Roll up your Internet browsing sleeves and think local. There’s a new search engine on the Web with roots in your hometown.

TrueLocal, which launched in November 2005, has a different take on local search, leading Internet surfers only to listings for brick-and-mortar businesses in their areas. The search application could prove useful for people who are relocating and researching neighborhood businesses and real estate professionals.

“Real estate is actually one of our top 10 searched categories,” said Jake Baille, president of Toronto-based TrueLocal. The site does not index property listings, but it does show real estate brokerages and agents in the Web searcher’s location, and offers advertising opportunities for those agents and companies.

The local search application differs from major search portals such as Google and Yahoo! by starting with local information on businesses, such as address and telephone number, then crawling the Web looking for references to that business. Baille said it helps with quality of search results over a system of crawling the Web first then looking for local references.

Consumers searching for a plumber online, for example, likely are there because their pipes are broken or their drains are clogged and they need someone to actually visit their house, he said. Those consumers aren’t looking for general information on plumbers. TrueLocal tries to replicate the Yellow Pages search experience by offering a place to look up local businesses online in this type of situation.

“It’s interesting because there’s so much cool (search) technology out there and yet the vast majority of people still use the Yellow Pages,” Baille said.

Several online vertical-search engines for the real estate and classifieds industries have launched in the past year, including Trulia, Propsmart, Oodle and LiveDeal. These applications narrow consumers’ online search parameters and often drive more targeted traffic to local brokers’ online listings.

(Read the Inman News special report, “New era of online real estate search.“)

TrueLocal is not specific to real estate, but it focuses on local businesses and has data on about 13 million of those businesses, Baille said. “We are able to match up about 3.8 million URLs with those local businesses, which is about 35 percent coverage,” he said. Businesses don’t need a Web site to appear on TrueLocal or advertise with the site, though it can help give consumers more information about the companies.

The search company makes its technology available for customized search on other sites. For real estate, that means agents could add TrueLocal’s search box to their Web site so that consumers potentially could look up neighborhood businesses while on the agent’s site.

TrueLocal also provides top placement in search results for local advertisers who bid on a category and ZIP code each month. The company offers a toll-free telephone number for each advertiser’s listing so consumers can call them directly.

Baille expects to see many more vertical search engines pop up that cater to very specific searches. He envisions search applications that would enable people to search for things like a dentist, as an example, according to what type of anesthesia they use or what type of health plans they accept.

He said TrueLocal also would be launching some vertical applications that would pull in more information on local listings. For instance, someone looking for a plumber would be able to find out whether they are licensed.

A recent JupiterResearch paper predicts that vertical search sites will be a hot spot for online advertisers in the next five years. The report, “Search Engine Selection Strategies,” revealed that one-third of sophisticated marketers found that adding new search engines to their advertising campaigns increased their click rates.

“Increasing competition and rising keyword prices should motivate search marketers to look for newer, viable opportunities to diversify their incoming traffic,” Sapna Satagopan, research associate at JupiterResearch, said in a statement.

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