Exploring Local
Mike Dobson of TeleMapics on Local Search and All Things Geospatial

The GoogleBar Local Search Changes Map Search

September 28th, 2009 by MDob

The other day I was reading my newsletter from the Google AdSense Team about information included in their most recent blogs at Inside AdSense. As you may know, AdSense is the publishing or distribution arm of Google’s advertising network. The article was titled Monetizing with the Google Maps API and can be found here, if you want to read the announcement.

The GoogleBar Local Search is a new tool from Google designed to allow developers, webmasters and content creators a chance to monetize their use of the Google Maps API. For those of you unfamiliar with the Google Map API, it is very popular, free, internet mapping tool offered by Google that gives its users access to an API and a street level database for most of the world that can be used to create a variety of cartographic displays. Most developers overlay other data on Google’s maps, creating the ever-popular Google Map Mashup.

As many of you know, I have many hobbies and one of them is the travel website called ThereArePlaces, where my team and I attempt to introduce “newbie” travelers to the “best places to visit around the world”. We use Google Map Mashups to show travelers the specific locations of the best places to visit in the countries and cities that we cover.

Aside from being good fun, I have used ThereArePlaces to help me understand Internet advertising and its influence on local search and location based services. It is within this context that I think that the GoogleBar may quite possibly be more revolutionary than Google Maps and over time become one of the preferred methods of searching for local information (perhaps outgunned only by voice search).

Without going into the details of the implementation, anyone with a license to use the Google Map API and who is a registered AdSense publisher can add to their Google Map Mashups a short snippet of code that embeds a small search box at the bottom of the map.

The new Google Bar allows local search within the context of a map

[Just so you know, the unmarked red symbols on the map show the locations of the places we recommend visiting. They are tied to our text and information boxes open when these places are clicked in the text.]

The user then enters a search terms of interest to them and a small pane opens on the map showing the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). The locations shown in the list are also shown where they are located on the map. In addition, they can be identified by information boxes that open on the map showing the contact information for the listing that you clicked. At the top the listings is a small advertisement that nets the publisher a micro-payment if an interested viewer decides to click the ad for more information.

A search for hotels on a map of Rome

The listings are not advertisements, but representative of the search results you would receive if you entered the same term in Google Search and appended some geographic qualifier to the inquiry (e.g. “pizza + 92653”). If you want more precision, zoom closer. If there are listings in the area they will show, if not, the map will automatically back out and show where they can be found within a larger area.

While many of you may yawn at the thought of the GoogleBar, I think it will become a popular tool because it does not require the user to know specific geographic information such as an address, a ZIP Code, a neighborhood name, or any other spatial identifier. Instead, they can look at map, zoom in on an area and basically query “what is here?” by adding a term to the embedded search box. In addition, it seems to me, that putting search into the map as a component is sort of like putting a recipe on a cake box. You need the recipe when you are going to bake the cake and you need to search for a category on the map when you intend to undertake a purchase in a specific spatial location.

Next, the map approach is a good way to handle “farcasting” –trying to find something at a location you will arrive at later in the day or some other time in the future, but not where you are now. I think this is one of the trickiest problems using GPS-based search systems. For example, you go to the search functionality on your device and the application asks if it can use your GPS location. Well, if where you want to search is unrelated to your present location, you have to find a way to designate the alternative location and what easier way to do this than by pointing to it on a map?

How about a search for outfitters near a National Park (in this case Zion)?

A search for outfitters near Zion National Park.

I probably won’t convince you with words, so why not try this out for yourself.

For Munich try searching for hotels, beer, restaurants

For Rome – try searching for pizza, gelato, hotels, etc.

Or try searching for Paris hotels, patisseries, chocolate, perfume etc.

If you prefer National Parks of the American Southwest, zoom in on a National Park and look for outfitters, jeep rentals, hotels, etc.

Now two completely disconnected topics.

For those of you wondering, I had my bout with the Sumo wrestler/orthopedic surgeon who manipulated my shoulder back in a manner that was designed to provide the mobility I had lost due to unknown reasons. It worked and my normal range of motion has returned. Better, yet, I had not pain post manipulation, but presume it must have hurt when they did the manipulation, but I was unconscious – so who knows? Of course my surgeon insisted that I begin taking the narcotics he prescribed within two hours of the manipulation. I did so because the pain levels were advertised as monumental. Although there was no pain, I had several bad reactions to the narcotics and stopped taking them after the third dose. I woke up in the middle of night thinking I had been set upon by fire ants. I itched everywhere. I got up, put on my clothes so I could no longer scratch my skin and put socks on my hands so that whatever skin I could reach was not damaged. The next day I needed some supplies and drove to a store. I walked from the parking lot to the store and back out – in the sun a total of two minutes – and contracted one of the worst sunburns I have had in years. Gimme the Sumo wrestler and get rid of those pills.

Finally, Exploring Local was spammed in the blog previous to this installment. The hacker was able to insert spam (usually related to Cialis and ED) into the RSS Feed. It would likely have been seen by you only if you used a news reader to review our blog. We believe we have resolved the problem. However, I apologize to anyone who saw the spam and thought I had started another new hobby.

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Posted in Google, Local Search, Mapping, Mike Dobson, local search advertising, pedestrian navigation

One Response

  1. Tourism CV

    Thanks for educating me on the Google search bar. Awesome!!