Google Goes Local

Gretchen Gallen
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Search engine Google, Inc. went live Wednesday with a new search feature that localizes search results and enables users to find information on people, businesses, and services closest to their homes or desired locations.

Google's launch of Local Google, while still in beta, is based on new algorithmic formulas that can generate information as finite as people's home telephone numbers, zip codes, or the local grocery store.

Local Google also features an icon of a compass that can be clicked on to open another page containing detailed maps and directions to the desired location.

"Google's goal is to connect searchers with the information they need whether it's halfway around the world or in their neighborhood," said Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

The new service from the world's number one search engine will not only create formidable competition among other online phone directory services and map search services, but it will also open up a wide field of new small business advertisers interested in paying for search placement, which has so far proven to be a goldmine for search engines like Google and Yahoo.

Recent studies have indicated that with the continued rollout of high-speed service in rural areas, users are tending to use search engines when it comes to finding local or region-specific information.

According to the Associated Press, small businesses typically spend an estimated $22 billion yearly on ads in the Yellow Pages, newspapers, and direct mail.

The launch of Local Google comes on the heels of similar services from search rival Yahoo and its recently launched SmartView service and from Verizon Communications.

Google's director of consumer web products claims that 70 percent of Google users are interested in local business information search results.