Yahoo tries to hit closer to home with local search

Yahoo has unveiled a beta-test version of its Local search tool to compete with search rivals which have rolled out products to...

Yahoo has unveiled a beta-test version of its Local search tool to compete with search rivals which have rolled out products to help users find information closer to home.

Yahoo Local leverages the company's search technology, Yellow Pages and Maps listings to serve up information and results tailored to specific neighbourhoods. Users can enter an address, city, state or zip code into a search pane on the Local site to zoom in on an Italian restaurant, or hairdressers in their neighbourhood, for example.

The beta was launched for the US market and a Yahoo spokeswoman in London said that no plans have been made yet to offer the tool in other markets.

Users can refine their searches according to distance, rating, category and other factors, and can save their most frequently used locations to view recently searched information, Yahoo said.

The Local offering was introduced the same day Ask Jeeves said it would be introducing a local business search tool through a licensing deal with IAC/InterActive's Citysearch unit. Google also has a local offering that delivers results within certain geographical parameters. Microsoft has also expressed an interest in getting cozy with users when it comes to search, and recently began offering a beta service on MSNBC.com that delivers personalised news.

Yahoo's new offering is not the company's first foray into local search, however. In March, it added local attraction search to Yahoo Maps, allowing users to locate neighbourhood destinations such as cinemas, hotels and cash machines on a map display. The visual search tool, dubbed SmartView, is also integrated into Yahoo Local.

The company is hoping to make its local offering stand out by adding extra features, such as the ability to make reservations for hotels and restaurants using the tool, and by adding a rate and review feature where users can sound off, giving their opinions on certain establishments.

Scarlet Pruitt writes for IDG News Service

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