The re-launch of Yahoo! Local in the US this week saw the search giant try to regain its footing in the battle for local traffic by firmly aiming to position itself as a major local portal.
In stark contrast to Google’s atomised approach to local products, the new Yahoo! Local integrates a broad range of Yahoo!’s existing community content such as Groups and Upcoming (events) channelled into local categories to accompany the existing local directory of businesses and reviews.
Interestingly, mapping seems to play more of a minor a role in the new local portal in stark contract to Google Maps’ success.
Yahoo! Local also aggregates reviews and mentions of local businesses to increase the contextualisation of its results, though fails to provide a similar service for Upcoming, by restricting its local events to those added by the Upcoming community.
With close to 20m users, Yahoo! Local is inevitably a powerful marketing platform for local businesses eager to run locally targeted adverts and connect with new customers.
Business owners can also add coupons to convert customers. Whether the revamped local portal will hold users interest is another matter.
‘Local’ is an inherently diverse and personal space – thus, the expectation that someone looking for a reliable plumber, will also want to organise their social life and check out which bands are playing at the weekend within their town may be misguided.
Indeed, it is the very breadth of content and web services that Yahoo! has at its disposal that seems to confuse and undermine Yahoo! Local’s overall offering and underlines the challenges facing the ever growing number of local focused sites where the temptation to add ‘local’ everything is ever apparent.
With any website, knowing what the core proposition of your site is, and where bolt-on services add real value to the site’s core service is essential.
There is no doubt that Yahoo!’s local information has great value and needs to personalised. However, I get the feeling that at a time when the atomisation of content - be it through personalised homepages, Facebook applications or desktop widgets - is finally taking off, trying to ground users to a single portal may be an unwise move.
Duncan Jennings is the co-founder of welovelocal.com, a social local search directory.