Google goes local

From friendly neighbourhood lawyers to the nearest video store, Google.com can now provide U.

From friendly neighbourhood lawyers to the nearest video store, Google.com can now provide U.S. users with local information through the integration of Google Local.

Google Local enables users to find relevant local information with neighborhood business listings, maps, directions, and useful web pages from a combination of traditional business listings with local resources from Google's Index.

Although Google Local is not yet available in Australia and New Zealand, the company assures that including local information for international markets is their top priority in the coming months. The first leg of the expansion cannot be disclosed at the moment, however, it is said to start after the test run in the U.S.

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

Google Local search functionality is integrated into Google.com so relevant local information for specific keywords or locations is automatically presented to users at the top of search results pages. When these results are available, they are marked by a small compass icon which, when clicked, connects users to a Google Local search results page.

For instance, users searching for a pizza restaurant in their neighborhood simply enter the keyword [pizza], and either a zip code or the name of a town or city [Palo Alto] into the search field to receive a comprehensive list of local pizza restaurants. Each result is accompanied by a phone number, street address, and a list of related websites such as those of local pizza restaurant, store reviews, and related information. Clicking on a business name delivers a new page featuring an easy-to-read map, directions, and more related web pages. Users can also limit or expand their results to include listings within a 1-mile, 5-mile, 15-mile, or 45-mile radius of a specific location.

Google Local, currently in beta, gives more than the usual information on yellowpages online. Users can search beyond traditional sources of local information to reach a greater diversity of data from Google's index of more than 4.2 billion web pages. Google combines web-crawled information drawn from a wide variety of U.S. databases such as the yellow pages and other sources. It also connects users to U.S.-based local information. Google Local had been tested in lab.google.com for a few months to get feedback from users and for further evaluation before the integration with Google.com.