Yahoo has launched SmartView on Yahoo Maps Tuesday, giving users an interactive and visual way to search for local content, a move with implications for the giant portal's involvement in local paid search.
When a user chooses to map an address on Yahoo Maps, the SmartView option is displayed on the right-hand side of the page. Users then have the option of plotting local points of interest on the map, including restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, parks, ATMs and post offices.
If, for example, a user chooses "restaurants," a series of yellow-and-red icons show up on the map, positioned where the local restaurants are located. Users can then click on those icons for information such as address, phone number, driving directions and pricing. They can also launch a search on Yahoo Search directly from the icon. Someone searching for a restaurant, for example, could potentially find more information, such as reviews, through the Web search.
"For a traveler, that could be ideal," said Paul Levine, GM of Yahoo local services. "They can find places to eat near their hotel and then go to Epinions for a review." Levine said that according to Nielsen//Net Ratings, "we're already the number one destination for local information online. We have over 15 million people coming to Yahoo Local per month."
Addresses and telephone numbers associated with the icons are extracted from Yahoo's Yellow Pages listings, which come from BellSouth and InfoUSA. Other SmartView content comes from Yahoo Travel and Yahoo Movies.
"You can pull up hotels in your area and see the star rating to make reservations at that hotel," Levine said. "There's 55 different categories of content to choose from."
The feature is similar to that offered by Verizon SuperPages.com's map-based search, and it highlights how the quest for the local search market is bringing together yellow pages players and pay-per-click search players. SuperPages.com debuted pay-per-click listings earlier this month.
One of the problems yellow pages players have traditionally faced is the need to drive traffic to their sites. Yahoo is dealing with this in part by integrating the new SmartView feature into Yahoo Search. By typing an address into the search box, consumers can retrieve a map display in their results, and be one click away from the SmartView search experience.
As before, sponsored links appear at the bottom of the map, which allow consumers to plot the locations of certain businesses. Washington Mutual, for example, allows people to plot its bank branches on the map.
Sponsored listings from Yahoo's Overture appear below the map. They appear to be targeted somewhat by locality, but Overture has said it's working on local search ad targeting that could potentially tie such ads more closely to the addresses being mapped.
Meanwhile, Google is beta testing regional targeting features for its AdWords ads, and Google Labs has been testing technology to combine local search with Web search.
Presently, Yahoo is not soliciting local businesses to sign up, but Levine said it's possible the company might in future send salespeople to approach local merchants.
"Our Yellow Pages partnerships with SBC and Bell South have been extremely productive and we're committed to continuing those," Levine noted.
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