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.
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 data. For example, here’s the Maps Connect profile for moveON moving, a fine Las Vegas moving company.
Once you have claimed the profile, you can update the following data:
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.
As of May 24, 2015, Apple Maps Connect is available in the following countries:
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.
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.
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.
9to5Mac reports that a major upgrade to Apple Maps is in the works for iOS8, with public transit data being the big feature. The report also mentions that “Apple is also working on unique ways for integrating indoor mapping views and enhanced car integration for future versions of iOS. Sources say that Apple has also begun work on augmented reality functionality that leverages the iPhone’s compass hardware to visually see nearby points of interest.”
These sound like worthwhile consumer-focused applications but they aren’t going to do businesses with screwed-up data or missing locations any good. I wouldn’t have expected Apple to use a leak like this to pre-announce a business claiming feature – consumers wouldn’t care and it would do nothing to get people excited about iOS8, but I hope we are pleasantly surprised by a business claiming feature when the update comes out. It is sorely needed.
“We have been trying to get our location corrected for over a year. We finally got a call from Apple about 6 months ago and they said they are aware of the wrong address and would have it fixed in a couple of months. It is still incorrect. Our business name is The Orchard. We are a wedding venue and every Friday, Saturday and Sunday we have from 200 to 400 guests trying to find us. “
This is the first I have heard of Apple Maps calling a business to verify the location data. Has anyone else been called by Apple like this?
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”:
“West Kendall Toyota Sales” is not listed in Apple Maps’ U.S. data aggregators:
Neustar Localeze ain’t got nothing: though it has this listing at the same address:
Factual = Zippo: though it has this listing at the same address:
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.
Comscore has just released data on U.S. smartphone market share for the three months ending in September, 2013. According to my calculations, the report shows that 63% of people with iPhones (or 38 million people) use the Apple Maps app. Here’s how I got the numbers:
Comscore Smartphone Subscriber Market Share Data September 2013:
Total U.S. Smartphone Subscribers
Apple Share of U.S. Smartphone Subscribers
Total Apple U.S. Smartphone Subscribers
% Reach of Apple Maps
Total Apple Maps Users
According to Mike Vorhaus of Magid Advisors, in 2012, 26% of US households (62 million!) had an iPad. Any of the tens of millions of iPads sold over the past year have the Apple Maps app already installed. And Apple’s new OS X Mavericks operating system brought Apple Maps to millions of Apple desktops last month. So suffice to say, Apple Maps’ reach should continue to grow dramatically, particularly after Christmas.
What About Google Maps?
According to The Guardian, at the same time Google Maps usage has dropped by about 21%, or about 16 million monthly users, over the past year:
“But as iOS 6 began to roll out, and introduced Apple’s maps as the default, the number using Google Maps dropped precipitously, even as the number of iPhones and Android phones began rising. (ComScore does not measure usage on Windows Phone or BlackBerry, which comprise only about 10% of smartphones in use in the US.) By December 2012, even though the base of iPhones and Android phones had grown to 112.9m – up 9.3m – the total number across both platforms using Google Maps on mobile at least once a month had dropped, to 74.4m.
Latest figures from ComScore, published for September 2013, say that the total number of iPhones and Android phones in the US has grown to 136.7m, the number who used the Google Maps app has kept dropping – down to 58.8m – while the number of Apple Maps users stands at 35m out of a total iPhone population of 60.1m.”
The Guardian estimates that Google Maps usage on the iPhone has dropped over the past year by about 29 million monthly users. Ouch.
I have received several inquiries lately from businesses that operate out of residential locations and would like to hide their address in Apple Maps. As far as I know, you can’t hide your address in Apple Maps. And in fact, I have heard through the grapevine that Apple Maps has actively tried to keep businesses located in residential areas out of the maps.
Hey Apple, how about a business profile management dashboard for Xmas?
Now that Apple Maps allows you to suggest categories for business listings, I thought it might be useful to list them here. There are 689 listed categories, but there are several duplicates and for some reason, a number of foreign-language categories like Amtsgericht. Why does it matter what these categories are? If in fact, these are the complete set of Apple Maps’ business categories (I hope not as there are lots of missing categories), then when you are categorizing your business in one Apple Maps’ data suppliers’ databases, you might want to use the exact category name that Apple uses. Often these databases use categories that have a lot of overlap, but if you want to have the best possible chance of your business data mapping from a data provider to Apple Maps, it might be worthwhile to use the closest match to Apple’s categories.
Apple Maps has improved the “Report a Problem” feature with the release of iOS7 and may have just taken the first step towards making the service more hospitable to businesses.
While I have heard very few cases where reporting a problem actually resulted in that problem being resolved, it’s still interesting to see how Apple is slowly building the functionality to give users more control over the business listings.
Here’s a comparison of the Report A Problem screens from iOS6 and iOS7:
Besides being much more readable, you’ll notice that Apple Maps in iOS7 now allows you to report:
Street or other label is incorrect
Clicking on this brings up a map where the user is instructed to “Tap the incorrectly labeled street or feature”. This is not the way to fix problems with your business listings. This seems mostly targeted at incorrect map data (v. business data).
Location is missing (Should be called “Add or Move a Listing” instead)
Select this option to get a screen where you can move a map pin for the business you just searched for to the right location. Not sure why they called this “Location is missing” as the first screen you get when you click is to move the map pin, which would be non-existent for a missing location.
You have to ignore the pin and click on the “Next” link where you then can fill out your business info. I just did it for Local SEO Guide, Inc. so we’ll see how long it takes for it to get into the Maps. Of note, the screen where you can enter your business info allows you to enter the following data about a business:
This is the baby step towards having an actual claiming/updating system for businesses. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait until iOS8 for that to happen….More thoughts later.