Google Local Adds Web Reviews

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2005-03-03 Print this article Print

Google continues to incorporate online reviews into search results, with a new feature displaying related opinions on restaurants and other businesses.

NEW YORK—Web reviews are gaining more prominence in Google search results as the search engine builds them into its local results. As part of a launch of new Google Local features on Thursday, Google Inc. is tapping into Web reviews to provide a snapshot of the online ratings and comments about restaurants, shops and other local business, Google executives said during an interview here at the Search Engines Strategies 2005 Conference & Expo. Google also has begun to display structured data, such as hours of operation and payment methods, within business listings and has switched the maps within local results to its recently released Google Maps instead of external providers.
The local reviews are similar to the features Google recently added for viewing and searching product reviews on its Froogle site and for retrieving movie reviews, said Marissa Mayer, Googles director of consumer Web products. With Google Local, the reviews include a red, yellow or green icon to indicate if a review was negative or positive.
While reviews of restaurants are likely to be prevalent, Google also can extract reviews about other types of businesses. Users can search within a set of reviews, a feature that Mayer said could be used to find the popular dishes served at a particular restaurant. "We broadly look at Web sites with reviews information and associate it with businesses," Mayer said. Click here to read more about Googles local search launch. Googles recent focus on Web reviews was born of a project by a group of interns last summer, Mayer said. They had developed a reviews search engine for identifying reviews, categorizing and scoring them, and the interns work serves as the technical basis of the recent product launches. Using the reviews engine, Google is able to discern the most common phrases appearing in a set of reviews. The company will display those in a left-side panel alongside reviews results, including in local search, Mayer said. To incorporate structured data into local results, Google is both extracting data from the Web and tapping feeds from undisclosed business-listings providers, a spokesman said. The Mountain View, Calif. company also is investigating ways to allow businesses to update some data, such as addresses or phone numbers, Mayer said. "Its something we should do, and were doing a limited test [of it]," Mayer said. Competitor Yahoo Inc. started a local submission program in December for businesses to update their local listings. It included a paid option for adding photos and more detailed information. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on enterprise search technology.
Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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