Technology & Science

TrueLocal.ca moves into Canadian search market

TrueLocal.ca launched Tuesday in Canada, describing itself as an "intelligent business phonebook" on the internet.

TrueLocal.ca launched Tuesday in Canada, describing itself as an "intelligent business phonebook" on the internet.

The siteoffers a localized search engine in English and French that consumers can use to track down more than 1.3 million Canadian brick-and-mortar businesses, ranging from nearby dentists or contractors to car dealers or golf courses.

The website asks what you're searching for and where. It then displays a list of businesses matching the search term, along with contact information and driving directions.

"We know once people start using TrueLocal.ca, they will see how easy it is to find the local business or services they are looking for," says Jake Baillie, president of TrueLocal based in Guelph, Ont.

The company, a spinoff from incubator Geosign Corp., gathers and sells information about businesses in Canada and the U.S. The company launched truelocal.com in the United States in November 2005, and the new truelocal.ca site is the Canadian expansion of the company's operations. Based on its U.S. operation and data sales, the company is already profitable, Baillie says.

Searches by keyword

He adds that while search giants like Google and Yahoo, and sites like yellowpages.ca, have been the big players up to now in the market for services that link web searchers and advertisers, TrueLocal has a different approach that he believes gives it an edge—searches by keyword instead of category.

In other words, besides searching by type of business, people can also search for vendors selling specific types of products or brands. That means they can search for a specific model number and get a list of nearby businesses that sell it.

"Finding a place selling pizza is easy using the other search engines, but finding a business that carries a specific model of Blackberry isn't," Baillie says. "We index sites based on keywords rather than categories."

TrueLocal generates the results by combining its database of business contact information with information gathered by crawling the websites of each of those businesses. The company catalogues all the products and services listed on the site, linking them to a person's keywords when they search for a product or service in a specific area of the country.

"Our philosophy is that rich data is the king when it comes to searches," Baillie says. "Right now we offer things like the name, address and phone number of a business, but moving forward we plan to incorporate more data attributes."

"So, for example, a search for a plumber in your area would eventually give you the times they operate or whether they are bonded, and a search for a restaurant might pull information from their POS [point of sale] system telling what the average wait time is for a table on a Friday night."

The service is free for individuals doing searches. The company's revenue comes from listing fees and advertising links on the site.