Geo Sitemap Generator’s New Features

The “grand daddy” of geo sitemap generators has recently included some new features. Geo Sitemap Generator, first released by Arjan Snaterse in 2009, has added the ability to generate either a schema.org file or a microformatted file of your contact information. In addition to the features in the geo sitemap tool that I reviewed last week, Geo Sitemap Generator supports multiple locations and now provides a preview of the KML file locations on a Map.

The benefits of multiple locations are obvious if you need them. The benefits of the map preview are not so obvious but very real. KML files require a mapping API to generate the lat long info included in the file. Sometimes the information from the API, even from the same map provider, renders the location differently than reality or differently than the public mapping program. It has always been a good idea to check the KML file’s lat-long accuracy by loading it into something like Google Earth to be sure that it pins the locations correctly. Now Geo Sitemap Generator previews the pins on a Map for you when you go to download your files saving you a necessary step.

.

Geo Data Quality & Time to Fix

The Baltimore Sun reported on Saturday that Google Maps is erroneously showing the complete Intercounty Connector between I-95 and Gaithershburg Md as being open. Apparently Gogle driving directions are directing drivers along a 12 mile stretch between I-95 and Georgia Ave that still “is largely a muddy track where bulldozers are still doing what bulldozers do”.

This particular case is interesting to me for several reasons.

It is a high profile error in a very densely populated area of the US that has lots of road traffic. The Maps error has been picked up by the Washington Post and the regional NBC affiliate as well as the Baltimore Sun. Coverage of the issue has been persistent with the Baltimore Sun following up on their original reporting on 3/27 noting that 48 hours after reporting the problem to Google the problem is still in Maps.

Clearly, the reporter, Michael Dress of the Sun, thinks that Google should be able to fix the problem in a 2 day timeframe and is dismayed that it remains unrepaired. It is a reasonable expectation to think that a critical mapping error be fixed in 2 day timeframe. Whether Google can or will is another question. Typically they take 30-60 days to act on these corrections.  One of the realities of privatization of essential public services like this is that without strong and enforced regulations, the decisions like these are dictated by profit and not the needs of people. Should a private company that is providing a product for free be held to a higher standard when their product affects public safety in the public realm?

Secondly this story has already achieved a fairly high level of visibility by virtue of being covered in media sources that are very high profile and effectively national in scope. Google, in the past, has held that these types of public exposure have little impact on their willingness and speed to affect changes. Most in the SEO industry have seen obvious examples of “hand jobs” that seems to bely that. This will be an interesting case to test whether Google actually does intervene in these types of cases.

Thirdly and a bigger question is whether the overall quality of the underlying Maps data has improved over the past 12 months. Google stopped using TeleAtlas and started using their own geo data in October of 2009. They implemented a system of end user geo error reporting at the same. In May of last year, Google hired 300 temp workers in the Maps arena to improve the quality. As recently as last September, this reporting system was behind Google’s stated commitment of fixing geo errors in 30 days and there still was some reporting of whole towns going missing.

However since that time, complaints seemed to have dropped. While there have been some problematic and visible examples of large scale geographic map errors, for the most part the quality of the underlying map data seems to have generally improved. This seems to be true in both urban areas and rural areas as well.

Certainly the number of high level complaints on my radar has decreased. It was a common issue that affected visibility of business listings but reports in the Places forum of the problem have declined. Not a perfect proxy of reality but one that should reflect the general direction of the quality of the underlying data as businesses have a very high vested interest in being found and are thus motivated to report the problem. In my anectdotal test of Google’s mapping errors in my home town, most have been fixed.

It has been reported that Google receives over 10,000 corrections an hour to their maps. That’s a million corrections received every 4 days and over 87 million some odd changes every year. Do you think that they actually improved the underlying quality to a level appropriate for business listing accuracy?

Would love to hear your opinions on whether you think that Google has improved the quality of the underlying geo-data over the past year.

BrightLocal Survey- 59% of Consumers use Google Each Month to Find a Good Local Business

Brightlocal.com, a provider of local search tools for local marketers and SMBs, has released a new survey of Local SEO’s and US consumers title: Where do local business websites get their traffic & do consumers appreciate local search results? They surveyed 648 Local SEOs and 1,250 US consumers as to the value of Local search results.

Local SEOs reported that Google Places was the number one source of traffic and Google organic was number two, with Google in total providing 58% of all search traffic. (I have asked for clarification of the results but it strikes me as difficult to ascertain with any confidence where a result from Google is coming from with blended results.) All other sites provided a small percentage of the traffic; Yahoo providing 4% in from both local and organic, Bing providing 3% and Facebook 2%. These numbers reinforced the results that I reported in a much smaller sample of rural visitation in January.

The report found that consumers looked more closely at results that included images particularly in younger demographics. It is confirmation of the general perception in the SEO world of the benefits of the Google included visuals. Of particular interest to me, were the consumer usage and satisfaction results.

Question: How often do you use Google to locate and find a good local business? (e.g cafe, bar, plumber, taxi service…)
- 59% of consumers use Google each month to find a good local business
- 31% of consumers use Google each week to find a good local business

% of consumers using Google Local results

Question: In Google’s search results they often display local results*. Which of the following statements best applies to your attitude and use of these types of results?

Key Findings:
-71% of consumers value the information contained within local search results.
-This rises to 80% for those aged 16-34; Only 66% of consumers aged 55+ find these results useful

Related posts:

  1. How Often Does Google Show A Local Map? More than a 1 billion times per month!
  2. Google Maps User Survey
  3. Google Business Group Survey – Not from Google