Bloggers and other frequent Google users noticed a new feature’s premiere on the site Wednesday. Searching certain terms or phrases like “apartment rental” or “homes for sale” supplies users with an additional search box, which invites them to refine their search by location, listing type, and property type. The new options are the result of Google beginning to integrate its classified listing service, Google Base, into its main search result pages.
Industry experts believe Google is attempting to expand its offering to local advertisers, and its reach in the $100 billion classified market. In order to compete with free online classified stronghold Craigslist in this area, Google is merging its Google Base with its Websearch, as well as innovative tools like Google Maps. When a user specifies where they are looking for an apartment, for example, a map appears with thumbtacks indicating relevant available housing in that vicinity.
“I think that they fundamentally recognize that Base is not a meaningful thing unless they develop specialized user experience around the content,” local search analyst Greg Sterling told MediaPost. “The problem was that from Google’s perspective, Base is a great idea. It’s a content acquisition tool. From a user perspective, it’s very confusing.”
When Google Base came out of beta in October of 2005, its many bugs deterred some advertisers from participating. It is now a fully operational service which enables web users and professionals such as real estate agents to submit classified listings. Along with rival Craigslist, Google Base poses a threat to the already diminishing newspaper classified business.