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Location Search

Location, Location, Location. In my previous blog piece on Locational Apps I gave my opinion on what they do and don’t do.

Recently, I have cause to revisit the field of Locational Applications and it encouraged me to do a bit of basic testing and research.

I started by looking at the three leading apps at the moment (or so it seems):

For the next part I’m going to attempt to use generic terms rather than any one application’s names or terminology: –

Each of these platforms work on the common paradigm of Users  and Locations. As a distinct user notifies the platform of their arrival at a location this is disseminated to their followers on the application/ platform and subject to the original user’s settings via Social Networks they use like Twitter or Facebook.

I suggested in my previous blog piece that the “Big 3” search engines should be indexing locations.

Isn’t a physical check-in to a location SEO worthy in the same way as arriving at a link in a search?

So my first test was to run searches on Bing, Google and Yahoo for specific users and locations. I used random users and locations; where the same user(s) and location(s) were used for each search engine. The table displays my results: –


Conclusions to be drawn from this are:-

  1. None of the Big 3 Search Engines indexes individual locations: again, lost ROI for the locations in terms of ranking.
  2. Gowalla users across the board are indexed and found when searched for.
  3. Bing couldn’t find the Foursquare users but Google and Yahoo could.
  4. Google found the Brightkite users but Bing and Yahoo couldn’t so they offered several partial suggestions for other users on Brightkite with similar locations.

I decided that one more test was warranted against the search engines. I decided to search for <platform_name>, <locational_terminology> and two areas [Tel Aviv and Riverdale].

Location - Map Tel Aviv

The two areas were chosen because based on experience Tel Aviv, Israel is probably the highest concentration of early adopters of tech like this I was familiar with and Riverdale is an area name that could catch several places in the US and these apps / platforms are based in the US.

The table displays my results: –


Partial suggestions = a short list of results. Each with a link on the platform/ app website.

Aggregated results = one link in search results containing an aggregated list of links on the platform/ app website.

Conclusions to be drawn from this: –

  1. Bing did not find results for either areas except on Brightkite.
  2. Google indexes all three of the app/ platform locations, at least partially however differences we seen in the total number of links in favor of the US area.

In a nutshell I guess looking for locations from locational applications via search engines is something of an oxymoron.

I looked at these results some more and figured that linking to user profiles on the site has value for personal ranking. However, with the sheer volume of venues being described by all three app/ platforms, what would the increased load be on the web and the search engines to handle each and every checkin?

One bit of encouragement is that as Real Time Search has begun, linking your Gowalla / Foursquare / Brightkite to Twitter or Facebook should mean that de facto Tweets and FB statuses regarding checkins should be indexed like any other.

The big question is, if one of the Big 3 search engines implements their own equivalent Locational Application / Platform or even the new Facebook Places, will their locations be indexed individually giving this missing bump to ranking (SEO) for businesses as locations?

More important, if they do have this added value, how will this affect Gowalla, Foursquare or Brightkite?

Recently I have been learning a lot about the mysteries of SEO.

puzzled illuminated

There I was minding my own business performing functional, regression and other testing on web sites and web applications; planning and implementing Scrum burn-downs and explaining what Agile was and why even as a philosophy being flexible helped.. suddenly I got a call from an acquaintance in the UK asking if I could figure out why a website they were developing wasn’t appearing in rankings for any of the big three search engines.

I have done some work on this before but since I followed tech news like the advent of Google Buzz (and related profiles) and the affects of Real Time and Web 2.0 on rankings, I felt I should at least update my core knowledge.

There is a wealth of information out there on the internet on different blogs and from the actual search engines themselves. I got to thinking as I planned my approach that I was basically going to perform testing on the website albeit a specific niche of backend design of the website. It was rather easy to create an extensive testplan with cases for each search engine.

In this particular case the site had been designed and implemented in Drupal. I have been a fan since my brother introduced me to it; his company First Contact uses this extensively and has created some amazing websites for their customers.


Drupal provides the user with an easy to use interface, modular design and comprehensive help via the forums etc on the website.

After planning and executing my tests I was able to report the problems, search for and offer fixes and spend some time over Remote Desktop and VOIP making the changes to the website.

One recommendation that was hard for my acquaintance to swallow was how much dynamic versus static content on your website can affect ranking. Implementing a structured approach to Social Media: blogging, Twitter via the website or connected to it can have a strong positive impact on how the big three Search Engines relate to your website’s page ranking.

We discussed this and taking a leaf from my experience in Agile-Scrum I recommended an iterative approach to planning and implementing this. Providing them with a plan or burn-down chart based on how much time they could commit to and what they realistically could do in each implementation cycle.

They are at the end of the iterations now, having tried various platforms and selected those they realistically can work with. Their ranking reflects the changes as does their website.

I have a happy “customer” and de facto an extra string to my professional bow.

If you have any questions about my approach to this do contact me. Perhaps I can help you too.

Technorati Tags: Agile / Scrum,,,,

Last week I was amongst the overjoyed who profile as early adopters of new tech/ web services to see the announcement that Google Buzz was going live. I followed the link on the Buzz homepage and read regarding how filling in my profile could help me in terms of search.

I filled in the relevant details and added links to my Social Media and Blog.

My google profile

I could get into the whole Buzz controversy and the ramifications of forcing new features on unsuspecting users or everybody’s favourite buzz-word transparency and how this is really the big failure in this whole story. However, all this has been flogged to death.

Let me ask you if you have noticed a seemingly innocuous link on the Google search results page that is a big game-changer for Search in general?

Show optionsLook carefully and you will notice  the Show options link which expands a series of filters for your search results.

By chance I was looking at my Twitter and once again I received a direct tweet intended for the ex-BBC presenter of the same name. My namesake has confounded my page-rank in search engines for years but something made me Google myself one more time.

I was astounded to see that whilst Buzz / Google profile had been causing controversy they had incorporated Real Time Search into their results had made a very real change to my page-rank:

google search - jonathanross

Suddenly I was on page 1 at number 5 on Google (or at least my blog was) after results ranging from page 15 to not found.

I’m not going to cite myself as any kind of case study but when you share a name with a celebrity you get used to living in their shadow in terms of Search. So to land on page 1 in that respect is a success.

Now I have to build on this momentum and ensure I can translate this into a tangible result. For someone in the process of searching for a new job (shameless self-marketing for Project/ QA Management) this has potential.

If reading this offers you ideas for you or for me and my job search then feel free to comment. Enjoy.