Unafﬁliated with Apple, Inc.
I got an interesting bit of info on how Apple treats individual practitioners in Apple Maps during the Must Have Local Search Tactics panel I participated in at SMX West this week.
Before I get to the practitioner stuff, here’s the presentation on my latest Apple Maps intel I gave.
And I highly recommend you check out the presentations from the other panelists: Greg Gifford’s awesome presentation on Google Places optimization – How To Kick Ass on Google+ Local When You’re All Out of Bubblegum, Phil Rozek’s on The ZigZag Approach to Requesting Reviews From Your Customers and Dana DiTomaso’s
Stalking Finding Potential Customers in Your Area.
So during the Q&A we were discussing the fact that Matt McGee’s wife, Cari McGee, the best realtor in Kennewick tried to get listed on Apple Maps with no luck. Someone in the audience who would know – we need to maintain a cone of silence here as we are talking about Apple – claimed that Apple does not allow individual practitioners in a location that contains multiple practitioners (e.g. realtors, doctors offices, etc.) to have a their own listings on Apple Maps.
I have been trying to think of a solution to this issue, but have not come up with a good work-around as of yet.
image via DeviantArt.com
A few weeks ago, reader JR Watts emailed stating that it was bollocks of me to think TomTom is the major business data supplier for Apple Maps in the UK. He suggested I run a few tests:
Just go to the town of midhurst in apple maps and in tomtom places and you will see that the two data sets are completely different
Khans brasserie, is located in cowdray court on apple maps, but correctly located on north street in tomtom places
Apple maps still lists Shang hi chef (closed for 7 years) which tomtom does not
Chichester cathedral is on tomtom places but not apple maps
I checked these listings and it appeared that the Khans Brasserie address had been updated correctly in Apple Maps. My guess was that JR had done this and the update happened after he sent the email. But the Shang Hi Chef and Chicester Cathedral issues were accurate.
I went searching around for Shang Hi Chef in other databases. Since it was a closed business, it was less likely to show up in a lot of the usual suspects. After a bit of hunting, I found that Factual had the listing – it wasn’t in their visible online database, but when I inquired directly with Factual if they had a listing for Shang Hi Chef in Midhurst, they responded that it was an old listing of theirs that had already been purged.
I compared a number of other listings against Factual, TomTom and Apple Maps and found that in many cases the data were in both Factual and Apple Maps.
This is by no means a statistically significant study, but the results suggested to me that Factual is perhaps more important a player in Apple Maps UK than TomTom.
Apple Maps is using multiple data sources in many countries and it’s not yet clear, at least not yet clear to me, what criteria it uses to display which data when. And for any given business listing, Apple is likely scoring data from Yelp, database vendors like Factual, national data suppliers and user reports, creating an algorithmic mash-up that can often produce poor results. For example, perhaps Apple is pulling the Chichester Cathedral data from TomTom, but since the site does not show up in Yelp nor perhaps in Factual, this overrides the TomTom data, or some other source, and the listing gets expunged.
We have been working on pulling apart some of these listings to reverse engineer what’s going on, but at the moment it’s pretty messy. If anyone has any further thoughts, let me know.
And check out our regularly updated list of Apple Maps Business Listings Data Suppliers by Country.
While this site is certainly bullish on Apple Maps, now that the Google Maps iOS app is out and has proven to be very popular, I often get asked whether Apple Maps is worth even bothering about. The short answer is “Yes”. The longer answer can be found here.
That said, there’s no denying that Google Maps still dominates the Web mapping world. The above Google Trends graph illustrates that pretty nicely, showing the relative search demand for “apple maps” v. “google maps”.
Of course search queries does not necessarily translate to usage. If you have an iPhone and are searching Google for Apple Maps, well then I just don’t know what to say…
As you can see search activity for Apple Maps is growing in the US on the coasts:
But Google Maps is clearly dominant throughout the country:
And perhaps most telling is the #1 related query for Apple Maps is “google maps apple”:
But then again, a lot of the 50 million smartphone activations that happened over Christmas come with Apple Maps, so don’t count it out just yet.
With the launch last night of the Google Maps app for iOS, I am starting to get a bit of email asking if Apple Maps should now be less of a priority for businesses. While I have no doubt that the Google Maps app will put an immediate dent in Apple Maps usage, and while I am certainly biased (see blog name), I am not so sure it would be prudent for businesses to forget about Apple Maps. A few points:
- In its first month of release, there were already over 200 million devices with iOS, which includes Apple Maps.
- Christmas should be a blockbuster for iPhone 5s, 4s and iPads. I wouldn’t be surprised if in January we were looking at well over 300 million devices with iOS.
- While iOS users are certainly app-happy, given everything we have seen over the years about inertia and people behaving like sheep, I wouldn’t be surprised if a significant number of iOS users continue to use Apple Maps, even with reports of people dying from using the app .
- At some point in the next few months, you can be sure that Apple will roll out some interesting updates to their Maps app which will spur people who ditched it to revisit the service.
- UPDATE: Dr. Drang brings up a great point on Apple gets thrown in the briar patch: “I suspect most iPhone users will continue to use the built-in Maps app because it’s already right there and it’s integrated with Siri, Contacts, etc.”
We are witnessing the early stages of an elaborate game of one-upmanship between Google and Apple in the local search space. Google clearly is about 100 up at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that Apple can’t make a lot of advances over the next year. While this is nothing but a great thing for consumers, this means that businesses should at a minimum make sure their presence on Apple Maps is what they want it to be.
Here’s a link to download the Google Maps App from the App Store.
And I’m not talking about your trip to Mildura, Australia.
Got an inquiry from a business in Tortola on the British Virgin Islands who wanted help in getting listed on Apple Maps. So I did a search or two to see what was showing up and guess what…
There are no business listings on Apple Maps for the British Virgin Islands.
As far as I can tell, Axciom is the only major provider to Apple Maps that has BVI info. If you are a BVI business you should probably make sure that your listing data is updated here. It won’t get you on the maps anytime soon, but once Apple prioritizes BVI, it seems logical that they would pull from Acxiom.
This issue has inspired me to start keeping track of the Countries Where Apple Maps Is Closed for Business. If you know of any others, please add in the comments.
Or something like that…
Greg Sterling has discovered some confusion as to how a business is supposed to add or manage a listing on Bing Maps/Bing Business Portal now that Bing is in bed with Nokia’s Here Maps – Nokia Prime Place service:
There’s no mention of the Bing Business Portal. Microsoft appears to be directing people to Nokia Prime Place to “add or change” business listings. Because the two entry points appear to be duplicative or redundant it made me think that Nokia Prime Place might be replacing the Bing Business Portal, into which Microsoft has invested a great deal of effort and presumably resources.
Reading between the tea leaves, so to speak, this may mean Microsoft is currently trying to decide or figure out what the relationship should be. Or perhaps it is sunsetting the Bing Business Portal. Alternatively, maybe the two local data entry points will coexist in some strange and awkward way going forward.
There’s never been a better time to be a mapping branding consultant…
There have been some questions on the Apple support forum about how long it takes for a business listing update to make it to Apple Maps. While I don’t have any definitive information, here’s my speculation on how the process works when you “Report a Problem” with a business listing. If you have any insight or think I am wrong, please let me know in the comments:
According to my sources, Apple only updates its business listing index about once per month. And before an individual listing gets updated, it needs to get verified that the information is accurate. My understanding is that Apple doles the verification process out to various data vendors based on the category of the listing. So that means that the process is something like this:
1. Report a Problem submission
2. Add the submission to the batch of recent submissions and categorize update request
3. Send batch to outside vendor for verification
4. Vendor receives batch and queues it for verfication
5. Vendor verifies listing info and places into batch for submission to Apple
6. Vendor submits verfied batch to Apple
7. Apple matches up the verified data with data from other vendors (meaning sometimes the updated data gets over-written by another data vendor Apple trusts more)
8. Apple updates its listing index and (hopefully) the updated data gets pushed live
If I have come even close to accurately describing the process, as you can see before Apple pushes the update live, it could take several weeks just to make it through the verification system. And if a verified update is sent to Apple a minute after the latest index update, then it could take an additional 30 days for it to go live.
I am sure Apple is working on ways to speed up this process, but it’s likely a hugely complex system that is not easily updated.
About once per month, according to my sources…
That means if you submit an update to a location via Report a Problem, even if it’s immediately accepted, which is unlikely, it could take thirty days to see the change show up on the map.
Perhaps I am being overly-dramatic.
I don’t need to catalog all the ways Google Maps/Places/+Local makes it hard for businesses to figure out how to work with it. Spend a few hours over at Mike Blumenthal’s blog for more on that and you’re brain will likely explode.
This week’s launch (re-launch?) of Nokia’ HERE Maps is a prime example of a consistent trend where online mapping services, in the rush to create the greatest consumer mapping service ever, seem to treat businesses as second-class citizens/after-thoughts.
Earlier this week, I posted How To Add a Business To Nokia Maps (aka Here.net). Typical ignorant American that I am, I had never used Nokia’s maps. Then when they made their big, in-your-face-Apple/Google announcement, I had to check it out. The first thing I noticed was that there was almost no effort to communicate to businesses how to work with the service. In fact, the UI was so lacking in that regard, that in my initial draft of the post, I actually wasn’t sure how to add a business to Nokia Maps, err, I mean Here (HERE?).
Chris Sheehy of Sidewalk Branding was kind enough to save my credibility by pointing out to me that you could add a business to HERE via Nokia Prime Place.
Now go back to HERE and check out the home page, the navigation, the FAQ page, etc. and I defy you to find any information on what you can do if your business is not listed on the service, let alone any mention of Nokia Prime Place.
I get it. Consumers come first and all that, but while Nokia’s HERE hoopla might get a lot of people checking it out for a second or two, who do you think is really going to spend time on the service in the first few weeks? My bet goes to marketers trying to make sure they are properly represented.
While they do provide a not-so-easy-to-find FAQ on what to do if the data for a business is incorrect, how hard would it have been to add a “For Businesses” section to the FAQ or the footer which mentioned that you could go to Nokia Prime Place? And how many businesses will figure out that HERE and Nokia Prime Place are even related? Nokia hasn’t even changed the Nokia Maps branding on the Prime Place home page.
Apple Maps is no better in this regard, hence the need for shameless blogs like this one.
And while we are on the snark, a word about the branding – too generic. Let’s do a test. Hey, let’s go to Jumbo’s Clown Room. What’s the address?
a. Hold on, let me check Google Maps
b. Hold on, let me check Apple Maps
c. Hold on, let me check Here
We interrupt this Apple Maps blog to get you the skinny on Nokia’s newly announced Here maps service. While there is not a lot of available info on how businesses can work with Here (kind of like Apple Maps right?), I thought I’d cobble together any information I could find and list it here:
How To Claim Your Business on Here.net
To claim your business on Here, search for it using the name and city. Since Here is a global service, it doesn’t seem to do well unless you add the city and state to the query. If your business comes up in the results, click on it and you’ll get a profile pop-up like the one above. Click on the “I own this place” link and you’ll be taken through a login process after which you choose either phone or postcard verification as shown below:
Phone verification is instantaneous. Postcard verification can take up to 2 to 6 weeks. Of course, if the phone number or address is incorrect, then you might have problems verifying you own the business. Which brings me to…
How To Report a Problem With Your Business Listings on Here.net
Click on “Report This Place” link in the pop-up for the business as shown above and you’ll get a “Report this Place” screen below. Select “Other” and let them know that the data is wrong. Submit the correct info and wait. It will likely take them a while to update it, but that’s the breaks when it comes to maps, right?
How To Add Your Business To Nokia Maps
Go Nokia Prime Place and you can easily submit a new business and verify it via postcard. I just submitted mine today. I’ll update this post when I receive the postcard.
If you try to add a business via Here, it’s a bit more confusing. If you are outside the US, you can go into the “Map Creator” section, zoom in on a city and click on “Add a New Place” in the nav. There are about 100+ countries that are currently supported including Palau and Equatorial Guinea.
At this point there is no clear way to add a U.S.-based business to Here.net if it’s not already listed. I am trying to figure out how they are getting their business listing data for each country. My best guess at the moment is this list of partners for Earthmine, the 3D mapping company Nokia has acquired. If anyone has any better info, please share in the comments.
Will update this as I figure Nokia maps out.