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Google Local Search and Google's OneBox – 2 Things You Need to Know

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo,
Over the past few months, I have been studying Google’s new Local Search – a resource that is going to be vital to countless small business owners. There are many, many details about Local Search that will be important for you to learn about, but I wanted to write a post starting out with 2 very basic things here: Local Search vs. the Onebox.
I confess, I became very confused in my reading about all of this. I was delighted today to discover that Bill Slawski plans to publish a Local Search Glossary in the near future. Bill has written a great deal about Local Search, and he has been incredibly helpful to me in understanding what this is all about.
One of the toughest things about Local Search, at this point, is that it is relatively new, and the terminology being used to describe it is, as yet, non-standardized. But here, we’re going to learn about 2 key Google features so that we can feel confident about what Local Search is and what it isn’t.
where to find Google maps and Google Local
What is Google Local Search?
On the main search page of Google (where you basically see the Google logo, a few horizontal links and the search box) you will see a link above the search box that says Maps. Click on this and you will be taken to Google’s wonderful maps feature. Once inside Google Maps, you will notice that the search box at the top of the page now says Search Maps. Let’s imagine we live in, or are visiting, the town of Sonoma in California. We want to find a place close by to get some pizza. So, we type the query pizza sonoma california into the search box here.
In seconds, some really helpful results are returned to us, both on the map and in the left hand column of the page.

Using Google's Local Search diagram

On the map, I see several locations being tagged with a little upside down, red teardrop. Each has a letter of the alphabet in it. These show me exactly where pizza places are located in the area I’ve searched for. If I click on one of these letters, a little box pops up giving me the name, address, phone number, and if available, a link to the website of the pizza company the red teardrop is pointing to. The box also contains links to more information about this company, and to driving directions to the place of business.
The red teardrops correspond to the ones also being shown in list format on the left hand side of the page. Here, we see presented this same useful information of name, address, phone number and website link. You will note that above and below the list of red teardrops, there are a couple of pale blue boxes. These contain paid advertisements which have been purchased by pizza companies who wish to ensure that their information comes up in this list.
And that is what Local Search is all about. You can use it to search for restaurants, shops, banks, public buildings, lodgings and many other places of local importance.
Needless to say, local businesses should be eager to learn about Local Search, as it has the potential to bring many, many customers to their doors. However, the intent of this article is simply to describe what local search is and any smart business owner will now want to move beyond this to learn how to get their local place of business listed in this fantastic index of businesses. But, first, let’s find out what Local Search isn’t.
What is the Google OneBox?
Up until today, I wasn’t sure I was properly understanding the distinction between Google’s two features – Local Search and the OneBox. Now, we know with confidence that Local Search is located within Google Maps.
By contrast, the Google Onebox appears on regular queries made through Google’s main search engine box (see my first image above). Upon occasion, a user will type in a query and will be served up this interesting Onebox feature at the top of the regular search results page. Let’s pretend we just want some basic information about the giraffe. Let’s type giraffe into the search box and see what we get.
image of google onebox

As you can see, Google has returned me not only regular results, but also, at the top, a couple of images of giraffes. What if we did a search, rather like the one we did in Local search for ‘pizza sonoma california’?
second illustration of google onebox

As you can see from the above, Google has returned us three links to pizza places in the local area I’ve searched for, plus a small map. This is NOT called Local Search. It is called the OneBox. The OneBox might also contain links to news stories or other information that Google determines would be of best relevance to my query.
How Google determines when to show a OneBox and what information to show in it is deserved of a complete post dedicated just to that subject. Here, our aim has simply been to distinguish Local Search from the Onebox, and I sincerely hope this article has helped you to feel comfortable about what these 2 features are and how to use them.
Please, let me know if you have questions by leaving a comment here.
If you would like to read more about Local Search, I think the best place to start will be the series of Local Search Interviews that have recently been conducted by Michael Gray. Michael talks to authorities in our industry and many good tips are given here that can help small web business owners to understand how to utilize Local Search to their advantage.
If you would like to read a very thorough and interesting article about the Google OneBox, I highly recommend Bill Slawski’s Post at Search Engine Land on this subject.