The Problem with Google’s Monopoly

no option to leave a review

If Google+ reviews are so important, how come it’s so difficult to leave one on a mobile device?

I’m not one of those who think Google is inherently evil, and that everything they do is a devious attempt to trick us into spending more on AdWords. OK, some of what they do is…but they’re a for-profit company, and need to do their best to make a buck for their shareholders…and that’s OK.

The problem with having a virtual monopoly on any given space is that there’s no real incentive to be better than the competition. If you release a version of your software and it’s got problems, the customers won’t leave you in droves because–well, you’re really the only game in town.

So innovation tends to be driven by the desire to produce something new and cool, rather than making the basic product work. Let’s take a look at Google Maps search, for example.

I woke up this morning in sunny Manzanita, Oregon. Hungry…where to have breakfast? I do a search for “breakfast restaurants” on my iPhone, and get a nice selection of restaurants in Google’s little carousel. For Newport. That’s where I was yesterday. 2 hours away.

So I scroll way down to the bottom of the page, and find a little link that says “use precise location”. OK, I click that. It finds me in Manzanita, all right. But doesn’t change the search results. I have to search AGAIN…ok, now I’ve got a list of restaurants near me.

Luckily there isn’t a restaurant named “Breakfast Restaurant”, or else Maps would return just that single business, with no option for the list of all restaurants :-/

My son Ben and I toddle off down the road and have a marvelous breakfast (pan-fried razor clams, eggs, toast…and great coffee!) at The Big Wave, and I want to write a glowing review of this lovely little cafe, so I search for it on my iPhone, find the Google+ page for it, see all the existing reviews. But there’s no link anywhere for me to review it (and yes, I’m logged in to Google).

This is all a pretty basic, ordinary, common use case for Google local search. Probably one of the most common use cases, in fact. And yet there are FOUR fairly important usability bugs in that process.

I’m IN the search business, and have a very technical software background. Google, if I’m struggling to figure your interface out, it’s not me, it’s YOU.

So Google, STOP messing with cutesy little changes to the interface. No more just building what you think is clever and cool, UNLESS you do proper usability testing with this, and get the basic, common use cases to actually work.

And yes, I realize that you might not have the best pool of people in-house to test Maps stuff, when some of your people never leave your campus :-).

MozLocal update

I’ve been a huge fan of the MozLocal tools for submitting and managing location information for my clients. David and team have just launched a major update to the tools–one I had the privilege of beta testing (if only Google’s released tools had NEAR the quality of Moz’s beta products! #donerantingfornow).

Highlights:

  • Ability to enter a single listings’ information through forms, instead of creating and uploading a CSV.
  • Tools to detect and resolve duplicate listings, listings for closed locations, etc.
  • Better integration with Factual, via Factual’s Trusted Data Contributor program.

There’s a price increase to $84 per location, starting Oct. 1st–but that’s still way cheap, considering the time it saves vs. trying to submit and manage these all manually. I’d guess that I probably spent 3 or 4 hours per client location in the past, doing the submissions and verifications manually.

Bing Shopping Feed Screening Finds Porn Everywhere

My client, The Motor Bookstore, sent me a list of over 270 of their books that Bing’s shopping feed upload had rejected, mostly because it thought the topic was porn.

And while I’ll admit I get all hot and sweaty looking at pictures of Ferraris, and have been known to utter all sorts of nasty words while working on an old car, reading from the manual to “attach part X as shown” when it’s bloody well NOT shown…shop manuals and collector guides really aren’t porn in anybody’s world.

AMC Used Parts Buyers Guide

Don’t look…this is porn. Oooh, a naked engine! #shameonme


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New Company Info Pulldown in Google SERPs

Google is now showing a little pulldown to the right of the website URL in their search results. When you click the pulldown, you get a synopsis of the company or organization.

New company info pulldowns in Google SERPs

In the admittedly limited testing I’ve done so far, I’ve only seen info on the company pulled from two sources: Wikipedia, and DMOZ. Wikipedia is an understandable source, as Google has structured access to that information via their Freebase service. DMOZ is a different story, however, as it’s been notoriously difficult to get added to, and hence its information can be pretty thin and out of date. I did check one of the examples where the company info was pulled from DMOZ, and that same company is in Freebase as well.

Regardless, I’d call this a mildly interesting new user experience feature.

Independent search engine optimization (SEO) consultant Michael Cottam. Independent SEO Consultant Michael Cottam http://www.michaelcottam.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/independent-seo-consultant-michael-cottam.jpg
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