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GeoSearch Comes To Northern Light

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NOTE: The Northern Light web-wide search service geosearch capability mentioned in the story below ceased to exist in 2002.

Northern Light debuted a new geographical search capability in April. It allows users to filter results so that only matches relating to a particular "real world" address will appear. For instance, imagine you wanted to find all the pizza places near your home. Using Northern Light's "GeoSearch," you can enter the word "pizza" and your zip code, then any pages that contain the word pizza and which also seem to be related to where you live will be shown.

GeoSearch is a nice alternative to entering geographical keywords, especially in that those keywords can be too limiting. For example, say I wanted to find pizza places near Newport Beach, California. I could do a "normal" search such as "newport beach pizza," and that might miss out on pizza places that are located in the neighboring city of Costa Mesa. In contrast, GeoSearch might find them, because when you give it a zip code or postal code, it knows all the geographical keywords relevant to that code, for the radius you choose.

To use GeoSearch, just select the "Geo Search" link that appears below the search box on the Northern Light home page. A special form will appear, where you can enter your search word plus additional location information. You must at least provide at least a zip code or a telephone area code, and you can specify a geographical search radius up to 100 miles. Searches are currently limited to US and Canadian locations, but more worldwide support will be coming later this year. After doing a search, you can use the small use the "Edit this search" option to the right of the results page search box to refine your query.

I did a few head-to-head tests of GeoSearch against "normal" searches at Northern Light using geographical keywords, such as the pizza query above. I found that often, the normal search was just as good if not better than the GeoSearch results. Vicinity, the company behind GeoSearch technology at Northern Light, said one reason may be that not all the relevant pages within Northern Light's index have yet been geocoded. When that happens, you would expect the GeoSearch results to improve.

You may recognize Vicinity as the company behind the popular MapBlast mapping and directions web site, though that's just part of what Vicinity does. For GeoSearch, the company has developed "address recognition" software that teaches spiders how to recognize common address formats that they may encounter on web pages. If an address is found, the page is then "geocoded" when placed in the search engine's index. That means the search engine will store an appropriate real-word latitude and longitude for the page, as well as the usual cyberspace address information. If there are several addresses, then the page is assigned to multiple geographical locations.

Overall, GeoSearch seems a good tool to have for those times when you want to find information that could be situated in one of several locations. Similarly, some people may prefer using it rather than trying to think of appropriate geographical keywords. Another plus to using GeoSearch is that any addresses found on a web page will appear below that page's listing, along with a link to map for those addresses.

Northern Light
http://www.northernlight.com/

Northern Light GeoSearch Page
http://www.northernlight.com/geosearch.html

Vicinity
http://www.vicinity.com/

MapBlast
http://www.mapblast.com/

Whereonearth.com Signs Agreement With Yahoo
Whereonearth.com, April 10, 2000
http://www.whereonearth.com/press/press_yahoo_10_apr_2000.htm

Yahoo's classified and yellow pages sections are to receive their own form of GeoSearch, through a new partnership with Whereonearth.com.

A longer, more detailed version of this article
is available to Search Engine Watch members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member


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