Local and global search engines

Localised search engines allow users to search for local information. Such information can lead to a business’ success or failure because local information is useful. What is the difference between local and global search engines?

Localised search engines analysed

Smith (2003) evaluated New Zealand’s, NZ, local search engines and found that global search engines had a higher recall rate and more sophisticated search tools compared to three NZ local search engines. This means that most localised search facilities are restricted and less effective whereas global search engines offer an effective search experience.

Regardless of how effective or ineffective local search engines are it is clear each search engine, irrespective of location, crawls and indexes completely different webpages because only 1% of relevant pages were found by all ten search engines in Smith’s study (4 gloabl, 3 local and 3 meta search engines). Simply by the choice of search engines, local or global, your results will be different because each search engine has different bots to crawl the web.

Local search is a large industry.

Local search is a large industry.

Local search engines are likely to boost the ranking of a website from a domain name (i.e. .co.uk websites will be boosted for queries from a UK searcher). Global search engines, conversely, tend to blend results from multiple domain names but place more weight on what country you are viewing these results in. Global search engines are, therefore, not completely global because our results are tailored to a specific location.

IP addresses and location

If you go onto Google.com your IP address will determine what version you use, for example, Google.co.uk for IP addresses within the United Kingdom or Google.ca for an IP address in Canada. This means that Google will always personalise your results to a specific region. Global search engines are biased towards localised results since IP addresses track a geographic location to influence results based on that location.

IP addresses enable localised search but what other technologies enable global search engines to determine your location or precise city?

  • User profiles can store a specific city within them (along with area/s of interest, age and gender).
  • Your internet service provider (ISP) could cover specific regions thus your IP address can narrow your location down to a specific region within a country.
  • Depending upon the device you use, and the access you grant, gloabl search engines may be able to pinpoint your location by GPS, for example.
Local information can be time saving.

Local information can be time saving.

Local is specific

Search engines as an information retrieval application are effective if you can search for specific information. Localised information can help with specificity so localised search engines can help with some, but not all localised, queries.

Other studies, in upcoming posts on Gerald Murphy’s Search, suggest that local search engines need to improve their system. It is however interesting to note that localised search enables more resources to be reviewed by the searcher because they crawl different websites.

Should I use a local search engine?

Do you use a localised search engine? Feel free to comment below or tweet Gerald about your search experiences.

Posted by Gerald Murphy


  1. Brinkley, M. and Burke, M. (1995) Information retrieval from the Internet: an evaluation of the tools. Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy. 5(3) pp. 3 — 10
  2. Grimes C, Tang D, Russell DDM. (2008) Query logs alone are not enough. In: Workshop on query log analysis
  3. Lopex-Pellicer, F. Florczyk, A.J. Bejar, R. Muro-Medrano, P.R. amd Zarazaga-Soria, F.J. (2011) Discovering geographic web services in search engines. Online Information Review. 35(6) pp. 909 — 927
  4. Smith, A.G. (2003) Think local, search global? Comparing search engines for searching geographically specific information. Online Information Review. 27(2) pp. 102 — 109

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