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If am searching for a family doctor in my area, I am willing to travel the extra 5 miles to live a little longer. Because of that, I want to find the best (ok, I will settle for the most 'relevant') doctor in my area.
I think the challenge is that the weighting of result proximity is best decided based on the user query and the location they are searching in (searches for a Dry Cleaner in NYC should be more sensitive to proximity than searches for a real estate agent in Suburbia, USA). You would need to have a pretty flexible algo and pretty good query pre-processing to make this work.
What do you all think?
I suppose we'll all get better at understanding the areas that queries come under as we gather more data.
Weighting the query by distance can be easily changed from no weighting if in the defined radius right up to 100% at the middle and decreasing in a linear or exponential fashion to 0% at the boundary.
If I'm looking for an intellectual property attorney in my area, though, distance is a lot less important. As long as they have a physical presence in my defined radius, other algo factors may lead to a more helpful ranking.