Sex and the City, Google-style

Location, location, location

Check out Google's search by location demo site. There are a few glitches to iron out, Reg Reader Geo points out: a search of sex and New York yields, at time of writing, only the names and addresses of convicted sex offenders - in Ohio. Spot any more absurdities? Send 'em here. Now for an article on location-based searching from our news partner, the estimable Irish site, ENN.

Following closely behind Overture, search giant Google is demonstrating a location-based Internet search service.

When the service is launched, Google users will be able to enter their postcode along with search terms to produce tailored location-based results and an area map pinpointing the location of, for example, local pizzerias. Search-by-location services, or geo-searching, help users to focus their searches on specific geographic locations.

This latest offering from Google Labs, the company's research and development arm, works by analysing the entire contents of a Web page to extract hints or "signals," about the geographic nature of the page. The engine then determines the corresponding physical location and returns results that match the geographic range specified. However, the beta version is currently limited to US locations.

Meanwhile, Overture Service's competing service is earmarked for a fourth quarter launch. A demo version of the company's location-sensitive search product was launched earlier this month but has now been taken off-line. When launched, it will match up businesses and consumers based on geographic location, Overture claims.

It is expected that Overture will use its new technology to sell more of its pay-for-performance keyword ads, which are Internet ads that are returned alongside search engine results. This model allows business to pay only for users that click on the highly targeted ads and if the company's so-called "geo-targeting" technology is integrated into this model, the lucrative ads will become even more targeted.

"Google's demo product seems to search from across the entire Web. In contrast, the Overture one is very much targeted and sponsored-based. What we are seeing is another sign that the search engines are trying to target local markets which are thought of as the new, big advertising earners," said Danny Sullivan editor of SearchEngineWatch.com, an industry publication.

Overture subsidiary AltaVista is in fact testing some geographically localised ads now, a company spokesperson said. The search company estimates that local search Web advertising will be a USD1 billion market by 2008.

Still, neither Google or Overture are the first to attempt geo-searching.

Yahoo's Yellow Pages already offer a keyword search for business name or business type and orders results by distance from any location. The editorially vetted data has an address, a phone number, and possibly a Web site. Both the Overture and Google products may only return results for purely commercial organisations with Web sites.

What's more the now defunct Northern Light in tried its hand at geo-searching in 2000 through a fairly rudimentary system that filtered results so that only matches relating to a particular "real world" address appeared.

© ENN

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