Local search (Internet)

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Local search is the use of specialized Internet search engines that allow users to submit geographically constrained searches against a structured database of local business listings. Typical local search queries include not only information about "what" the site visitor is searching for (such as keywords, a business category, or the name of a consumer product) but also "where" information, such as a street address, city name, postal code, or geographic coordinates like latitude and longitude. Examples of local searches include "Hong Kong hotels", "Manhattan restaurants", and "Dublin Hertz". Local searches exhibit explicit or implicit local intent. A search that includes a location modifier, such as "Bellevue, WA" or "14th arrondissement", is an explicit local search. A search that references a product or service that is typically consumed locally, such as "restaurant" or "nail salon", is an implicit local search.

Local search sites are primarily supported by advertising from businesses that wish to be prominently featured when users search for specific products and services in specific locations. Local search advertising can be highly effective because it allows ads to be targeted very precisely to the search terms and location provided by the user.



Local search is the natural evolution of traditional off-line advertising, typically distributed by newspaper publishers and TV and radio broadcasters, to the Web. Historically, consumers relied on local newspapers and local TV and radio stations to find local product and services. With the advent of the Web, consumers are increasingly using search engines to find these local products and services online. In recent years, the number of local searches online has grown rapidly while off-line information searches, such as print Yellow Page lookups, have declined. As a natural consequence of this shift in consumer behavior, local product and service providers are slowly shifting their advertising investments from traditional off-line media to local search engines.

A variety of search engines are currently providing local search, including efforts backed by the largest search engines, and new start-ups. Some of these efforts are further targeted to specific vertical segments while others are tied to mapping products.

Various geolocation techniques may be used to match visitors' queries with information of interest. The sources and types of information and points of interest returned varies with the type of local search engine.

Google Maps (formerly Google Local) looks for physical addresses mentioned in regular web pages. It provides these results to visitors, along with business listings and maps. Product-specific search engines, such as Google Product Search use techniques such as targeted web crawling and direct feeds to collect information about products for sale in a specific geographic area.

Other local search engines adjunct to major web search portals include general Windows Live Local, Yahoo! Local, and ask.com's AskCity. Yahoo!, for example, separates its local search engine features into Yahoo! Local and Yahoo! Maps, the former being focused on business data and correlating it with web data, the latter focused primarily on the map features (e.g. directions, larger map, navigation).

Search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN offer local businesses the possibility to upload their business data to their respective local search databases.

Private label local search

Traditional local media companies, including newspaper publishers and television and radio broadcasters, are starting to add local search to their local websites in an effort to attract their share of local search traffic and advertising revenues in the markets they serve. These local media companies either develop their own technology, or license "private label" or "white label" local search solutions from third-party local search solution providers. In either case, local media companies base their solution on business listings databases developed in-house or licensed from a third-party data publisher.

Traditional print directory publishers also provide local search portals such as Superpages and Yellow Pages in the US and Yell in UK. In fact, in most regions around print directory publishers have an online presence.

Mobile local search

Several providers have been experimenting with providing local search for mobile devices. Some of these are location aware. In the United States, Google currently provides an experimental voice-based locative service (1-800-GOOG-411). Many mobile web portals require the subscriber to download a small Java application, however the recently added .mobi top level domain has given impetus to the development of mobile targeted search sites are based upon a standard mobile specific XML protocol that all modern mobile browsers understand. The advantage is that no software needs to be downloaded and installed, plus these sites may be designed to simultaneously provide conventional content to traditional PC users by means of automatic browser detection.

Business owners and local search

Electronic publishers (such as businesses or individuals) who would like information such as their name, address, phone number, website, business description and business hours to appear on local search engines have several options. The most reliable way to include accurate local business information is to claim business listings through Google's[1], Yahoo!'s[2], or MSN's[3] respective local business centers.

Business listing information can also be distributed via the traditional Yellow Pages, electronic Yellow Pages aggregators, and search engine optimization services. Some search engines will pick up on web pages that contain regular street addresses displayed in machine-readable text (rather than a picture of text, which is more difficult to interpret). Web pages can also use geotagging techniques.

See also

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