Yahoo Bolsters Local Business Listings

Yahoo has quietly expanded its local business listings and rolled out a service that gives businesses more control over their listings in Yahoo Local.

Just two months after its official launch, Yahoo Local now offers more than 15 million listings for U.S. based business. Yahoo has compiled these listings using several different sources of information, including web crawls, feeds from information providers and other sources.

While Yahoo has long had a generic form available for businesses to add or suggest edits to a listing, the new Yahoo Local Listings service gives both business owners much more say regarding the content of local listings.

"It's part of our ongoing effort to bring content into the product, both in terms of number of listings, but perhaps more importantly to expand the depth of content," said Paul Levine, General Manager, Yahoo Local.

Yahoo Local Listings now come in two flavors. Basic listings, which I described when Yahoo launched the beta version of the service, include name, address, phone number, and other relevant information that Yahoo has pulled together from the various sources that it scours to compile listings.

With a basic listing, a business can opt to appear in up to five categories in the Yahoo Local directory. In addition, Yahoo attempts to identify a link to the company's web site, operating hours and descriptions of services provided or products sold. Basic listings are free to any U.S. based business.

Enhanced listings allow businesses to include additional information, which appears directly beneath basic listing information under the heading "More About [business name”" (here's a screen shot). "Enhanced listings in our mind are equivalent to the bold inline listing in the yellow pages," said Levine.

Enhanced listings features include a company tagline, description, promotional links to the business' web site and allow the inclusion of up to ten photographs.

A closer look at enhanced local listings

Enhanced listings allow businesses to add a company tagline which Yahoo describes as "a brief sentence or expression that highlights the most important information about your business and differentiates your listing from others." This tagline is also included in local search results, in addition to descriptions that are created on the fly based on the user's search terms. This means a business owner has a much greater degree of control over what's presented in search results.

Also included is a business description, which describes your business' services, specialties, and unique capabilities. This description appears further down on the listings page, and is not included in search results.

Enhanced listings also allow you to include two links to promotional offers on your business web site, such as a coupon, menu, or other internal page. These links can be updated or changed to point to new pages by logging in to your account.

You may also include up to 10 photographs on an enhanced listing. The photo on your business information page is sized at 125 x 150 pixels. Yahoo recommends that additional photos should be submitted at 350 x 400.

Yahoo also provides basic performance reports for enhanced listings, showing how often listings are displayed in search results and clicked on. Yahoo limits the amount of information reported to keep things simple for all business owners, whether they have a web site or not. "It's a real simple and low barrier product for the merchant," said Levine.

Businesses that want more sophisticated options such as keyword matching or more detailed performance reports should take advantage of Overture's Local Match product, which also broadens the potential reach of a local listing to all of Overture's distribution partners. Details about the Local Match program are available to Search Engine Watch members.

To add or edit a local business listing, visit the Yahoo Local Listings page and click the "Sign Up" button for either basic or enhanced listings. If your business is already included in Yahoo local, you will see as much information as Yahoo could find about your business already filled in appropriate forms.

Once you've made changes or additions, this information is submitted to Yahoo Local's editorial staff for review. Your information will be verified by Yahoo before it goes live on the site, a process that may take up to a few days.

Yahoo's enhanced listings product is entirely self-service. Yahoo does have phone and email support for post-order issues (like billing support, etc.), but does not provide phone or email support to submit business information for local listings.

Enhanced listings cost $9.95 per month, with no cost-per-click fees, unlike the cost-per-click fees associated with Yahoo/Overture's Site Match paid inclusion program for web content.

Yahoo says that enhanced listings are treated exactly the same as basic listings in terms of relevance ranking in search results, and will not get an added boost because of the fee.

In addition to giving business owners more control over listings, Yahoo is encouraging users to help improve the local service. Even if you don't own a business, if you know of one that you feel should be listed, or believe information for a currently listed business is inaccurate, Yahoo wants to hear about it. Simply use the Yahoo Local Update form to send details to Yahoo Local's editorial staff. Your suggestion will be reviewed, and if information you provide about the business can be verified it will likely be added to the service.

Levine believes that with the enhanced content offerings available in Yahoo Local, users will increasingly become more sophisticated in their searching.

"We really do think that as more content comes in users will get more precise in what they're searching for," he said. Rather than simply searching for "Atlanta restaurants," for example, Levine says he expects users to use more specific queries such as "Marietta steak and seafood casual dining." As more additional content is added to Yahoo local, these types of narrow queries will produce increasingly better results.

About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was About.com's Web Search Guide.