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Local Search Forum

Yahoo Local Beta Goes Live
Like A Dashboard for Knowing Everything Nearby

 5:55 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

So Yahoo Local Beta was unveiled according to this news report [today.reuters.co.uk]. The url is at [beta.local.yahoo.com...]

I was suspicious and slightly bored by the concept, but when I looked at it, I found it... impressive. It's taking the concept of your local independent weekly, and organizing all the local info into an easily scanned dashboard.

The layout is different than what I expected. It aggregates several categories of info I am interested in, and even gets granular to the neighborhood level.

The difference between this and CitySearch is that CitySearch is highly utilitarian, it's designed as a tool. I Generally come across CitySearch while searching on a search engine, or when looking for restaurants in a certain area.

The Yahoo Local site is a destination in itself, whose format allows me to discover things I might want to do that I may not have thought to look for... I think it's the aspect of discovery that I find interesting. CitySearch offers great information, but I really like the way info is presented at Yahoo. You can even download feeds for Events and Local Favorites so that you're never out of touch, nice...

Major Categories
What's Happening Locally
Users' Favorite Restaurants
More Local Favorites
Wi-Fi Hotspots
Neighborhood Maps


Robert Charlton

 8:40 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

It's taking the concept of your local independent weekly, and organizing all the local info into an easily scanned dashboard.

I feel it's a very interesting first beta, with more potential than realization at this point. It's definitely not up to the local independent weeklies, of which there are several in the SF Bay Area, almost any one of which has orders of magnitude more useful information. You can see where it might go, but at the same time I wonder whether Yahoo by itself is going to be able to provide anything like the critical mass of information necessary to make this a useful destination. Data input is going to be critical.

What's Happening Locally

The events calendar is a local data sort that could prove to be very useful, and might pull in a fair amount of advertising as well. I can imagine that if users drill down to a movie theater, for example, they might find listings (or ads) for nearby restaurants helpful.

But I think a lot of work needs to be put into the events calendar display format, and also into figuring out what users really want to see. I've only played with it a little bit, but when I looked at Movies and Film, I got reviews of the theaters, not film listings and showtimes as I wanted. Compare Yahoo's listing with Google's [movie: movies:cityname] serps.

Users' Favorite Restaurants

One thing that jumped out at me is that all of these favorites are review driven, and, as has been previously discussed here, it's currently extremely easy to gain visibility with good user reviews. Gaping holes in the data, though, with occasional surprises that a hot restaurant I'd just noticed was reviewed and showing on the city home page....


 1:25 pm on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Its actually live at [local.yahoo.com...] and not beta. No?


 2:32 pm on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just going by what the News Report said.

Yahoo Inc. late on Tuesday unveiled a test of its new local Web search service that adds tools to help users find neighbourhood information...

It doesn't say it's beta on the actual page, though.


 2:50 pm on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm very happy to see the many enhancements to functionality and methods for filtering and searching local information. However, in my cursory checks the results are very sporadic. I would imagine this is a framework and now the information massage and gathering game begins.

I'm very impressed with the neighborhood map function. I can't speak for the views outside of Chicago, but for my area they give you the option to filter results by neighborhood (Lincoln Park, gold coast, loop). This neighborhood delineation is a very "local by locals" method for talking about geography in the city. While there are some commonly accepted zip code mappings to the different neighborhood many of the names shown by Y are not the official city names but the name everyone uses such as "Wrigleyville" or "Magnificent Mile".

The local community-based websites have used this geographic breakdown for a while, but to tackle this nationwide is significant and meaningful for acceptance and use by the locals. I don't believe citysearch has ever done this.

I give the new enhancements two thumbs up.


 4:26 pm on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Good stuff: thanks martini, robert, and money

This is an excellent step in the evolution of local search.

Here are my brief thoughts about what we are seeing:

- A deeper more broad definition of "local search"
- Fostering a sense of community
- Movement from business lookup to an augmentation of local behavior patterns
- The realization that local search includes events, activities, and other time-based local actions
- Personalization and leveraging user data
- Deeper content integration from disparate local based content within the Y network in a local destination
- Drill down: From city to neighborhood
- Freshness
- Destination: City portal characteristics
- Further emphasis on user generated content
- One step closer to the integration of social networking

~ just another reason why Y is winning the local search war.


 6:15 pm on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Wow really nice. I just clicked through to an answer I was about to have to look up. Quick n easy. Good stuff Yahoo


 6:28 pm on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

This is a great step toward what local search should and will inevitably, eventually become. But, while I do believe that Yahoo has the best strategy for incorporating the social component into local search, and clearly the best opportunity to provide a truly useful local search experience-- the results I am seeing today are not very high quality.

In fact, I believe I have noticed a significant decline in quality of results as a result of some changes that appear to have been coupled with this release. It appears to me that the search element of the algorithm has become more of a factor, particularly focused on the presence of keywords in the business name (headline). The results don't seem to be paying as much regard to user rating or distance as they recently were. That's good, of course, as other factors should be more important-- but, I'd still like to see the closest, best reviewed business in the appropriate category rise to the top.

There is a new "User Recommended" feature on each page, and in several occurances I have seen businesses that are farther and with fewer positive review occupying this prime spot. How do I get this spot?


 8:01 pm on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

What I've been noticing today is the apparent randomness of whether or not Yahoo local will pull descriptive content from your site and include it in the local listings. I used to think it was done on every listing that included a url. That doesn't appear to be the case anymore. For example:


No.1 result for Pizza Chicago Il

Connie's Pizza (url included in listing...therefore...)
...Connies is a tour de force in the great Chicago pizza race, in more ways than one. On any given day, some 35 of Conniesmore impressive than the new location near Wrigley Field). The pizza is impressive, too---most of...

No.9 result:

Domino's Pizza (url included but no additional description)

No.11 result:

Donnie's Pizza & Cafe (url included but again, nothing additional)

No.16 result:

Pisa Pizza (url included +)
...Pizza Chicago - Chicago Pizza Net Your online Pizza Connection for Chicagoland For Pizzerias, Menus & Maps Choose Your Area Downtown OHare/NW Side Near North Lakeview/N Side Taylor St./SW Side South North/Northwest... more on web site

So, in addition to the concerns I have on what exactly the algorithm is using to rank these results, the appearance of them is another issue that is, at this point, very confusing.


 9:01 pm on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

not everything is predictable, is it cubfan?


 10:03 pm on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Um, no Vince. But it's part of my job to try to figure it out. That's why we're all here discussing our observations.


 11:02 pm on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

You haven't read Battelle's review [battellemedia.com] yet, it's worth reading.

One thing that jumps out at me:

"at one point Levine called Yahoo Local an emergent 'collective wiki for local.'"

Love it.


 2:44 am on Aug 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Some other random items to add, I feel this is where we will start to see the larger separation from Yahoo and Google in their current capabilities. Yahoo has a significant advantage over Google in knowledge of a person(user base) - specifically their personal stats, interests and certain browsing patterns. Granted G's aggressive tactics with desktop search, g-mail, and even the tool bar will give them lots of data in this regard, but Y still is leaps and bounds ahead with their information.

Personal information combined with rich and accurate business data, event data, and the like are the big factors IMO. The techology is there already. Y has the big leg up on the person info. Everyone appears to be playing at the same level on the results data.

The next 6 - 12 mo. will be pretty explosive in this space.


 3:11 am on Aug 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

The way I see it, there's more than enough room for both approaches. Google tends to go for algorythmic breadth, Yahoo tends to be more personable. Just a question of personal taste as to which is "better".

For what it's worth, I like dealing with people.


 3:25 am on Aug 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

< see the larger separation from Yahoo and Google

There's a nice article about this in the most recent Economist. How Yahoo is becoming is becoming more of a media company than a technology company, and Google is staying as a technology company.

The Economist actually came down a little hard on Yahoo for creating a conflict of interest between its search and content businesses (do they send you to the best result, or point you at the best Yahoo content).


 3:50 am on Aug 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

I read that article, too and like you I also felt they came down a little hard.

It seemed their concern was that Yahoo was spreading themselves across too many different areas, and compared them to AOL five years ago, and questioned why a company would want to resurrect that business model of being everything to everybody.

I think they're missing the larger picture in that we have broadband today, and today's user is savvier than those using AOL way back when. Additionally, we have a whole generation that grew up with the web and are digitally connected in ways we only speculated about five years ago. Online advertising has been resurrected because the time is right. I think the time is also right to bridge services together.


 2:12 pm on Aug 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

I read that article too, and found it fascinating. (As an aside, I strongly recommend a subscription of the Economist to everyone - it's probably the best source of world information out there.)

What bothers me most about the Yahoo! Local reskinned blog search engine is that sometimes you may actually want an authoritative source of information. There's a reason AAA is still in business, and it's not just for getting your car towed off of the side of the road.

One wonders if Yahoo's new product is leaving an entire generation in the dust. 20-something indie rock kids embrace the internet, sure, but do they have the real money that advertisers are looking to attract? Other than restaurants and entertainment venues, will advertisers find value in a product that's built on user preferences?

A referral to a business from a friend means something to me. A referral from anonymous people on the internet often doesn't.


 2:54 pm on Aug 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

This is a fantastic thread with unbelievably well thought out posts. Thanks guys. Good Stuff.

>>sometimes you may actually want an authoritative source of information

oh wow. this is a thread in and of itself. but jake, don't you think that even in the y local environment that the cream does rise to the top amongst businesses and as it does, isn't it clear that this subjective ratings content produces much more authoritative results than anything we have seen in directional media to date. even more, don't you think that natural checks in balances on the content through a social networking construct negates the problem associated with a whimsical blog environment. put another way, AAA should do very well in this environment.

>>. I think the time is also right to bridge services together.

a perfect last sentence roger.

>>creating a conflict of interest

interesting lawrence. i have been calling it nepotism for a while. but really its just leveraging assets and relationships to maximize revenue. it is this type of diversification that makes y much less vulnerable and a long-term leader in the interactive media, search, and advertising arena.

>>Y has the big leg up on the person info.
Right on the money.

>>Everyone appears to be playing at the same level on the results data.

right, and as i believe you are suggesting, the question is really about the aggregation of user generated content which fuels community style local search atop of personal reg and profile data. this is precisely where the data will begin to differentiate itself among providers.

>>The way I see it, there's more than enough room for both approaches. >>I like dealing with people.


oh and because sometimes i don't know what a word really means:

[webopedia.com...] / [wiki.org...]

arinick and cubfan, let me know when we crack it;) then maybe they'll be nice.


 4:48 pm on Aug 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Here's a really neat example [daviswiki.org] of a wiki approach to local. A local guide for Davis, California launched by a couple of students, but now maintained by a ton of folks.


 2:53 am on Aug 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

One more vote saying the Economist came down too hard on Yahoo. But, gee, I picked up a Wired in the airport and read their article on Yahoo and what a load of worthless pap. Guess that's why I come to WW for thoughtful insights on the web.

OK, having just traveled around a bit, I did some checking on the Yahoo local and it was good, but not great. The maps are good, but retailers open and close so often that I don't know if this is ever going to be what it needs to be--what's happening now, which is what we expect from the web.

And, I went and filled out one form for one of by small biz friends/clients and found that the format was lacking. Hours of operation, for example, needed to have something beside times or closed. Some days by appointment, other days "varies." They could have "see below" as an option.

I only studied it for a while, but where is a way to update the location on the map. They had the biz in the middle of the block when it actually on the corner.

And what about links to local news web sites for more info? Competitive?


 12:36 am on Aug 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

This is definitally the best interface in local search today. Hopefully others will follow and local search will only improve.


 3:58 am on Aug 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

I didn't dig past a handful or markets I am active in, but I do notice that *given no other apparent preference* the local SERPs are in zip-code order, centered about some defined ground-zero for a given city. For example, looking at Denver we see seaches for X in Denver yielding listings from 80202, with mileage reported outward from there. Ditto for several other cities. GZ may be 80200 but I didn't go any further.

Note that historic ZIP codes often do not correspond to popular modern vernacular... sometimes you find the first official post office (zip) is in the oldest, most-off-beat downtown area far away from the commerce and communities (yet still at the top of the local results).

These are still not the same serps produced when one does an "X in Denver" (no quotes) search. Those are "relevance" ordered as expected (Yahoo! still puts the local results at the top like an ad, with a click thru to the local serps).


 10:04 pm on Aug 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

but where are the super cool sat maps?

no offense, but this post seems like a Y sponsored event...how about some complaints?

1. The auto-zoom feature on the map is annoying
2. The results are not so great on either platform...a search for doctors in my geography produced mostly eye doctors...the same search on google produces mostly dentists...
3. Doesn't it bother folks how similar it is to google? Can't Yahoo come up with an original idea?

Personally, I am waiting for the local search engine that can scan legitimate authoritative resources and return results based on those metrics...such as BBA, AAA, financial performance, etc. That will be a great local search engine.

Oh - and how about a way to easily select results and push them to my phone...chances are I am hopping in my car and may need the results or a sub-set of the results with me...just a thought.

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