Local search has hit the radar again today. Despite the fact that it hasn't been that long since news headlines touted local search upgrades from the big boys, today Yahoo!
Yahoo!'s new local offering is already live and can be found here. Something about the clean, Spartan interface -- no ads here yet, folks, as compared with other pieces of Yahoo! real estate -- and the word "BETA" in tiny font below the Yahoo! Local headline certainly strike one as Googlesque.
However, what Yahoo! clearly intends to be a differentiator is what looks to be a bit of niche searching power -- sample searches include "romantic restaurants in... " and "casual bars near.... " In an interesting twist, it allows users to rate certain restaurants, much like Amazon.com
This is an example of Yahoo! moving even more local, considering another foray into the space in late June, when Fool contributor Tim Beyers reported on Yahoo!'s Local Match. (Of course, Yahoo! has always had a certain degree of local content, with its Yahoo! Local pages based on cities as well as Internet Yellow Pages searching.)
Ask Jeeves, on the other hand, is entering the local search game by teaming up with Citysearch. However, given the competitive landscape, it seems unlikely that this is the last we hear of local concerns from Ask Jeeves.
Google, of course, has had a specialized local search function of similar proportions live since March. Time Warner's
What's with the onslaught of local search "me too" news? Market researcher Kelsey Group predicted that localized searching will ring up $2.8 billion in sales by 2008. Also, as lucrative and popular as generalized search might be, localized search has even more potential of weaseling into the daily habits of Internet users.
All of these initiatives in the buildup of products in the search wars are intended to keep users glued to their sites as much as possible. (And at this point in the game, not having certain features begins to look downright remiss.) Some mixture of product quality versus search brand effectiveness will likely tell us whether Yahoo! can capture the flag in local search.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. Just this morning, before she even knew about Yahoo!'s and Ask Jeeves' local search news, she used Google's search function to track down the address of a local restaurant.