Sensis pumps up Aussie search

Sensis plans in late April to unveil a set of enhancements to its Web search engine the Telstra subsidiary says makes its service uniquely capable of detecting Australian content.The company's senior producer Henry Ruiz says the search engine's index has been boosted by 20 percent and the focus is on including Australian sites.

Sensis plans in late April to unveil a set of enhancements to its Web search engine the Telstra subsidiary says makes its service uniquely capable of detecting Australian content.

The company's senior producer Henry Ruiz says the search engine's index has been boosted by 20 percent and the focus is on including Australian sites.

"We are not going out with big banners saying we are the best search engine," he told ZDNet Australia . "But we do want to be the best place for Australians to search within Australia".

To achieve that position the company is actively working with local content sources whose sites are difficult for search engines to access.

"Australian universities have a wealth of really good information that US based engines do not index fully," Ruiz said. "We are trying to capture as many sites like that so that when Australians search with us they are directed to local content.

"We are also looking to do deals to index hard to find content. Our competitors are doing it, but our focus is local".

Contextual analysis of search terms is another new tool the company expects will make a splash.

"If you search on a term that is related to a recent news story, we will prioritise news stories in the results the engine returns," Ruiz said.

User interfaces will also be enhanced. The site will do away with its "two-box" search interface to allow location-based services from a single text box. The interface will also do away with various options user testing has shown are not appreciated by the site's audience.

Other enhancements focus on what Ruiz calls "integrating other proprietary data," which translates into inclusion of results from other Sensis Web properties such as Trading Post.

The announcement of the enhancement came on the same day that Sensis chief executive officer Bruce Akhurst said it saw massive growth potential from its online properties.

Akhurst told AAP that the company sees " ... a pretty unlimited opportunity ... to increase advertising spend from small and medium sized businesses, and that Sensis can convert the opportunity without massive capital spending.

The company's recently-launched justlisted.com.au real estate service provided evidence of that potential.

"It's a very competitive market but we will move into profit in the next financial year - justlisted has really surprised me," he said.

Akhurst would not be drawn, however, on the question of how a potential spinoff and float would impact its operations.

"The government will want to consider the position of whether it makes sense to sell or keep Sensis -- or sell it later -- as part of the T3 exercise," Akhurst told AAP. -We stand ready to implement, which ever way they decide to go."

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