Unafﬁliated with Apple, Inc.
When Apple Maps Connect launched a few months ago allowing U.S. businesses to claim and update their listings, one of the rules was that your business could not use a forwarded phone number. We got a number of reports that if you submitted a forwarding number, Apple would reject it. Now we have some new info that perhaps Apple is changing its mind?
Russ Offord, a Milwaukee Web Designer, emailed me a week ago saying that he had submittted a new listing for Orion Group and it was rejected because it used a forwarding number. In this case, the forwarded number had been created because of a moved location and regulations about 911 calls. According to Russ:
We moved our office location years ago from one city to another and wanted to keep the same phone number. Apparently, due to regulations for 911 purposes, we are forced to have our primary number (at the telco level) use a number with a local ‘exchange’. So what the phone company did was to change our old number to be a ‘Remote Call Forward’ number that forwards seamlessly to our new location’s number.
When he originally submitted the listing with the forwarded old number, he got the following message from Apple:
The phone number for Orion Group LLC at Indian Grass Ln in Sussex is being forwarded.
Our automated system detected that the phone number for your business is being forwarded to another number. For security purposes, we require that profiles only contain direct and non-forwarded phone numbers. Please update your profile with a direct phone number.
And the business’ profile on Apple Maps Connect was marked as “Waiting for Review”.
Then yesterday Russ accidentally re-edited the data on the listing and submitted it…and the listing got approved.
Hopefully this wasn’t a glitch and thanks to this post Orion will now get rolled back. I am thinking this was approved because because of the specifics of this case whereas a standard business with forwarding numbers will not get approved.
Has anyone else been able to get forwarded numbers approved?
When I started this site, my goal was to keep it as opinion-free as possible and just post “how to” type info. Now that we’re about two years in, it’s time for a rant:
Same Day Serves passed on this email he received from Apple Maps re the whole no home-based businesses on Apple Maps thing:
”…at this time we are not accepting any mobile or home-based businesses without external signage. If your business qualifies then please send a photo showing the external sign or building business directory matching your business name. There are two reasons for this policy. Firstly, Apple Maps is intended to help people navigate to businesses. It is not intended to be a general business directory. Secondly, this policy prevents people from creating fake listings at locations where they’re not present…”
So as I said previously home-based businesses either need not apply or should employ a good Photoshop artist.
On a more philosophical note, while I agree with the concept of not allowing fake listings, I think this throws the baby out with the bathwater. “Firstly” let’s address the point that Apple Maps is intended to help people navigate to businesses by listening to the U.S. Small Business Administration:
“What do Apple Computer, Hershey’s, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and the Ford Motor Company have in common? These well-known corporations all started out as home-based businesses. In fact, more than half of all U.S. businesses are based out of an owner’s home.”
So a service that is intended to help people navigate to businesses will not help you navigate to more than half of all U.S. businesses.
And if this service is intended to help people navigate to businesses, then why include parks, government buildings, and all sorts of other “non-business” points of interest? Shouldn’t this service be intended to help people navigate to wherever they want to go, which may include home-based businesses?
But secondly, Apple Maps is keeping home-based businesses out in order to prevent people from creating fake listings at locations where they’re not present. While I agree that residential addresses are tempting targets for creating fake listings, how are they any less tempting than business addresses? Both Google Maps and Apple Maps are littered with fake business address spam.
I know the Apple Maps team has a hard job to do, but I don’t think home-based businesses should be penalized for it.
Well, perhaps “announces” is a bit strong. When we submitted an inquiry about submitting a client with a few hundred locations to Apple Maps Connect, we received the following email:
“Thank you for your recent inquiry and interest in publishing your business locations via our new Business Portal. At this time, we are only accepting bulk submissions from businesses with at least 1,000 locations. In the meantime, you may want to research the service offerings provided by the following companies that currently provide us business listing information on behalf of their clients: (in alphabetical order):
Please note: Information about third party services is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute Apple’s recommendation or endorsement. Apple does not warrant or guarantee any particular result (including publication of your business in Apple Maps) or the accuracy or reliability of any services provided by any third parties referenced herein.”
While we already knew that Factual, Neustar/Localeze and Yelp were providing data, all of these other companies are new. This should be a huge windfall for them. And what happened to Acxiom?
In September, I noticed that Apple Maps had finally updated its data supplier info when it released iOS8. But as one of the few people on the planet actually keeping track of this stuff, there still were a lot of questions about which data was getting regularly updated and which was not:
“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.”
Today when I checked the Apple Maps Acknowledgements page I noticed the following new info:
- Map data © 2014 OpenStreetMap contributors
The big news, for me at least, is that this confirms that Open Street Map data is still being used by Apple Maps. So if you are having mapping data issues (e.g. your street doesn’t show up on Apple Maps) then fixing them on Open Street Map is still worth doing.
Here’s what else has changed on the page:
- Reviews from Yelp © 2014
- Business listings data © 2014 Acxiom
- The following language has been added:
- GeoBase has been deleted
- This language has been replaced:
“MultiNet POI NAM, portions of the POI database contained in Local Points of Interest North America have been provided by Localeze. // MultiNet® Europe, Data Source © 2013 TomTom based on: MultiNet® data of Austria © BEV, GZ 1368/2013; MultiNet® data of Denmark © DAV, violation of these copyrights shall cause legal proceedings; MultiNet® data of France © IGN France, Georoute © IGN France, Michelin data © Michelin 2013; MultiNet® data of Northern Ireland Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland; MultiNet® data of Norway © Norwegian Mapping Authority, Public Roads Administration / © Mapsolutions; MultiNet® data of Russia © ROSREESTR; MultiNet® data of Switzerland © Swisstopo; MultiNet® data of The Netherlands Topografische onderground Copyright © dienst voor het kadaster en de openbare registers, Apeldoorn 2013; Data for United Kingdom: contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2013, Code-Point® Open data contains Royal Mail data © Royal Mail copyright and database right 2013; Data for Germany: GeoBasis-DE/Geobasis NRW 2013; Data for Jordan: © Royal Jordanian Geographic center; Data for Malta: © Mapping Unit, Malta Environment and Planning Authority. // MultiNet® South East Asia, Data for Indonesia: © Base data Bakosurtanal; Data for Macao: Macao Special Administration Region Government-Cartography and Cadastre Bureau; Data for South Korea: © SK M&C, 2013. // Data for Australia and New Zealand : ® Registered trademark of Telstra Corporation Limited (ABN 33 051 775 556).. “with this language:
About two weeks ago when Apple launched Apple Maps Connect, I claimed Local SEO Guide, Inc.’s listing which is officially located at my residence. We also have an office in downtown Pleasanton. After eleven days of my listings status being “Reviewing”, I received the following in an email:
As I said about a year ago, “Apple Maps has actively tried to keep businesses located in residential areas out of the maps”.
So if you are doing business out of your house and don’t have a sign I think you have two options if you want to stay listed in Apple Maps:
1. If you are already listed in Apple Maps (like LSG is) don’t try to claim your listing
2. Find a designer who’s good at photoshop
Looks like a similar notification was shared on Linda Buquet’s Local Search Forum.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org).
- 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.