Local Search

The NZS.nz Local Search article contains information about local search, directories and technology.

Local search is the term used to describe search queries or search engines that are targeted to a specific geographical area.

Local search is a growing component of online search behaviour where there is a need to define search results with geographic indicators to focus the search on the most relevant content for the user.

The simplest version of local search is where a user types a geographic location into their search query e.g. “New Zealand Accommodation” or “Auckland Restaurants” to define that they are searching for a specific location based result. On an even more detailed level, a local search would include where someone is searching for a specific place e.g. “florist on ponsonby road”.

NZS.nz itself is a local search engine as it specifically focuses on the New Zealand geographic area and does not accept website listings that are not made for the New Zealand market.

There are an increasing number of ways that a search result can be targeted to a local market. With a directory like NZS.nz, it is the human edited selection of regional categories that are relevant to the website listing that returns quality regional data for the searcher.

For other non-human edited directories and search engines, algorithms are built to attempt to decide what geographic area a location is most relevant to based on things like place names and address details that are present on the website.

When there are business details present it is usually inferred that the physical location of the business is the information that is relevant to showing that result to the user when being searched on in that specific area.

Mobile Local Search

In some cases it can be the search device itself that gives the local information for the searcher, usually through GPS, and therefore the search is limited to the area that the user is physically located in. This is often termed as a “location aware” device.

This technology is still in its infancy (particularly in New Zealand) as devices that have both a usable on-screen interface and GPS capability become more prevalent on the consumer market.

hCard & Microformats

There is an increasing number of businesses getting behind the Internet standards that have been proposed for businesses and websites to show their contact details as well as which geographic location is relevant to them directly on their website.

An hCard is a microformat that allows a business to show its contact details and geographic co-ordinates on a website in a way that programs like search engine spiders can automatically source the data and include it in their results with the details that the business wants.

The hCard microformat has been designed to fit within the same structure as the vCard format that has become a commonly used standard in address books.

While websites and therefore local search engines are not commonly using microformats at the writing of this piece, it can be expected that this type of formatting of contact details and geographical information will help to improve the ease with which you local search engine can display more relevant results in the future.