Google Acquires Satellite Map Company

In a deal that could give a boost to local search marketing, search engine giant Google said yesterday it acquired Keyhole Corp., which sells online satellite maps. A spokesperson for Google said the deal "closed recently," but declined to provide the date, or any other terms.

Keyhole offers users aerial photographs of specific addresses, and also allows them to search for nearby conveniences, such as bank teller machines or hotels. Unlike every other Google offering to date, Keyhole is a paid-only service that currently costs consumers $29.95 a year--down from the pre-deal fee of $69.95 a year.

Because the photos are more lifelike than drawings of maps, some say the new service goes further than most online mapping in melding physical space with cyberspace--which could be a big boon for advertisers.

"It blurs the line between the virtual world and the real world," said Joshua Stylman, managing director of the marketing firm Reprise Media. That blurring, he said, creates "an amazing local search opportunity," because advertisers might now be able to more viscerally connect with consumers who are conducting searches. For instance, local hotels that advertise on Google might be able to purchase listings that could appear next to Keyhole photos of their streets or neighborhoods.

Brad Byrd, director of business development at the search engine marketing agency NewGate, was likewise impressed with Google's new ability to "tie data to physical spaces." "It can make the world much more interactive," he said. "You can be in a physical location and pull information out about that location."

So far, Google has declined to comment on whether it intends to integrate Keyhole with its other products. The acquisition comes on the heels of Google's newly introduced desktop searcher and new mobile search capability. A company spokesman said that Keyhole is not currently available on mobile phones.

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