Last month, the Web search giant officially, a service that helps surfers find local businesses by typing in a search term and a city name. It also lets advertisers reach customers in their region, or within about 210 designated market areas in the United States.
Now, Google Local is circling in closer to consumers, tracking Web surfers' location down to the city level. That means that advertisers (in the United States) can tailor promotions to hit people in a specific city, so, for example, a surfer in New York who searches for "sushi" may get results accompanied by ads for local restaurants. Advertisers can also tailor ads so they appear on Google and its partner Web sites only when a visitor originates within a defined radius of a business' physical address; Google calls this feature "customized targeting."
For the first time, this customized targeting is available to international advertisers.
"This is a new way for small-business advertisers to step in at a level that's meaningful to them, which is around their business," said Sukhinder Singh, general manager of Google Local.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has been rapidly expanding local search during the past eight months. Financial analysts and industry executives say geographically targeted search listings are prime real estate for local advertising, an estimated $12 billion annual business in the United States. In 2004, less than $50 million of that market will go toward ads related to local Net searches, but over time the dollars will find their way to the virtual world, analysts say.
Google rivals Yahoo and MSN also are developing local targeting services for advertisers. CitySearch local city guides began offering a similar service for advertisers last year.
Singh said that Google will soon begin displaying sponsored listings on the Google Local specialty site, Local.google.com.