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AOL Steers Toward Local Search

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Not to be outdone by big Internet players and smaller local-focused search companies, AOL has quietly opened up beta testing for AOL Local, its local search product.

AOL has assembled a beta test for AOL Local, a search product aimed at connecting AOL’s users with business listings. Several billion dollars in local online advertising will be in play in 2007, with spending expected to increase over time, so it makes sense for AOL to take an interest.

Queries for a business type and a location pull a map out of AOL’s MapQuest, and adorn it with pushpins numbered to match search results shown on the left of the page.

When it comes to ad dollars, AOL is keeping it in-house. The sponsored links delivered above and below the map go through AOL’s ad unit, and not that of its billion-dollar pal, Google.

The maps load quickly, and switching from map to aerial to hybrid views happened at a noticeably brisk pace. Results can be sorted by name, distance, or the rating given to businesses by AOL users. AOL pulls the business data from infoUSA’s database.

Clicking and dragging the map will make the search update to reflect the new map view. Current map results can be locked in place, and a changed map can be reset to the original search by clicking the Reset Map link.

Although listed as a beta, we expect to see the Local tab become a permanent addition to AOL’s search options soon. There is too much money at stake for AOL to keep letting their users go elsewhere for local search when needed.

AOL Steers Toward Local Search
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