Finding local businesses and bargains

Have you noticed how certain searches on Google bring back a map and from one to three local listings?

This is Google's "Local Search", which ties in Google Maps with your search term. As a result, any time you search a location (like "Freeport, Maine") with a business type (like "Bed & Breakfast") you will get this type of result. Where do the listings come from? Good question...

Many listings are posted by the business owners. Google allows the business to put in a description, map location, hours of operation, photos, etc., so they can put the information in the local listing. Here is the Brewster House local listing. Other listings are simply picked up by the "googlebot" - Google's "spider" which crawls the web finding websites and indexing them.

So, where are the "normal" search results? They're still there, below the first "local" results. By the way, I'm describing Google's local search, but Yahoo! and others have similar search features.

Is "local search" a good thing? Well, like most things on the internet, yes and no. Yes, if you're trying to find a local business, because this is exactly the kind of information you want. No, if you're a local business and your listing isn't one of the top three listed.

What that translates to is that it is a good thing for the consumer, as long as the business you're looking for is more or less interchangeable with another. For example, without intending to step on any toes, if you're looking for a dry cleaner in a city, local search will find you some dry cleaners who fit your search criteria. However, if they type of business you are looking for is somewhat individualistic, or if you are looking not just for a dry cleaner, but for a specific dry cleaner, there is no assurance that you will find what you are seeking among the first three results.

There is one more "silver lining" to local search (at least on Google). The business is permitted to post coupons that the consumer may print and bring to the business to get a discount. Brewster House has posted coupons on the local search listing in the past.