Yahoo Local Officially Launches

After just two months in testing, Yahoo pushed its local search out of beta. It’s giving the service prominent exposure on the Yahoo home page.

When I reviewed the Yahoo Local beta launch, I was impressed with the look and feel of the service, as well as its comprehensive results. The new version of Yahoo Local is even better.

The company took several steps to improve relevance and obtain more precise local results, says Paul Levine, general manager of Yahoo Local.

Yahoo Local now uses two relevance algorithms to provide different results, depending on whether a user is searching for a category or a specific business. Based on query analysis and user intent, results are weighted differently.

Levine said the newly launched service is also more comprehensive than the beta version, with over 2 million new listings.

The user interface is streamlined, on both the Yahoo Local home page and SERPs. Results now look very similar to Web search results.

The most notable change has been to the search refinement tools, now thoroughly exposed on the left side of the page. In the beta version, refinement tools such as the ability to limit results by distance, category, rating, price, and so on were available via drop-down menus. These menus have been replaced with explicit links showing the total number of results to be displayed for each refinement type.

In addition, Yahoo added “Also try” links to the top of result pages, similar to the refinement option recently introduced for Web search results.

The “View Results on Map” feature is more prominent, with a map icon enhancing the previously generic button used to access this feature. Driving directions from Yahoo maps have also been added.

The details page for each individual business is cleaner, with a more business card-like feel for each listing. The ratings and review area is also more prominent, separated from the business listing with a blue background. Radio buttons used to rate a business have been replaced with star icons. Mousing over the stars indicates the rating — from one star (hated it) to five (loved it). Simply click a star to cast your own vote.

Levine said ratings and reviews have proven to be one of the most popular Yahoo Local features. “We’ve had really positive response to user ratings and reviews,” he said. “I’ve been blown away by the quantity and quality of the reviews we’ve seen so far.”

Users have created ratings and reviews for a broad spectrum of businesses, including auto dealers and dry cleaners, Levine said.

Although local search is replacing Yellow Pages on the Yahoo home page, Levine said the company still plans to maintain its Yellow Pages listings, in what he calls “the trough,” on the left-hand side of the Yahoo.com home page.

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