Yahoo has updated its local search product, broadening search results beyond business listings to include user-generated content.
A local search on Yahoo of any city in the United States will return listings of local events, user-recommended restaurants and other local establishments. Now, it will also show what other searchers in the same city have been looking for lately, and highlight the most recent ratings and reviews of local businesses.
The strategy has significant implications for local businesses, not only in that it presents a new audience for targeted local advertising, but because it also presents a new — and free — opportunity to get their business information in front of users. By ensuring their business profile information is updated and accurate, businesses are more likely to appear in results for relevant searches. Providing incentives to current customers for ratings and reviews means business can rank higher in search results.
“What we’re beginning to see here is a broadening of the definition of what local search is. It’s a lot more than finding a business when you’re in need — it’s about community,” observed Justin Sanger, president of local Internet marketing firm LocalLaunch.
By harnessing the local information and expertise distributed among local residents and bringing it together in one place, Yahoo has the potential to differentiate its offering from a growing number of competitors, according to Greg Sterling, director of the interactive local media program at The Kelsey Group.
“We’ve had IYP [Internet Yellow Pages] and local city guides for a long time. In terms of a general-purpose front door to local information, this brings together a lot of elements that are invaluable,” Sterling said.
While the advertising opportunities themselves have not changed — Yahoo still offers its Local Sponsored Search pay-per-click ads and enhanced local listings for $9.95 a month — the potential for increased traffic and additional ways to be found that user reviews and ratings present add value to both.
“This creates new advertising opportunities if they get more traction. They’ve already established themselves in a leadership position, and this will only put them farther ahead,” Sterling said.