Originally Published as Foursquare Explore Local Search Open for Everyone on Technorati Social Media
Foursquare announced earlier this week that they will be opening up their local search product to everyone, without any need to sign-up or “check-in”. With the enormous amount of information from it’s 25,000,000 members, who have combined to leave around 30 million ‘tips’ and 3 billion ‘check-ins, Foursquare offers a great local search service for anyone looking for local venues. It also gives small business owners another reason to get listed, claim their business and get involved.
According to the blog post on Foursquare’s site announcing the changes, they also claimed to have started running an experiment (which is presumably what the new open local search product is) aimed at answering the question, “without any check-ins, can we still provide the best local recommendations?”
Foursquare invites you to try out the new search features yourself at http://foursquare.com, and notes, “Even if you’ve never checked in, Explore still can make great recommendations based on a number of signals, like whats popular in the neighborhood, new places, places that are trending at the moment, where experts go, and whats popular on that day of the week.”
What’s an expert exactly? According to Andrew Hogue, Foursquare’s Head of Search, in anarticle in Fast Company explains that when looking for places for new Foursquare users, it displays the places that attract experts in that category and used coffee shops as an example. “Explore also tries to determine which users are true connoisseurs–for example, someone who checks into a lot of gourmet coffee shops and writes popular tips–then suggests the venues that tend to attract those experts.”
According to Hogue, only around 10% – 15% of searches are for specific places, which means there is a big percentage of users who are using the service to actually “discover” new places. Further proof that the suggestions are resonating with users are the 20% who actually check-in to a location they found with the Explore feature within 3 days of the initial search.
As the number of local searches continues to rise, Foursquare hopes to get a piece of that by using their powerful database of users, their behavior, habits and tips to provide a more personal user experience, as opposed to just a one-size-fits-all list of suggestions. This puts them at odds with services like Yelp and Google Local with their new Foursquare Explore search feature. According to an article in Search Engine Land, author Greg Sterling said of the algorithm, “The beauty of Foursquare’s scores and rankings is that they really can’t be gamed — in part because their based on real-world behavior.”
“The beauty of Foursquare’s scores and rankings is that they really can’t be gamed — in part because their based on real-world behavior.” – Greg Sterling writing for Search Engine Land
Perhaps this will make the results more relevant for users, it will certainly provide consumers with another source of information about local venues and activities, and another outlet for businesses looking to capitalize on the increasing number of individuals looking for location specific information about events, restaurants, clubs, bars, beauty salons and any other business with a local target customer base.
Of course the service expands once you download the app, at which point you can search for venues based on where you’re friends have been, where you have or haven’t been and also by which businesses are currently offering deals.