23 April 2010

Change your location in Google search

Google search Set your locationAlong with the new, more colorful search interface, Google is testing a more prominent location feature to further refine results on some queries. I noticed it only today, although the new Google search is my default since about a month ago. Maybe this means it’s getting closer to be released to the general public. After all, it’s been almost six months since the first mention of the changes! I checked how Google search looks in several browsers, but the new interface is present only in and on the international site, probably because I opted for an experiment a while back.

It is probably designed for mobile devices, since it can auto-detect the location based on IP address or WiFi networks, but you can also manually choose your location using the drop-down options. Enabling it triggers a big One Box with local businesses matching the query in the third or forth position on the page. The integration with the search filters in the left sidebar is far from perfect unfortunately; for example switching to ‘Maps’ doesn’t remember the city I selected, even though it’s also my default location in Maps. Google search Local business results

The location option was introduced earlier in the Search Options panel, but this placement under the search box is much more visible and makes it more likely that users will discover the feature. Right now there aren't many queries that have localized results in my area. As you can see above, Google shows the One Box when searching ‘KFC’, but not for ‘McDonalds’. On the other hand, localization is not suited for every query and with this implementation it doesn’t interfere when it has nothing to show.

Update: Unfortunately, this feature didn’t last long on the top position next to the search box. It’s still available on the search results page, but you will have to expand ‘More search tools’ in the sidebar and click on ‘Custom Location’ to access it. Also, for some queries, probably where the search algorithm expects location to be an important factor, will prompt you to enter your city to deliver local results. The choice can be remembered on your computer, so you won’t have to repeat the process unless you clear the cookies or switch browsers.

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