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Yahoo Enhances Local Search with Maps

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Yahoo's new Smart View technology pinpoints the location of restaurants, banks, merchants and other businesses and services on local maps of cities throughout the United States 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," said Paul Levine, general manager of Yahoo's local services.

The enhancement to 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 you'll see a map of that location.

On the right side of the map, the Smart View 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, you can choose to display all restaurants, or limit the display to cuisine type, such as Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and so on.

Similarly, in the recreation and entertainment category, you can see the locations of amusement parks, hiking trails, museums, movie theaters and so on. Simply click the radio button next to your selection, and the map is redrawn with small yellow and red bulls-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, website address and driving directions.

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

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.

Address and telephone number information comes from Yahoo yellow pages. Information pulled from Yahoo's travel and movie properties is used particularly effectively. For example, if you display hotels on the map, information for each hotel includes room prices, amenities, and ratings, if they're available.

Movie theaters have similar details, providing info about ticket prices, seating plans, sound system and so on.

"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.

As useful as the Smart View information is, it's not complete. Not all businesses, attractions or services in my local area were displayed, for example. But this is a minor 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 Smart View technology, Yahoo maps have recently been 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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