Other than the yellow pages sites, Yahoo! is really one of the incumbents in local search. It pioneered interactive mapping, advanced functionality and local filters, as well as being an early integrator of community and ratings/reviews. But more recently Yahoo! has been under pressure from Google and Microsoft in dynamic mapping on the one flank and a range of newer local and community sites (e.g., Yelp) on the other.
It was time for a local refresh, which Yahoo!, as of this evening, has done. With a redesign partly inspired by the Yahoo! OurCity sites in India, the new Local site features a bolder graphical look that pushes community content even more front and center. There’s also better Yahoo! Groups integration and more prominent local events from Yahoo! property Upcoming. To that end, there’s a helpful “weekend guide,” that includes movies and other entertainment options. In general there appears to be broader integration of other Yahoo! content and properties into Local.
The site is basically divided into three primary tabbed sections: City Guide, My Local (saved content) and Directory (categories). Indeed, while search remains central to the site, there’s a great deal more category and browse functionality. Overall the product appears to be more elegant and complete than its predecessor. Maps are still featured, but not as a central metaphor or visual element and much more in a functional way.
Here are some screenshots (click any to enlarge):
Taking a page from Yelp, the site also makes reviewers and their photos (or avatars) more prominent to make reviews in turn more transparent and offer more “warmth” and personality to the site. Personalization is also more heavily featured and I would imagine, ultimately so will be behavioral ad targeting (currently playing on Yahoo! Travel).
Something (for me) to get used to is the removal of the many filters that populated the left column on search results pages. I found these to very useful but, apparently, most Yahoo! users were not quite as keen on them. Most of the filters remain but are part of a “narrow your search” expandable box (see below). Yahoo! told me that user testing and feedback suggested the change.
It will take a little while to explore and digest the new design, content and features. But on first look this is a welcome change and general improvement. It also comes at a good time, when Yahoo! needs to retain users and maintain its momentum in Local.
Among the comScore category of “IYP” sites, Yahoo! Local maintains a lead, with 20 million uniques. But the competition is also gaining. And this is a time when the local advertising opportunity is finally starting to kick in. (As recently reported by TMP Directional Marketing, the Internet is now the primary source of 60% of local lookups/searches.)
And you? Your thoughts, reactions?