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2 June, 2015

This Month In Local Search – May 2015

Everything changes and nothing stands still.
-Heraclitus

Google

Strike Against Map Spam Means MapMaker Closed Until Further Notice

Google suspended public editing access to their Map Maker product after continued manipulation and “malicious” activity. Much of the malicious activity was designed to demonstrate the lack of robustness in the validation process, making maps data so badly corrupted by spammers that legit businesses are getting crowded out.
One example of a business that suffered:
How Google Map Hackers Can Destroy a Business at Will
Other examples of a map hack:
How A Long-Standing Google Maps Loophole Let This Man Put Edward Snowden In The White House
This has been hugely embarrassing for Google and it appears the final straw was these two hacks:
An Android is peeing on the Apple logo in Google Maps

How long the public access to editing maps will be disabled is unknown. For now, edits are taking much longer to be actioned, as they’re being done manually by Google staff.

Maps hacking doesn’t seem to me to be as bad in Australia as it is in the USA. That said, I’ve done my fair share of maps spam fighting here. And I am constantly seeing complaints in the Google Support Forums from businesses who are presumably under attack from competitors or idiots with too much time on their hands.

Welcome are any changes Google might put in to make it harder for spammers and morons. So yes, it’s a problem needing fixing.
Map Maker Temporarily Closed as Person Behind Android Hack of Google Maps Continues to Spam

New Adwords Ads for Mobile

Google introduced a new format for ads on mobile devices which are very similar to the organic local listings. These ads are most easily triggered by using “near me” or “nearby” searches, and use location extensions.
Delivering the right information in your ads

Google Disables Google+ Local Search

This isn’t the end of Google Local packs, Google My Business or Google maps. Rather it’s the end of the ability to search for local businesses within Google+. For people like me who used tools like this to help find out why our customer’s listings were having trouble, this is a big blow. It doesn’t mean we can’t find out the answers, just that it’s harder and takes longer than it used to. For most people this is a non-event – they didn’t even know it existed, let alone that it disappeared. That’s probably why it went.
RIP Google+ Local Search – More Changes

Apple

There are a number of “newcomers” into the local search space, Apple amongst them. For years Siri has been a sad joke in terms of navigation, but with the introduction of the maps connect product last year, the maps are getting better, the info is getting more accurate, and has become one of the major places for local business owners to make sure they have the correct info about their business.

Apple Vans Soon to be Cruisin’ the Streets

Apple have historically relied on other services such as TomTom navigation and Yelp photos to populate the listings. Using multiple sources of the truth has led to “interesting” results at times, so they are now gathering their own data with vans kitted with GPS info and cameras, similar to what Google has done.

The project is expected to take 3 years.
Mystery solved: Apple vans gathering next-gen Maps data, grabbing Street View storefronts + 3D images

Yelp

Shopping Online in Local Boutiques

Yelp introduces online shopping from local boutiques. Could be another way for local boutique businesses to promote their products. The service Yelp are using for the ecommerce, does ship to Australia. So while this new service from Yelp doesn’t appear yet to be available, it certainly is something to watch.
You can now shop local boutiques on Yelp

Bing

Bing is a very quiet player in the local search space generally, and particularly so in Australia. And it’s no wonder why, the quality of their data about local businesses is atrocious at best. Even so, they are the map partner for Facebook, so keep an eye on this space.

Easy Migration from Google Maps

This month Bing announced a way to migrate your Google custom maps (AKA My Maps) info into Bing maps, making it easier for people to either switch or use both. With Google disabling the mapmaker service, this may create an opportunity for Bing to capitalise on. Or not, it’s Bing after all.
Migrating “My Map” from Google to Bing

Bing “Mobile Friendly Update”

Following along after Google’s “mobile friendly” update late last month, Bing rolled out its own version this month. How original.

Facebook

Improving on their local awareness ads, Facebook have added a “call now” button.
Facebook now lets users call businesses directly from News Feed ads