Oct 172010

Google search star Marissa Mayer will head up the company’s ambitious, forward-looking plans to make search queries reach out to others instead of making users come find the results on their computers and smartphones.

Google last week confirmed that it was tapping Mayer, who oversaw the search engine’s user interface for the last decade or so, to run the company location-based service efforts.

Today, that includes projects such as: Google Latitude, the friend-finding app used by millions of people; Google Buzz for mobile, a check-in service; and Web services such as Google Places,  which helps users on the go find restaurants and retail stores from their mobile phones.

These Web services are all orbiting the expansive Google Maps platform the search engine has cultivated with care for the last 7 years.

Going forward, Mayer will leverage her strong background in artificial intelligence to build the autonomous search engine Google CEO Eric Schmidt described last month at TechCrunch Disrupt, a source familiar with Google’s plans confirmed for eWEEK.

Such technology, the source added, would send users who opted into the service suggestions, alerts and promotions from, for example, stores participating in Google’s Places program, or even museums, theaters and other attractions and businesses.

This will also require advancements in personalized search, so this so-called serendipity engine knows what is the most relevant results, actions or offers to pitch users about.

For example, a user could be walking or driving down the street and receive a notice from an Italian restaurant that has just had a reservation cancellation.

The search engine would send the user an offer to book the table, including link to the restaurant’s business information to let the user call the eatery in a single click. It is about helping the results find the user at the right time.

This all happens based on preferences the user has indicated from previous searches that the serendipity engine collected for the user, such as that they happen to like Italian food.

“It’s really a sort of interactive yellow pages,” the source said, adding that this plays well to users’ mobile experience.

This seems to be right in the bailiwick for Mayer, who helped shepherd the Google Instant predictive search technology to the masses last month.

Forrester Research analyst Augie Ray agreed, calling Mayer’s promotion (she was also tabbed for the prestigious operating committee at Google, a smart move on Google’s part to shift an experienced and successful executive into what is arguably the most vital effort the search engine has in terms of its core business in the long term.  

“With social media changing search, mobile technology revolutionizing personal computing, localization driving increased advertising dollars and discovery being the hottest trend in technology, it seems Marissa Mayer is being shifted to focus on evolving Google’s core business.” Ray added.

Mayer’s charter is also going to put her squarely in competition with Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter and other Web services that seek to connect consumers with retailers and proprietors as efficiently as possible.

However, these services only go so far, noted Google developer advocate Don Dodge in a recent blog post.

“Check-ins on FourSquare and Gowalla have gained lots of attention but they aren’t very useful beyond letting your friends know where you are,” Dodge wrote. “Google can provide lots of context around your location with information from Google Places, Google Maps, Weather, Reviews, and more.”

Many believe location-based services will be a huge piece of the digital advertising pie in the near and long future.

Google, with Mayer shepherding the geo/local group, aims to be front and center for this evolution. 

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