusinessListing.org (UBL) and Locationary have announced a strategic partnership to manage and distribute business profile data free to online and mobile directory publishers. The platform currently comprises 22 million enhanced business listings that publishers can access to power their online search services.

Not only can you use this to provide more detailed and up-to-date information to potential customers who may search online, the information you provide will provide publishers (where your info is located) a more uniform format. This is important becasue typically it may take up to 90 days to get changes updated: like a new address, contact information, hours of operation and product lists. Sometimes even longer than that. This is an attempt to make easier for the publishers like search engines, online Yellow Pages, mobile devices, social networks, and online directory sites to update the information.

In addition to serving publishers’ needs for rich business listings content in a uniform format, the partnership will enable businesses to provide more detailed and up-to-date information to potential customers who are searching online. This is important, because profile changes—such as a new address, contact information, hours of operation and product lists—can take 90 days or longer to propagate to the various online directory sites and mobile search apps.

Under the partnership agreement, UBL will provide a user dashboard for businesses to build and update their business profiles, while Locationary will provide the data access and distribution platform for publishers.

“There is a clear need for a centralized place where a business can cut through the increasingly complex task of managing its online business identity across search engines, online Yellow Pages, mobile devices and social networks,” said Doyal Bryant, UBL CEO. “Our partnership with Locationary allows businesses to quickly and easily update their business information, and at the same time, provides the enhanced and up-to-date data that is important to search engines and online directory publishers.”

Locationary is the global clearinghouse for local data. This system helps the Internet industry exchange and synchronize data relating to local places so users view the most recent information. Locationary’s patent-pending crowd-sourcing system awards prizes and a share of revenue to users around the world who are the first to update missing information or to correct errors. For more information, visit http://www.locationary.com. To view local data in the United States, visit: http://www.locationary.com/place/en/US/.

UniversalBusinessListing.org is a service of Name Dynamics Inc (Pink Sheets: NDIX). UBL offers search engine and directory submission services, reputation monitoring tools and a variety of premium submission services for improved online visibility and identity management. For more information, visit www.ubl.org.

Learn about Local Search and Local Search Engine Marketing in Dallas

With the ever-expanding adoption of mobile smartphones, coupled with advances in search and maps like Google Maps, Google Local, and Yahoo! Local, making sure that your local business and all of your local business locations are found is becoming more crucial. Not only do you have to make sure your local business is listed, you need the extra marketing provided by local marketing experts like myself to make sure that your local business is at the top of the search results.

Google cautiously states that twenty percent of all searches have a local intent. And Google goes on to say that they only display a map in about eight percent of the search results.

The Dallas / Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association, an organization that I founded a few years ago, will have a special panel presentation about local search marketing. At this monthly DFWSEM meeting, you will learn the newest techniques and developments from top industry experts on local search.

The monthly DFWSEM Meeting about Local Search, is being held on Wednesday, May 19th at 6:30 pm at the Renaissance Hotel in Richardson. You can register online at http://dfwsem.memberlodge.org.

The DFWSEM is proud to present some very respected panelists for the May 19, 2010 meeting. These panelists include Brian Combs of ionadas, Chris Silver Smith of KeyRelevance, and David Mihm of GetListed.org

Brian Combs, Founder and CEO
Online marketing expert and Internet pioneer, Brian Combs specializes in bringing measurability to marketing. In May 2009, Brian founded ionadas local to help geographically-focused companies to be found on the internet. Brian’s opinions on the future of the web and Internet marketing have been included in The Wall Street Journal, The Houston Chronicle and The SEO Bible by Jerri Ledford. He is a regular speaker at industry conferences and events.

Chris Silver Smith is the Director of Optimization Strategies
Chris Silver Smith is Director of Optimization Strategies for KeyRelevance, where he provides online marketing consulting for organic search engine ranking, social media promotion, ecommerce optimization and local search. Smith and his work have been mentioned or quoted in numerous publications including USAToday, Multichannel Merchant, WebProNews, and more. Smith frequent speaks at industry conferences, and blogs at SEM Clubhouse, Natural Search Blog, and Nodal Bits. He is also a columnist for Search Engine Land.

David Mihm, online marketing consultant
David Mihm is an online marketing consultant who creates and promotes search-friendly websites for clients throughout the United States. He serves on the Board of Directors of SEMpdx, Portland’s search marketing trade organization, as Vice President of Partnerships. David writes frequently about Local Search on the GetListed.org Blog, for Search Engine Land, and at his own blog, Mihmorandum. His Local Search Ranking Factors survey is among the most important studies of Local Search Engine Optimization. David also speaks regularly about Local Search Marketing at the Search Marketing Expo and Search Engine Strategies conference series.

The Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association’s goal is to promote search engine marketing and increased ROI for companies and their websites through best practices. We accomplish this through networking, education, and promotion of search engine marketing in the North Texas area. Our members are highly skilled in the areas of copywriting, web hosting, web design, web analytics, internet application development, affiliate program development and strategy, social media, search engine optimization, PPC campaigns, as well as emerging media.

Zvents Secures More Funding from Nokia Growth Partners, AT&T and NAVTEQ

Zvents

Zvents, the site where you can discover things to do, has secured $24 million in funding from Nokia Growth Partners, AT&T and NAVTEQ. Nokia Growth Partners, is the growth capital arm of Nokia (NYSE: NOK), the world’s leading mobile phone supplier; NAVTEQ, is the world leader in premium-quality digital map data. AT&T (NYSE: T) is the largest U.S. wireless company which, through its YELLOWPAGES.COM subsidiary, is also the leading U.S. internet yellow pages search directory. Zvent’s existing investors, Vantage Point Venture Partners and Red Rock Ventures, also participated in the financing.

Zvents will use the proceeds to expand the reach of its local listings advertising network, which enables both local businesses and national chains to promote their locations with search-targeted events such as sales and weekly specials. Zvents will also further invest in expanding the deployment of its successful local search platform, which currently powers a network of more than 250 media partners.

Paul O’Brien, VP of Marketing of Zvents, told me today that this is “a strategic investment that is notable for the substantial amount, big-name investors, and innovation in local search.” This additional funding has very big implications, showing that local is not going away soon; it continues to grow as people get online and look for things to do in their local communities.

Nokia’s John Gardner said, “We are delighted to have led this round of funding for Zvents, enabling them to bring their world-class local search service to the converged worlds of internet and mobility. We believe that the combination of next-generation mobile devices and powerful server-side search services will be a powerful channel to deliver local information to consumers. Zvents has found an innovative way to connect local search to the marketing needs of local merchants, offering a compelling means of driving exciting, context-based mobile experiences.”

Zvents now powers a local search for a few hundred major media partners, including MSN through City Guides. The great interest stems from the unique ability for local businesses to promote themselves online in ways that match their established media buying patterns – through events listings such as sales and weekly specials that are distributed throughout the network.

Since its founding in 2005, Zvents has built a broad network of more than 250 media, advertising, and mobile partners including: Viacom’s (NYSE: VIA.B) mtvU, Microsoft’s (NYSE: MSFT) MSN CityGuides, AT&T’s YELLOWPAGES.COM, and hundreds of local media and newspaper sites owned by major local media firms including MediaNews Group, Freedom Communications, The McClatchy Company, and The New York Times Company. Zvents is continually growing its network of distribution partners both within the United States and internationally.

Zvents powers a unified international search index for the partner network, on which local consumers everywhere can perform “what, when, and where” searches for millions of events, businesses, performers, and other activities in their areas. This unique search technology platform aggregates data via web crawling and extraction, user- and merchant-generated content, and dozens of data partnerships; and provides localized search relevance and ranking to individual media partners.

Forbes ran an interesting Zvents feature last week in their print mag and online. What I find interesting is that I didn’t realize that local ads are very lucrative and average well over $1.00 per click:

Local ads are very lucrative, averaging $1.20 per click compared to 47 cents Web-wide, but search engines have done a mixed job selling local ads and geographically targeting ads with results. Part of the problem: A third of all searches have the intent of finding something nearby, but only 7% return a location. That limits ad inventories.

In local advertising, though, most small businesses “are still spending the majority of their ad dollars the old-fashioned way, on direct mail and print and online directories. All print and online directories grossed $15.1 billion in ad sales last year; local online search spending was $1.2 billion.”

Commenting on this news, Paul O’Brien has posted some personal thoughts on his own site.

“Zvents has spent four years building a world-class local search service,” said Ethan Stock, Zvents CEO and founder. “This funding will enable us to dramatically scale the value of that service to our network of media partners, local consumers, and local advertisers.”

According to O’Brien, “What Ethan has briefly highlighted is that Zvents is a unique local search engine. Now powering for a network of hundreds of web and mobile partners, including MSN, an index that features event listings to promote your local businesses. Simply, the company enables local businesses, merchants and retailers, and restaurants to submit both free and paid listings to the network.”

From what I am seeing, MSN, Google, and Yahoo! are trying to get into Local, but they’re not necessarily doing a very good job at it. Their core is providing search results for the world wide web, not Local. We’re beginning to see companies like Zvents become strong leaders in Local Search.

Paul Levine Joins Zvents Board of Directors

Paul Levine Zvents
Photo courtesy TechCrunch.

Paul Levine, former GM of Yahoo! Local, has joined Zvents board of directors as Zvents continues to grow both its network and innovative local search platform. His experience with local listings will prove invaluable as the platform continues to support local business as is done offline; by way of event promotion.

zvents logo

This news comes amid the release of a top 20 Yellowpages.com iPhone app, powered by Zvents. The app enables users to comprehensively search local on the new iPhone G3 and local businesses to reach iPhone mobile customers through Zvents. A formal announcement has not yet been made but the app is available for download and is being promoted by YellowPages.com.

zvents homepage

Zvents is a local search and advertising network of hundreds of web and mobile partners featuring event listings to promote local business. Using unique technology that enables location- and time-based search for businesses and events, Zvents helps millions of people find local businesses and discover things to do. Thousands of local merchants use Zvents’ free and paid listings products to submit local events and activities, thus promoting their businesses and providing unique and hard-to-find local content to users throughout Zvents.

“Zvents has all the elements necessary to build a substantial business in local: an impressive technology platform, a top-tier distribution network, and an active merchant community generating unique local content,” said Paul Levine. “I’m excited to work with Zvents’ outstanding board and management team to help fuel the company’s future growth.”

Paul Levine was the Vice President of Marketing at AdBrite, The Internet’s Ad Marketplace, where he is responsible for the company’s marketing, public relations, and customer operations. Prior to joining AdBrite, Levine was Vice President and General Manager of Yahoo! Local, where he ran Yahoo!’s yellow pages, local search, maps, events, classified, and real estate properties. At Yahoo!, Paul oversaw the launch of Yahoo! Local, grew it to become the internet’s leading local content property with over 20 million monthly users, and led the company’s local advertising partnerships and strategy.

Zvents is a local search and advertising network of hundreds of web and mobile partners, featuring event listings to promote local business. Using unique search technology, which enables location- and time-based search for businesses and events, Zvents provides users with a compelling search and discovery experience, while enabling local merchants and advertisers to effectively promote their businesses. Zvents connects local businesses with millions of monthly users in diverse categories including music, movies, restaurants, sports, retail shopping, and community. The company aggregates rich business and event information from web sites, user-contributed content, and 3rd party sources, and integrates high-quality partner editorial content with its search index. The company is a leader in local search relevance and is the main sponsor of the open-source Hypertable project. For more information, visit www.Zvents.com.

Google Teams Up with Nokia to Offer Google Search on Nokia Mobile Phones

Google   Nokia

Google is partnering with Nokia to offer Google search to Nokia mobile phone users worldwide. If you have a Nokia cell phone, you will be able to use Google to find relevant information.

Nokia N96

The Google search engine will be integrated with the Nokia Search application. This integration will start in certain markets with the Nokia N96, Nokia N78, Nokia 6210 Navigator and Nokia 6220 classic cell phones.

Google search is expected to be extended to more Nokia handset models in the near future. Nokia has plans to make Google search available to Nokia customers in over 100 countries around the world in more than 40 languages.

Nokia Search has been available on many Nokia devices for a while. But this new integration will highlight the Google’s ability to provide local search results.

Nokia 6110 Navigator

Google search has been available on Nokia Internet tablets. Last year the Nokia N95 8GB became the first mobile device to fully support YouTube. Nokia Search is available on more than 40 different Nokia devices in over 40 languages and in more than 100 countries.

Apparently there were several other search engines that were vying to get integrated with Nokia’s mobile phones, and Google ended up being on top this time. Personally, I prefer to use the Yahoo! Mobile app that’s integrated with my cell phone.

There are a lot of others talking about this Nokia Google partnership:

Nokia Search, Now with Google
Mobile World Congress 2008: Google and Nokia Team Up on Search
Nokia Gives In To Google; Google Search To Power New Nokia Handsets
Google added to Nokia Search
Nokia and Google to offer Google Search to Nokia Customers worldwide
Mobile search : Google team up with Nokia
Nokia to offer Google search on phones
Nokia and Google announce cooperation (AP)

Six Local Media Trends to Watch in 2008

yellow pages

2008 is already off to a great start in the online media world, and local media appears to be getting more ad dollars. Lately, we are seeing a shift in some of the ad dollars going to new media platforms, especially with the increased importance of user-generated content and the verticalization of local media.

The Kelsey Group Homepage

According to the Kelsey Group, there are six new local media trends that you should watch in 2008:

Major metro markets are leading the revolution of local media sites.
More large-market publishers will proactively begin “opt-out” plans so consumers can opt out of receiving a printed directory. Publishers have typically resisted having opt-out programs in the past.

Expanding the online-only offerings.
Many publishers using their internet sites to expand into markets, which is leading to new printed directories. More publishers are expanding their internet presence in more markets where they have traditionally not had a presence. In many cases they’re expanding into markets where they don’t plan on publishing a printed directory.

Increased multi-channel selling in interactive local media.
Publishers are increasingly using call-tracking phone numbers with variable pricing on their print yellow pages’ advertising products. Merchants and call tracking numbers are being pushed across all the media channels to increase call volume.

Rising number of vertical sellers in interactive local media.
We’re seeing a rise in the number of vertical sellers, especially in the vertical sales effort in the traditionally high ad spend categories. The Kelsey Group reports that this will include search engine optimization and search engine marketing solutions being offered from newspaper groups. Internet and vertical resellers are targeting auto and real estate via SEO and SEM. And numerous start-ups will be announcing plans to enter these categories. On the content side, the Kelsey Group expects to see MLS listings creeping into non-Realtor.com sites and higher AutoTrader consumer engagement.

A higher cannibalization of traditional media sales.
The Kelsey Group says that the “promising growth of search engine click packages suggests one-to-one conversion will be sooner rather than later. Look for sales results, especially from Yellow Pages.” Personally, I’m not sure we are going to ever see one-to-one conversions anytime soon, especially because so many consumers “shop around” and compare before they actually buy. That’s just a feature of the internet, which is something that allows consumers to do so much comparing when it comes to actual buying. And, furthermore, tracking these conversions are difficult–one consumer may go to a site and shop around, only to come back to another site they’ve been to before to actually buy. This may not actually show up as one-to-one conversions because of the tracking issues involved. But we’re getting closer.

Cautious Additions of Video, Mobile, and Outdoor Advertising.
The Kelsey Group says that we should start counting ads and look for “pentration above 5 percent” in some categories. Advertisers are cautiously adding video, moble, and outdoor advertising.

Among the trends that the Kelsey Group analysts are anticipating for verticals, classifieds and e-commerce in 2008 are an “acceleration in the print “fade rate” of Yellow Pages and newspaper circulation; the untethering of print and online usage; an uphill struggle to build independent local sales channels; more localization of national; and more use of robust ad reporting.”