Following up on a recent revamping of the search interface, AOL announced this morning that they have also added a new local search service to their stable of search engine tools. The new local search is integrated with their current search interface, but can also be reached directly at http://localsearch.aol.com.

The new local search is designed to include localized information from AOL® Yellow Pages, AOL® CityGuide, the Moviefone® and MapQuest® services along with content from other sites. The idea is to give users more ways to find local businesses and event listings and even news stories by tapping into AOL's expansive content network.

On a company press release issued this morning, Jim Riesenbach, Senior Vice President, AOL Search and Directional Media said "AOL's goal is to help people find answers faster where they live, work and travel nationwide. Local search is an important and growing category of search services given that 20 percent of all online look-ups are for something nearby -- local businesses and resources, movies, events, restaurants, products, retail stores and more."

Along with sorting business and event listings by geographical location, users will also be able to link directly to maps, photos, event schedules and service descriptions. Users may also save zip code locations in order to speed up future search queries.

The combination of AOL's Yellow Page listings along with the localized content from their CityGuide property will allow individuals quick access to reviews of local businesses, movie listings for the nearest theatres and built in maps and driving directions to businesses listed in the search results.

"Our new Local Search is in line with AOL's commitment to deliver enhanced products based on the highest-quality content to help users find information that's important to them," explained Riesenbach. AOL's introduction of a local search tool is a move that helps put them in more direct competition with the localized search tools already being offered by competitors like Google and Yahoo!.

However, AOL's local search goes beyond simple business listings and movie times. Through a partnership with ShopLocal.com, they will be offering links to weekly sales on apparel, electronics, home improvement products and more. They've also partnered with OpenTable and Restaurant.com to offer online reservations and gift certificate purchases. It's AOL's portal status that gives them an edge when it comes to delivering unique content alongside standard business listings.

The ultimate winner in the localized search war is not going to be the site that can deliver the most business listings, but rather the site that can offer the most localized content to support those listings. Simply listing the local movie theatres isn't enough, search engines need to list movie times and allow direct links to purchase tickets. Listing the newest restaurant to hit the town won't be enough, users will need to be able to view the daily special and make their reservations straight from the engine. The search engine that ultimately integrated content and commerce the best will end up gaining the most loyal following.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
February 24, 2005





Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.







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