Unafﬁliated with Apple, Inc.
Jim Froling of 949Local asked if an agency should put all of its clients under a single Apple ID or set up a unique Apple ID for each one. A good question as Apple Maps Connect has instantly become a critical part of every local marketer’s to-do list. While the real answer is “who knows?”, my theory of the moment is you should set up a unique ID for each client. Here’s why:
- We have no idea how Apple is going to evolve Maps Connect. Unique IDs for each client allows a lot more flexibility for testing as Apple rolls out new features.
- When agencies set up a master account for Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools that includes a large number of different clients, it often can be problematic for the client to gain control of their accounts if they part ways with the agency. Unique IDs makes it more likely that you can give the client control if they want it. And you should probably be using the client’s domain in their Apple ID email address.
I imagine there are going to be a lot of bumps in the road for agencies as this service grows. IMO the best policy at the moment is to try to anticipate how this system could screw you down the road and take the path that seems most likely to avoid the screw.
UPDATE 10/23/14: As you can see, their bulk listing process may not be up and running just yet. I would still submit just to get in the queue.
I have received a few questions over the past 24 hours since Apple Maps Connect launched about how to submit multi-location business listings to Apple Maps. At the moment, Apple Maps Connect does not support large multi-location businesses via self-service. According to the Apple Maps Connect Help section, if you have more than 100 locations, you can send Apple Maps a file with the updated info via email@example.com
As far as I know there’s no specific format for the file, but I doubt you can go wrong with a csv that includes all of the fields you can submit as an individual business:
Map Location (you can move a pin on the map to fix)
Place Status (i.e. is the business open or closed down)
Categories (you can select 3 top level categories and a sub-category for each such as Pets > Animal Shelters. You can also suggest categories. Phil Rozek has put together a category list in a Google Doc.)
For more tips on Apple Maps Connect see our Apple Maps Connect FAQ.
Two years in Apple Maps has finally launched Apple Maps Connect, a service for local businesses to update and add their business listing information to Apple Maps. According to Greg Sterling the service is “intended for small business owners or their authorized representatives (though not agencies) to be able to quickly and easily add content directly to Apple Maps”. In true Apple fashion, Apple Connect is pretty easy to use and nicely designed. You just sign in with your Apple ID (or create one if you don’t have one), search for your business in Apple’s database and verify that you are either the owner or the authorized representative via phone verification. Once you have verified the business, you can update the following data:
- Business Name
- Phone Number
- Map Location (you can move a pin on the map to fix)
- Place Status (i.e. is the business open or closed down)
- Categories (you can select 3 top level categories and a sub-category for each such as Pets > Animal Shelters). You can also suggest categories.
- Open Hours
- Business website
- Yelp page
- Facebook page
- Twitter page
The system is still a little buggy:
- The first 3 times I tried phone verification it took over thirty minutes to get a call. Each time you try, you are asked to wait 5-25 minutes before you try again. Justin Mosbach pinged me to say that he had had some success logging out and logging back in to reset the clock so you could try again immediately. My guess is the wait is totally dependent on call volume so for now try it at odd hours.
- Although I have verified my business, I was unable to submit the updates on the screen where you update your data, but when I went back to the main page for my business via the nav links, I was able to submit it.
One point of interest: There’s a promotion for iBeacon called “Maps Indoor”. You need to have annual visits of more than 1 million people to get in early so most of you can relax.
I read through the Apple Maps Connect Help section and have pulled out the good stuff here:
Apple Maps Connect FAQ
- Does it work for multi-location businesses?
If you have more than 100 locations, you can send Apple Maps a file with the updated info via firstname.lastname@example.org
- What countries are supported?
Apple Maps Connect currently only supports businesses in the U.S.
- How long will it take for your edits to go live?
Updates can take one week, but data flagged for additional verification may delay this process. You will receive an email notification when your edits are published.
- What if your business has moved or closed?
To use Maps Connect, you must be able to answer the business’ former telephone number. If you can answer it, please edit the profile to indicate that the place has moved or closed. If you cannot answer the former number, then please find the business via the Apple Maps app on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and click “Report a Problem” to notify Apple that the business is no longer open at that location.
- Verification Tip
Using an email address that matches the business’ website will speed up approval (eg. www.apple.com and email@example.com).
- Data Quality Guidelines
Apple only accepts businesses where it can confirm a physical presence. Businesses that may not be approved include: home-based businesses, businesses with temporary locations or without a physical address, or businesses that have not yet opened for business.
- What About Different Businesses at the Same Address?
Apple states you should create only one profile per physical location having a distinct purpose. Departments with clearly separate purposes may have a separate profile. My recommendation is make sure each department has a unique phone number.
- What About Businesses Like Lawyers With Multiple Practitioners?
You may create a profile for public-facing individuals if they have contact information that’s different than their business.
- How Do You Close a Business in Apple Maps?
Apple’s process currently requires that you must be able to still answer the closed business’ phone number before you can close a business. If you can no longer answer the former number, you can report a problem from the business profile on Apple Maps from your iPad, iPhone, or Mac.
- What Are The Rules For Business Names in Apple Maps
Your name should be listed as a customer would see it from your external sign. Your business name must include the brand (eg. Mike’s Chicken Shack) with an optional category (eg. Restaurant). Your business name must not include promotional phrases, location details, phone numbers, or other details that are not your true business name. In my tests Apple Maps seems highly sensitive to keywords in the business name so get ready for a lot of optional category SPAM.
- Can You Use P.O. Boxes?
Customers must be able to visit your business at your location. Do not enter PO Boxes or other addresses where your employees are not physically present during business hours.
- Can You Use a Forwarded Phone Number?
Redirected numbers will not be accepted. It’s unclear to me how they can enforce this as many local businesses redirect their phone numbers to call centers.
- Website Link
Apple states that the website you link to from your Apple Maps listing should be “optimized for mobile screens”.
- What If Your Submission Is Not Approved?
Apple will notify you and you can reply requesting a manual review.
- How Do You Update Your Business Photo on Apple Maps?
Photos currently come from Yelp so update your photo on Yelp.
- Why Can Your Business Data Change Even After You Have Claimed Your Listing?
Here’s what Apple says: “We receive profile information from many sources. It’s possible one of these sources believed that they had more recent information. If the information now displayed by Apple Maps is inaccurate, please resubmit an update.” This means that you will still need to make sure your data is in good shape at Apple Maps different business listings suppliers.
Today a retailer client, let’s assume they are called “Bingo’s”, pinged me because they had sold one of their locations, let’s say to “Bozo’s”, and their brand was still appearing on the business’ Yelp profile. So when you searched “bingo pleasanton ca” in Google the Bingo’s Pleasanton Yelp profile showed up as the top result. The problem was that Bozo’s had created a Bozo’s Pleasanton Yelp profile but Bingo’s had never shut down or changed the name of the old Yelp profile. And this was happening across all of their local listings on various sites such as YP.com, MerchantCircle, etc.
The Google solution was pretty simple – we used Yext Powerlistings to instantly change the names on all of the Bingo’s Pleasanton profiles in Yext’s network and we updated their Google My Business page and the information at the main data aggregators. In some cases this involved closing down the Bingo’s listing at the data aggregators. Most SEOs would stop there and think that their work was done. Wrong.
A quick search for “Bingo’s Pleasanton” on Apple Maps revealed that there was both a Bingo’s Pleasanton listing and a Bozo’s Pleasanton listing. Even though we had fixed the issue at the data aggregator level which in theory would find its way eventually to Apple Maps, that still doesn’t mean that it would get fixed in Apple Maps. So we used the “Report a Problem” feature and marked the business information as “incorrect” and submitted the name change to the Bingo’s listing. Alternatively, we could have marked the location as closed, but I wanted to see if Apple Maps could figure out to merge the two listings based on the name change. We’ll see.
The moral of the story is that because Apple Maps data does not show up in Google, marketers are likely to forget about it when doing big things like changing brand names, changing addresses, etc. Apple Maps is one of the most used local search services on the planet. Ignore it at your business’ peril.
Apple Maps updating system appears to be getting faster. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we have started to see more submitted updates go live. And I just noticed one case I had been watching for two years where a business’ map pin was displayed across the street from its actual location is now correctly located. So six days ago, when I noticed the Apple Maps pin for my company, Local SEO Guide, Inc., was about 50 feet off base, I used the Report a Problem tool to move the pin and voila, today it’s now in the right place.
Wrong Location – Dec. 2012 Right Location – Sep. 2014
And if you’re interested in more Apple Maps updating news, according to this Reddit thread, for the past couple of months Apple Maps has been making daily updates at 3:00am Eastern Standard Time.
With the launch of iOS8, Apple has finally updated its list of data suppliers on its “attribution” page:
2014 Apple Maps Attributions Page
2013 Apple Maps Attribution Page
None of the previously listed vendors have been removed so presumably their data is still part of Apple Maps. Three new vendors have been added:
“A leading provider of design, measurement and visualizations technologies.” I am presuming they are providing some whiz-bang new stuff in the updated Apple Maps.
Kingwaytek Technology Co., Ltd.
“The only map provider in Taiwan that concentrates on producing digital maps at present.” I am guessing Apple Maps Taiwan just got a lot better. If you need to fix a Taiwanese listing, I am thinking this is where to look.
The Kingwaytek of New Zealand.
So no new sources of U.S., European or South American data. There are still a lot of countries that don’t have business listings.
I am still puzzled over the old copyright dates for Acxiom (2012), Factual (2012), Localeze (2012), Yelp (2013) and Open Street Map (2011, 2012). It’s unclear if this means that this data is basically frozen in time, meaning no need to update these sources to get your data updated in Apple Maps, or if Apple just didn’t care enough to update the info. It is September 2014 after all and we’re just getting the 2014 update.
Image appropriated from StoryNory.com
On September 25th, 2013 I was contacted by the owner of DC 9 Nightclub about getting the business listed on Apple Maps. After doing a quick review, it seemed like a fairly straightforward issue. DC 9 was not listed in a number of the key business data suppliers to Apple Maps like Neustar Localeze and Acxiom and their business name and phone number was incorrect on Factual. Within 24 hours we had fixed all of these problems and reported the missing listing to Apple Maps via its “Report a Problem” feature. And that’s when we found that when it comes to Apple Maps, nothing is ever straightforward…
Often when we fix Apple Maps issues we can see it take effect relatively quickly (60-90 days is what I usually tell clients but we’ve seen faster, and slower of course). But after 60 days the business still wasn’t listed and the Factual data had not updated. I figured this was the issue. Because of the way Factual works, it wasn’t enough to update the data at Factual (where I have a “power” account), we had to fix citations that Factual relies on to triangulate the data. So we did a citation clean-up which took about three months for Factual to acknowledge and update. But still DC 9 was nowhere to be found on Apple Maps.
It was then I realized that I had neglected to take into account the “geo-spatial data”, or whatever the map geeks call it, that Apple uses to create the maps. This data is stuff like streets and buildings and lat/longs, etc. that businesses get mapped to. So I popped DC 9′s address into TomTom/Tele Atlas, one of the underlying mapping data providers, and lo and behold, DC 9′s address of 1940 9th St NW Washington, DC 20001 did not exist in these systems. And when you just searched the address in Apple Maps, the pin showed up at 1938 9th St NW, the building next door, which had originally been part of 1940 until the building was split in two, which probably is why these mapping systems couldn’t figure things out. So even though we had fixed the citation issues, there was nowhere to put the business on the map.
So I went over to TomTom and Tele Atlas‘ sites and submitted edits to their maps to add the address. Within one week the edits had been approved and then I waited…til yesterday.
Last night (September 10th, 2014) I got an email from DC 9′s owner, who had long given up hope, that DC 9 was now on Apple Maps!
Now we just need to figure out what to do about that duplicate listing
So if you are trying to add your business to Apple Maps, make sure you’ve got at least five months of patience, but be prepared to wait a year.
For further reading on Tele Atlas and Apple Maps, check out Mike Blumenthal’s Good News, Bad News in the Apple Mapping Business Listing World.
From the recently released 4GEE Mobile Living Index which analyzes mobile data use and 4G trends on the EE Network (a British carrier) in the U.K. since 2013:
Traffic on the new Apple Maps now represents 70% of mapping traffic on the 4G network, from 60% in the second half of 2013, taking market share from Google maps, which is down 7ppts. This difference is even more marked over 3G where Apple Maps is up 19ppts and Google Maps is down 15ppts.
EE may push iPhones over Androids so this doesn’t necessarily mean this data applies to all carriers across the board, but every day Apple Maps is getting better and every day thousands of people get a new phone with Apple Maps pre-installed. Apple Maps is for real. You might want to pay attention to it.
Greg Sterling posted today about Apple Maps’ “new” expanded list of data providers which you can find at http://gspa21.ls.apple.com/html/attribution.html. Unbeknownst to Greg is that this list was updated sometime around the launch of iOS7 in the latter part of 2013. Here’s a November 2013 snapshot from the Web Archive.
It’s not surprising that Greg was not aware of this. It’s an obscure page after all that only the few geeks interested in Apple Maps pay attention to. But what is surprising, as I said in the comments on Greg’s post, is:
- The copyright for Open Street Maps data is 2012. This implies that updated OSM data is not being used in Apple Maps. If that is the case, then making edits to OSM should not have any effect on Apple Maps.
- Why are we in May of 2014 and still seeing “Copyright 2012-2013″? Where’s the 2014 update? This does not speak well to Apple’s much-vaunted attention to detail and it makes me wonder what’s going on over there. It’s a small thing to be sure, but doesn’t Apple always sweat the details? Perhaps Apple Legal has been too busy suing Samsung to pay attention to this stuff.
I heard a rumor recently that a U.S. retail chain has been providing Apple Maps with a spreadsheet of its locations and in exchange has been getting information back from Apple on their business listing data in Apple Maps. I am trying to get this verified (either on or off-the-record). If you have any information about this, please contact me here.
I am not looking to out anyone, just would like more detail about the program, if it indeed exists.