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LSA16: Google “Location Czar” Says Search is Inherently Local on Mobile

In an interview with LSA’s Greg Sterling at LSA16, Google’s “location czar” Chandu Thota discussed the various ways in which location and location data fit into Google’s overall product development and thinking about the future. The most intriguing thing he said was that mobile search is inherently local.

He said that most people are not typing location modifiers anymore and expect Google to figure it out. On mobile, he called these kind of searches “here and now” adding that location provided a context for the search, at least through Google’s interpretation of the search.

With figures ranging between 30-50% floating around the industry, Greg asked Chandu for an official percentage of mobile searches that carry local intent. Chandu admittedly didn’t know, but believed the actual figure could fall within or above the ranged mentioned.

He went on to provide an example of how location, particularly the location data derived from mobile devices, has helped Google deliver more relevant search results for consumers. The example he used was a search for “NY pizza.” If originating from New York City that means a consumer is looking for a place to eat pizza, but in California the user is looking for the New York style of pizza.

Often location is an underlying component of the search process as Google has seamlessly integrated locally relevant information in search results. It was interesting to hear how location is a fundamental way Google delivers relevance to its users.

As to the future of search, Chandu said the future is now. He expected the following three things to take hold and drive the search space forward:

  1. Location data accuracy will be an increasingly important component of search. Fortunately, mobile allows for more location precision than desktop.
  2. Context will continue to drive search forward. Knowing if someone is walking around city (mobile) or sitting at home (desktop) when they search changes how Google delivers search results.
  3. The facilitation of consumer action will continue to improve. On mobile people expect to take actions and they expect things to work in single click.

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