Archive for the ‘SEO’ Category

Apple Maps Ranking Factors

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There’s not much published on the Web about how to rank well in Apple Maps. While the nature of a mobile map result makes “ranking” sort of an ephemeral thing – the order & radius of results will vary depending on the searcher’s physical location – there are a factors that seem to most positively correlate with showing up prominently in Apple Maps:

• Category relevance to query
• Keyword in business name
• Proximity to searches’ centroid (user’s and/or city’s)
• Yelp & Other Providers’ Meta Data – It’s very unclear how important reviews are for rankings, but they likely affect CTR. Meta data like Price rating, hours, etc are important.

Of these perhaps the most confounding is “Category relevance to query”. This is because Apple Maps does not appear to do a lot of keyword-to-category mapping. For example, here’s a shot of an Apple Maps desktop result for “hot dog”:

Apple Maps Hot Dog

But look what happens when I change the query to “best hot dog”:

Best Hot Dog

Apple Maps knows “hot dog” is a restaurant category and brings up a set of hot dog restaurants for the query. It doesn’t understand that “best” is a modifier of “hot dog” so instead it treats it like a business name search and it looks for businesses that have “best” in their names and are in a category related to hot dogs. In this case the two businesses listed are both in the “Sandwiches” category.

Some modifiers appear to be driven by Yelp’s meta data. For example, this query for “cheap hot dogs” brings on $ and $$ (pricing data from Yelp) businesses in the Hot Dogs category:

Cheap Hot Dog

But what happens when Apple Maps doesn’t have a mapping of the query modifier to a category. Check out this result for “delicious hot dog”:

Delicious Hot Dog

In this case, Apple Maps decided that “delicious hot dog” was a geo-query so it sent me to Calle Delicias in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. I’m not sure why. “Delicias” is close to “delicious”, and “Mayaguez” is kind of close to “merguez” which is a type of sausage so…

The moral of the story: Stop stressing that you don’t rank for various keywords in Apple Maps. Neither does anyone else.

Apple Maps for iOS 9 UI Screenshots

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I have been testing Apple Maps in iOS 9 for a white paper I wrote for Yext – Optimizing Local Search for iOS 9 (registration req’d) – and really like where it’s heading. For those of you not brave enough to install the iOS 9 beta on your phone I thought I’d provide some initial looks at the new interface:

 

Apple Maps Category Search

Apple Maps Category Search
When you start to enter a query in AM’s search bar, it immediately shows you a  list of preset categories: Food, Drinks, Shopping, Fun, Transport, Travel, Services and Health. These are likely the most popular query types. Clicking an icon takes the user to a set of relevant subcategories (see next screenshot). I imagine these could change based on user behavior.

Below the category icons you get a list of favorited locations followed by your most recent searches.

 

 

 

Apple Maps SubCategory Search

Apple Maps SubCategory Search
Similar to the previous screen except now you get related subcategories and a list of results for the selected parent category. It’s interesting that the “List View” is now the default view (v. the Map View in the current app). This is a lot friendlier than the Map View and starts to look like, I don’t know, local search results?

 

 

 

 

Apple Maps Map Results View
When you click on a subcategory icon you get a combined Map/List View. Again this is in many ways friendlier than the current default Map View. To see the List View in the current UI you need to click a “List Results” link at the bottom of the page. Certainly owning one of the top 4 slots for these subcategories is going to be desireable.

 

 

 

 

Apple Maps Business Profile

Apple Maps Business Profile (Above fold)
The business profile remains largely unchanged. The direction links have become more prominent – changing from text links to icons and moving to the top of the page from the middle. This is likely because Apple now has transit info and is an acknowledgement of how common the get directions use case is.

 

 

 

 

Apple Maps Business Profile BottomApple Maps Business Profile (Below fold)
Some minor changes here – the headings of the Photos and Reviews sections have changed from “Photos from Yelp” and “Reviews from Yelp” to just “Photos” and “Reviews”. There is now a smaller “Open Yelp” text link at the top right of each section. Is this an indication that Yelp will eventually not be the only source of data or is it just a way to make it clearer that a click will launch Yelp? In the current app, it’s definitely not clear that clicking on these launches Yelp.

 

 

 

Apple Maps Directions Overview Screen

Apple Maps Directions Overview
Now with transit directions!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

iOS Spotlight Search Home ScreeniOS Spotlight Search Home Screen
When you slide the phone’s home screen to the right, you get the Spotlight Search Home Screen. It displays a row recently used apps then a row of “Nearby” icons. So right off the bat, Apple is telling us that local search is a major user behavior for Spotlight. The icons change based on the time of day. For example, this morning the icons were Breakfast & Brunch, Cafes, Bakeries and Gas Stations. Now, in the middle of the day, they are Restaurants, Fast Food, Coffee & Tea and Gas Stations. It’s unclear if these are selected based on the density of business types near me, user behavior or if they are just standard for everyone. Below these results, you get the latest stories from the new Apple News app. A lot easier than firing up Google News no?

 
iOS Spotlight Search Results

iOS Spotlight Search Results (Above fold)
These results are of course dependent on the query, but here we see a typical local query, “bars”. iOS offers these results:

Recommended Apps: I don’t have many apps installed on my test device but it likely would show apps I have/use first. See the white paper for more on how app indexing and user activity can help you rank in these types of results.

Maps Results: Three profiles linked to Apple Maps

Suggested Websites: This is likely a combo of data indexed from Apps and Applebot’s crawl. According to Apple this content will be ranked based on “user engagement”.

Bing Search Results: aka backfill

 

iOS Spotlight Search Results (Below fold)

I’ll be publishing more info about the new iOS local search capabilities as I uncover them.

Has Apple Maps Connect Gone Backwards on Forwarded Numbers?

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Apple Maps Connect Business Profile Approved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

Businesses With Residential Addresses Not Allowed In Apple Maps

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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:

Apple Maps Needs More Information

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.

Should Agencies Put All Clients in One Apple Maps Connect Account?

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
 

Changing Business Name? Don’t Forget About Apple Maps!

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Bozo The Clown

 

 

 

 

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.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Business On Apple Maps? Got A Year?

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rip-van-winkle apple maps

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!

DC Nine Apple Maps

Now we just need to figure out what to do about that duplicate listing :P

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.

Apple Maps Connect F.A.Q. (so far)

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Apple Maps Connect Logo

 

 

 

Two years in Apple Maps finally launched Apple Maps Connect, a service for small 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:

Apple Maps Connect Business Profile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Business Name
  2. Phone Number
  3. Address
  4. Map Location (you can move a pin on the map to fix)
  5. Place Status (i.e. is the business open or closed down)
  6. Categories (you can select 3 top level categories and a sub-category for each such as Pets > Animal Shelters). You can also suggest categories.
  7. Open Hours
  8. Business website
  9. Yelp page
  10. Facebook page
  11. Twitter page

As of May 24, 2015, Apple Maps Connect is available in the following countries:

Australia

Austria

Belgium

Canada

Denmark

France

Germany

Ireland

Italy

Mexico

The Netherlands

New Zealand

Singapore

Sweden

Switzerland

United Kingdom

United States

The following info has not been updated since 2014:

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.

iBeacon
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.

Apple Maps Indoor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I read through the Apple Maps Connect Help section and have pulled out the good stuff here:

Apple Maps Connect FAQ

      1. 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 mapsconnect-business@apple.com
      2. What countries are supported?
        Apple Maps Connect currently only supports businesses in the U.S.
      3. 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.
      4. 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.
      5. Verification Tip
        Using an email address that matches the business’ website will speed up approval (eg. www.apple.com and you@apple.com).
      6.  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.
      7.  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.
      8. 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.
      9. 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.
      10. 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.
      11. 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.
      12. 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.
      13. Website Link
        Apple states that the website you link to from your Apple Maps listing should be “optimized for mobile screens”.
      14. What If Your Submission Is Not Approved?
        Apple will notify you and you can reply requesting a manual review.
      15. How Do You Update Your Business Photo on Apple Maps?
        Photos currently come from Yelp so update your photo on Yelp.
      16. 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.

 

Apple Maps Trusts Yelp More Than Business Listing Aggregators

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TL:DR: FIX YOUR APPLE MAPS DATA ISSUES ON YELP FIRST

Just as Google Local SEO relies on NAP (Name, Address & Phone Number) consistency to help Google understand and rank (or not rank) your business, Apple Maps has its own flavor of NAP inconsistencies gumming up the works. Often businesses whose data is not up to date at all of the business listing aggregators Apple Maps uses, can find their business displayed incorrectly on the Maps or even worse, not displayed at all. These days SEOs are spending a lot of time making sure NAP info is up to date all over the Web, but in the case of Apple Maps, updating your Yelp data may be your best first move. It seems that Apple Maps may trust Yelp’s info more than anyone else’s.

Consider the case of West Kendall Toyota.
Apple Maps lists the business name as “West Kendall Toyota Sales”:

That’s Not The Business’ Name
Nowhere on its site is “West Kendall Toyota Sales” mentioned:

“West Kendall Toyota Sales” is not listed in Apple Maps’ U.S. data aggregators:

  1. Neustar Localeze ain’t got nothing:

    though it has this listing at the same address:
     
  2. Factual = Zippo:

    though it has this listing at the same address:
  3. Axciom – Nada:

    and it has nada for any other listing for this business.

Yelp To The Rescue
The only evidence I can find of a business named “West Kendall Toyota Sales” in Miami, is on Yelp:

In this case, it’s pretty clear that Apple is trusting Yelp’s business name above all other data it has about the business.

So if you are having issues with your data in Apple Maps, make sure your NAP info is up to date on Yelp first. This will be a much quicker fix than doing it via the data aggregators, which you should also do regardless. If anyone has any additional data on this, please share in the comments.