Mobile and online “questions” company ChaCha today has partnered with local search and listings provider Localeze. This primarily involves ChaCha’s Web site (as opposed to mobile), and will insert deeper local business information around questions asked on the site.
Specifically,15 million local listings will be provided through a search bar. Results will come with the standard set of maps, contact info and other stuff Localeze has assembled. A unique site experience could develop if previously indexed questions and answers “map” to these businesses or their categories.
Additionally, if the site can recommend local businesses that relate to new questions asked, it could have something interesting on its hands as an SMB lead source. It’s unclear how this will come together exactly, but it has some unique implications.
“The trend in the local search space is moving towards using business listings as the anchor for local specific content,” Localeze head of Bus Dev Gib Olander told me this morning. “ChaCha does a great job of answering questions and a consistent set of business listings helps hold all of that together.”
Other possibilities include integrating business listings into ChaCha’s coupons site (ChaChacoupons.com). Listings could also potentially integrate with ChaCha’s primary mobile answers service, but this is more of a stretch, given the SMS format and the way users currently engage the service.
It would seem that this requires training users to see the mobile service as a place to seek local business information in addition to general knowledge. But if it can do this, it will get more mileage out of the Localeze content in potentially monetizable ways. The company is likely thinking in these terms.
Overall, this represents the latest evolutionary step for ChaCha, which has gone through many since its 2007 launch. It started in the small batch of “human powered” search engines that loosely contain others like Jason Calacanis’ Mahalo.
This entailed humans who sat around and did Google searches for incoming queries. The idea is that human intervention enables natural language searches. The company soon migrated to mobile as a primary access point, using low-cost part-time labor (i.e., housewives and college students) to conduct Google searches from incoming SMS queries.
Human guides got expensive and were a source of flak for the company. But a larger index of previous questions and answers (about 500 million, it claims) has allowed it to begin to automate much of this process. It’s now up to about a million questions a day, through mobile, online and Facebook app.
Other milestones include passing Google as the top SMS search service, according to Nielsen Mobile. It’s also been a darling to the venture community, raising round after round of funding over the past couple of years — now totaling $70 million.
Local content could be a natural extension of a Q&A format, and tie in with the local intent of many online searchers (and even more so in mobile). We’ll see how it comes together and will report back after a briefing with ChaCha.
Related: See previous ChaCha coverage in our interview with former CEO Brad Bostic.