Google bolsters local Web content with Places search

October 27, 2010

Google’s search engine can deliver Web pages from every corner of the world, but the Internet company is increasingly interested in getting you information about the pizza parlor around the corner.

Google introduced a new feature on Wednesday called “Places” that allows users to narrow their search results to include only information about real-world establishments that are nearby.

A search for “bocce,” the Italian outdoor bowling game, for example, can be refined so that results show actual bocce courts in San Francisco (or wherever Google determines the user is located) instead of Web pages about the sport of bocce.GoogPlaces

Google has also fleshed out the lists of local businesses, like restaurants, that it already serves up alongside an online map, so that the results now include more details about the various establishments, like address and links to online reviews.

According to Google, more than 20 percent of searches on its site are related to location. And Google has increasingly been taking steps to incorporate more local businesses into its massive index of online information.

Last year Google mailed special decals to more than 100,000 small businesses across the U.S. The stickers identified the establishments as Google Favorite Places and featured a special bar code for passers-by to photograph with their smartphone cameras and find more information on Google’s Web site.

And, of course, Google tried to buy online review giant Yelp last year, according to media reports.

The Yelp deal didn’t happen, but consumers’ appetite for local information (and the opportunity to sell online ads to local businesses) is huge, and Google wants a piece of the action.

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