Google on Tuesday extended its internet search service to provide local information and maps on businesses, stores and services for users of mobile devices.
The move represents a logical step for Google in the wireless segment, where hundreds of millions of phones are becoming internet enabled, and in the local advertising market.
US local businesses spend about $14bn a year on advertising in offline directories and search engines are now targeting that market.
Yahoo launched a mobile service that included local search last October and Ask Jeeves plans to do the same this year. Google launched a local version of its mobile search engine last October using SMS (short message service), where users could enter a subject, such as pizza, and a zipcode and receive an SMS message back listing the nearest restaurants. The new service resembles the standard Google webpage with boxes for ?What? and ?Where?.
Search results show a zoomable map with 10 locations, a list of addresses and driving directions, and a click-to-call feature for contacting the business by phone.
The service is in a trial phase and is only available for North America. The site does not carry advertising but Google's standard local service raises revenues from businesses paying for prominent placement of their details on results pages. Georges Harik, Google's director of product management, said the new service had no revenue model and was intended to reinforce people's associations of Google with finding them information. Google has supplemented its web page indexing with business listing databases.
It added advertising of the local service to the home page of google.com this year to promote the service. Larry Page, Google co-founder, told analysts the company was ?very bullish? on local.
In March, it added a new tool that allowed businesses to create, edit or delete their listings. The Google Local Business Center lets businesses change their address, phone number and other descriptive details in a free service.
Yahoo charges $9.95 for companies to add business descriptions, links to promotional offers and images.
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