Monday, March 1, 2010

Google Adds "Nearby" Function for Search

Location has become an important part of the way we search, the Google Blog says, in something of an understatement.

"Simply put, location changes everything," Wired technology writer Mat Honan has said. That might be an exaggeration, but one intuitively can sense the potential to change behavior in the real world, if people easily can ascertain what is around them.

The key for marketers is to understand what kinds of information people want when they're tied to a certain place. One analogy might be that search solved the "what is" problem. Social networking provides a "who" context filter. Location awareness changes the "where" context.

In the early going, people are going to experiment with retail location offers. just as in the early days of the World Wide Web companies put up brochures online. But as the Web moved from static to active, interactive and real-time applications, so will the use of "location" features.

One might say the shift is from manually searching for "what is around me" to having that information show up automatically, without having to ask. Promotions and advertising will be important, but so will new applications that relate to where a person is, right now.

That might mean on-the-spot offers for travelers waiting to board a flight, missed connection options, or seat upgrade information.

"If you're a foodie looking for restaurant details, food blogs or the closest farmer's market, location can be vital to helping you find the right information," Google says. "Starting today, we've added the ability to refine your searches with the 'Nearby' tool in the 'Search Options' panel.

The search process also has been revised, Google says. If "Minneapolis" is the query, results will be returned for "St. Paul" or "Twin Cities," as well as "Minneapolis."

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