Google continues to fine-tune the fusion of location with its mobile Web services. The search engine Jan. 14 began offering search suggestions based on the current or last location of a user's mobile phone.
Using search suggestions is an efficient way of searching Google on Android-based smartphones and Apple's iPhone. The user starts typing a query and a lateral line of potential keywords pops up below the search box. Users can select choices by tapping instead typing their requests.
This saves users a lot of time, particularly on Android devices such as the Motorola Droid or Nexus One, where typing on the touch screen can be challenging. Google acknowledged this in a blog post:
"Typing a query into the search box on a phone can often be slow and difficult. For this reason, relevant search suggestions that match your intended query can meaningfully reduce the time and effort it takes to submit a search."
In the company's example, when users in downtown Boston begin typing "Muse," suggestions such as "museum of science boston" and "museum of fine arts boston" are provided because these are frequent requests for people near Boston. Similarly, users in San Francisco who begin a query with "Muse" will see suggestions for museums in the San Francisco area:
For this to work, Android or iPhone users must turn on "Save recent locations" and "Allow use of device location" under the Settings link on the Google.com home page.
Local search suggestions come a week after Google turned on its Near Me Now feature to direct Google search users to local restaurants and other stores.
In other location-based news, Google added two new features to help businesses in its Local Business Center better reach out to customers from their Place Pages, which just got Yelp-like local ratings a month ago.
Google is letting local business owners post messages from their Local Business Center accounts. In Google's example, Mission Mountain Winery used its Place Page to introduce a new wine:
Local businesses can also use this to promote special events and offer mobile coupons.
Google also began offering a badge for listings that have been claimed in the Local Business Center to help users identify listings that have been updated:
Google likes to bill its Place Pages as Web pages for every place in the world, from businesses to points of interest and other locales on Google Maps.
But it's easy to see that it's really a major business push to connect businesses with customers and serve ads along the way.
This will have big implications for Google's local business advertising, as Google seeks to reach more mobile phone users, who will search for local businesses from their laptops and mobile phones when they travel to unknown cities.