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Becoming the Pin Drop

Yesterday I read a post from David Mihm on all of the Q1 changes to the local scene. He said only 15% of businesses (and it may be lower when spam is accounted for) have claimed their business with Google.

I knew the amount of claimed businesses would be low, but I didn’t expect it to be that low. Based on this number, I don’t think people are realizing the importance of a claimed business in Google Maps, and in the local listings (the ten pack) when showing up in Universal Search results. However, these benefits are just the tip of the iceberg, and there is a more important market emerging and requiring more accurate information: The Mobile Market

A Little FYI on the Mobile Market

In December 2009, Morgan Stanley released a lengthy document about the mobile web, stating that by 2012 (two years from now) the mobile Web will be bigger than the desktop Web. With products like the iPhone and Android OS based phones, the Web is being accessed by people from many different locations. According to the 2009 Comscore Mobile Subscriber report, there are more than 234 million mobile users in the US market alone over the age of 13. Of that number, 27.5% use a browser on the phone, and nearly 16% used social media via the phone. To give you real numbers, that comes out to be roughly 64 million using a browser via phone, and 37 million using social media. And these numbers don’t even account for iPod touch users, and now the iPad users.

What Does it Mean for Local Business?

For the last six months, I was giving Apple lessons at a local Apple retailer. A few months ago I gave a lesson on the iPhone OS, and was showing a lady how to use the maps application based off Google Maps. I told her to search for a sushi restaurant (which she wanted for lunch after the lesson) and to her utter amazement; pins began to drop, locating the closest sushi place near the store. However, the sushi restaurant right next door to our Apple shop didn’t have a pin. According to the maps application, the closest one was a couple of blocks down the street. Guess who missed out on a sushi patron?

As a local business this should speak volumes. People can be anywhere and may need to find your services at any time. Here’s the real question: is a pin dropping for you?

As a local business, one of the first things that should be done is to claim your business on Google. Add all of the appropriate information, and make sure that you are as accurate as possible on the address, phone number, and website. Bonus tip: Make sure the address is written exactly the way it is on the website, (Ave. and Avenue are not exactly the same). This is vital for your company to show up in the local listing in Google.com.

The Mobile Maps Application

I played with a Verizon Droid, and an iPhone 3Gs, and I found some insight on optimizing for the Maps App.

I did a generic search on the Droid map application for a “Defense Lawyer Auburn California” (I promise, I don’t have legal issues). The Map searched and automatically suggested Dan Koukol to me as the best result. Because I did a search outside of my location (I’m in the Salt Lake City area), the app provided the best result for me. I performed the same search on the iPhone and received the exact same results, a default pin to Dan Koukol.

So when I did the search on a desktop browser in Google, Dan Koukol turns out to be the No. 1 attorney listed in the local listings. I am making a basic assumption, more research is needed to confirm, but if your local business is optimized for local search, then you are optimized for the maps applications. You’ll notice that other pins dropped in the maps, representing other listings found in the local search on Google desktop search. But why not just go with what was suggested? Most people do!

When you click on the listing in both the Droid and iPhone you’ll get the exact same information that is provided by the Google Places Page, as shown.

Android information page

Location-based search is different. With location-based search your location becomes the primary determining factor of the pin droppings. If I had done the same search in a suburb of Auburn, California, a different lawyer could have potentially been highlighted, and if I zoomed out I’m sure Dan Koukol would have been one of the other pin drops, but maybe not the one I clicked on.

Two Cents Against Map Spam

There are plenty of map spam horror stories out there, and it is hard to say how to avoid these in the apps search feature. However, I believe that companies are going to damage their reputation more if potential clients are finding themselves in the middle of a neighborhood when looking for a locksmith. I also believe there is hope with the recent changes we’ve seen Google add to the local search, such as changing LBC to Places, and Google now adding Place Pages for the Google Mobile search. The local, and map scene is becoming a more focused effort for Google. I can only hope that map spam is a major part of the new focus.

And that’s a wrap!