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Google Launches New Next-Gen Local Discovery Tool

Google

Google's new "tappable shortcuts" now make it possible to find key localized information without the need to use a search box for users in the United States of the Google app on Android, IOS and Google.com on the mobile web.

Google says search app users will need to have the most updated version of its app to have access to the shortcuts. Then, with a tap on a shortcut icon, located just below the search engine's search boxes, they can find quick information about weather, sports, food, television programming and other entertainment. The data is grouped by interest, cuisines, atmosphere and various other attributes.

The search engine also said it will soon introduce new shortcuts for "big moments and events" that may be one-off shortcuts for things that attract a lot of search queries – like elections or the Olympics.

Driven and accompanied by rich data, Google's new move provides a strong incentive for businesses to add more enhanced data as part of their local SEO strategy.

"The Google search box is great when you're looking for a specific answer, but there are also moments when you just want to catch up on the latest for topics of interest," writes Google's Vice President of Product Manager, Tamar Yehoshua, on the Google Search Blog that announced the shortcuts.

He added that Android users will have access to even more shortcuts, including translation tools, nearby attractions, travel information, a currency converter, games and more. The blog also offers a short video that explains how the shortcuts work.

The new launch is likely Google's bid to compete with Yelp and other such providers of local content, industry experts have said, as this sort of machine learning-driven activity entirely bypasses the traditional search box.

"These are essentially prepackaged queries, using a range of data behind the scenes, to replace typing with tapping," writes Greg Sterling of industry publication Search Engine Land. "The experience represents a template for other kinds of mobile search results beyond the four categories currently present. Shopping and Travel come immediately to mind. Android features more shortcuts than iOS. Currently, you can buy movie tickets via the entertainment shortcut. We can expect more transactional capabilities like this to roll out to other categories."

He added that, while there are no advertisements currently on Google's shortcuts, he assumes there will be if the tools gain widespread usage – especially if we see large numbers of people entirely bypassing the search box in key categories.

"The changes also come at a time when the major technology companies are bringing back the idea of portals as a stepping off point to the web," elaborated Sarah Perez from Techcrunch.com.  "In the internet's early years, users would visit their favorite homepages for this sort of information — news, weather, local, sports, etc. Now, they're being shuffled off into apps. Facebook, for example, has been trying to combat this shift, by steadily adding features that would have otherwise necessitated users to exit its own app for others — like weather, shopping, jobs and more."

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