Bringing new meaning to local search, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is rolling out street-level photography on its popular Google Maps roadmap site. The initial snapshots are limited to heavily trafficked roads in cities like San Francisco and Miami, but more coverage will come if the feature proves popular.

Not long ago, sites like Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) Maps and AOL's MapQuest relied on rudimentary graphics to get you around. These days, it's all about overlaying satellite images and providing more detailed routing information than your handy-dandy Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) GPS. 

We live in a media-hungry world, and sites have to stand out to get noticed. Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Virtual Earth 3-D and Google Earth offer plenty of eye candy, but typically require software downloads.

But even if we limit Google's new feature to Web-based mapping sites, it's not entirely new. Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) now-unplugged A9 search engine added 35 million street-level snapshots into its interface two years ago. However, Google's new images can be manipulated better. You can actually rotate to pan within the actual picture. The "Street View" feature is also a seamless fit within Google Maps.

It's a welcome feature. Even with perfect directions, it's refreshing to be familiar with what nearby buildings look like when you're heading out to somewhere new. Living in Miami, I found myself checking out many of the area landmarks on Google Maps this morning. I was impressed.

Google's drive to enhance its user experience isn't entirely selfless. Yes, the sites are free, but every search engine is fighting to be your source for local information. That makes it all the easier to eventually serve ads from local merchants. Users will then click, buy, or be enlightened.

In short, it's a picture that sells a thousand verbs.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a huge fan of Google, and it would be his homepage if it weren't for taking up that piece of real estate. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.