After just two months in testing, Yahoo has pushed its local search out of beta and is giving the service prominent exposure on the Yahoo home page.
The company has taken several steps to improve relevance to get more precise local results, according to Paul Levine, General Manager, Yahoo Local.
Yahoo Local has been tuned to provide more context-specific results based on the user's perceived intent.
Levine said that the newly launched service is also more comprehensive than the beta version, with more than two million new listings.
The user interface has been streamlined, both on the Yahoo Local home page and search result pages. Results now look very similar to web search results. The most notable change has been to the search refinement tools, which have been throughly 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 through drop-down menus. These menus have been replaced with explicit links that show the total number of results that will be displayed for each type of refinement.
Yahoo has also 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 more of a business card 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 stars (loved it). Simply click a star to cast your own vote.
Levine said that ratings and reviews have proven to be one of the most popular features of Yahoo Local. "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 things like 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.Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the Yahoo Local Grows Up discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.
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