Yahoo! Enhances Local Search With Maps

Yahoo’s new SmartView technology pinpoints the location of restaurants, banks, merchants, and other businesses and services on local maps of cities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“We’ve taken Yahoo Maps and on top of that have layered across it 55 categories that we’ve pulled from Yahoo and different data sources,” explains Paul Levine, general manager of Yahoo’s local services.

The enhancements to Yahoo Maps are a continuation of the company’s efforts to leverage its various content offerings by combining information from multiple sources. “It’s part of our overall strategy to differentiate in the local space in a way that supports and is integrated with our overall search strategy,” said Levine.

The new Yahoo Maps is cool, intuitive, and very easy to use. Simply type in a location (street address, intersection, airport code, city name, or postal code), and receive a map of that location.

On the right side of the map, the SmartView menu displays six top-level categories for local attractions, businesses, and services:

  • Food & Dining

  • Recreation & Entertainment
  • Community Services
  • Shopping & Services
  • Travel & Transportation
  • Financial & ATMs

Click the link for any of these categories, and a subcategory menu appears offering specific choices within the category. For example, within the food and dining category, display all restaurants or limit the display to cuisine type, such as Chinese, Indian, or Mexican.

Similarly, in the recreation and entertainment category, you can see the locations of amusement parks, hiking trails, museums, movie theaters, and so on. Click the radio button next to your selection, and the map is redrawn with small yellow and red bull’s-eye icons showing the location of selected businesses.

Mouse over an icon, and the name of the business or service is displayed. Click on the icon, and a small box opens with more detail, including address, phone number, URL, and driving directions.

Registered Yahoo users can also configure a list of favorite locations. These can be selected from drop-down menus to speed up the process of getting driving directions.

Address and telephone number come from Yahoo yellow pages. Information pulled from Yahoo’s travel and movie properties is used particularly effectively. If you display hotels on the map, information for each includes room prices, amenities, and ratings, if available.

Movie theaters provide similar details, such as ticket prices, seating plans, and sound system.

“It’s not just the commercial side. We’ve also integrated hiking trails, libraries, and schools,” said Levine.

“We spent a lot of time with users trying to determine what are the right categories to expose,” said Jeremy Kreitler, product manager for Yahoo maps and city guides.

Useful as the SmartView information is, it’s not complete. Not all businesses, attractions, or services in my local area were displayed. This is a mere quibble, given how easy it is to locate so many different kinds of local resources by simply clicking, rather than having to guess appropriate keywords and wade through text search results.

In addition to adding the SmartView technology, Yahoo maps were recently enhanced with faster panning and zooming, a new large map view, turn-by-turn maps with driving directions, and improved in-car readability of printed directions.

Yahoo plans to roll out several additional features in the local search arena over the coming year, according to Levine.

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