AOL Unveils New Local Search Service

AOL has just released their new local search service, AOL Local Search. It’s available to both AOL subscribers and web users.

This announcement delivers on earlier promises that improved local search was in the words when AOL enhanced AOL Search in January (see our AOL Search: Playing In the Big Leagues Now article for more on this).

At the moment, listings and data for more than 13,000 million businesses, theaters, and other local establishment come from a variety of sources including powered AOL Yellow Pages, Moviefone, and AOL CityGuides for more than 300 U.S. cities. AOL plans to add more sources and type of info in the near future.

How It Works
Searchers will first need to enter a location. Locations can be as specific as a street address or as general as a Zip Code. You can have multiple “saved” locations and by using your “AOL Screen Name” your saved locations are accessible from any computer.

I ran a search for “restaurants” in Silver Spring, MD (I did not use a street address) and received a variety of information on the results page including:

Recommended Sites
These links include: “Best Family-Friendly Restaurants” and “City’s Best Healthy Dining” come from the AOL CityGuide for Washington D.C.

Businesses and Venues
I found directory information for local restaurants. Links to narrow your results by restaurant category (Brew Pubs, Italian, Mexican, etc.) along with the number of restaurants in each category are also provided.

Individual listings include address, phone number, and distance (from your search location). You’ll also find links to rate the restaurant, an option to click and access an inline map of the location (from MapQuest) and driving directions.

Other categories included on results pages include movies (powered by Moviefone) and events (concerts, live theater, etc.)

In another form of integration, AOL is working with service like
ShopLocal to provide local “sale” info and AOL Tickets to allow users to purchase tickets directly from event listings.

Finally, you’ll find up to five sponsored links from Google at the bottom of the page, though these are not locally targeted in the way Google allows at its own site. AOL has also recently announced a partnership with pay-per-call provider
. That’s not yet part of AOL Local, but AOL says it will happen in the near future.

Overall, I’m impressed after using this first release of AOL’s new local search service. I’m looking forward to seeing how they integrate more data onto results pages. While it is possible to print/save useful material, it should be easier. It might also be useful if an option to send local info (listings, directions, etc.) to my cell phone via SMS. This is a service that Yahoo Local just launched.

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