Yahoo! Ahead In Local Search Race

    March 10, 2004

Yahoo officially launched SmartView Tuesday, moving still farther ahead of Google in the race for local search.

SmartView adds functionality and a wider choice to Yahoo’s old “maps” page. Type in your zip code in the form on the top left of the page and a map of your neighborhood pops up.

The Race for the Zip Based Search
The Race for the Zip Based Search

With the new SmartView you can click on “Food & Dining,” “Recreation & Entertainment,” and a number of other business types. The “Food & Entertainment” tab opens into a listing of food types, from Indian to Pizza. Click Pizza and all the pizza places in your neighborhood that Yahoo knows of appear on the map.

If you click on one of the yellow boxes there on the map a box appears with an address and phone number.

What’s interesting about this? It’s a small but subtle reminder that Yahoo’s beating the pants off of Google in the local search race.

SuperPages has a similar local search function, though it does not allow you to see all the locations for a given search term on one map.

What else about SmartView? Well, when I search in my zip code, 40507, there’s a little ad at the bottom of the page for Holiday Inn. I can click on that tab and all two of the Holiday Inns in Lexington, KY show up.

That’s an early example of how big players will use local search advertising. Holiday Inn showed up at the bottom of my map when I searched on New York zip codes too.

SmartView Limits. The strength of SmartView – that the results show up on the map – is also its weakness. There’s something nice about CitySearch’s results appearing in a list with the business name and phone numbers right there in your face.

Local Limits. Yahoo’s still limited by the amount of local information it has (BellSouth and InfoUSA). It only lists about a third of the bars in my neighborhood. I know where all the bars are, but how are you out of town visitors going to find me after work?

In what I believe is an effort to boost their local listings (and revenue), Yahoo’s advertising their small business-targeted hosting service on their map page, along with their merchant services product.

Also, where’s Europe? Where’s Asia? Where’s Africa? Where’s South America? As if local were a purely American phenomenon…

You can find Canadian maps, but it doesn’t appear that the SmartView works for Canada yet.

In a clear indication of Yahoo’s local search lead, Google links to Yahoo’s new SmartView for the search “hilton new york” on a search I performed on 031004. I found this text at the top of my results page: Show map of Hilton NY on Yahoo! MapsMapQuest

Watch for a Google to bring their local search out of labs soon – heck, their labs project might not reflect the local projects they’ve got cooking.

What do you think of Yahoo local? How about Google, SuperPages, and CitySearch? Talk local in WebProWorld.

Garrett French is the editor of iEntry’s eBusiness channel. You can talk to him directly at WebProWorld, the eBusiness Community Forum.