Last week, Yahoo! announced an overhaul to their Yahoo! Local service where improvements would harness the voice of their millions of user reviews, ratings and other consumer generated content to bolster the value of the service and give local businesses a real chance of search exposure.
We’ve speculated in our own research that local search services such as Google Maps, Yahoo! Local and MSN Local, rely on factors such as reviews and listings on other local sites to determine their local rankings. Now Yahoo! have openly acknowledged that their new overhaul includes a revised algorithm which will use the valuable contributions of users to influence their results.
According to the announcement post:
“We’ve completely overhauled the site to make it easier to contribute your opinion and through a new, updated algorithm, we’re making sure that search results take your ratings and reviews into account. We want to make sure that people’s contributions to Yahoo! Local count in more ways than one.”
Not only will the new enhancements rely on user reviews to help determine which local businesses are best and accordingly rank higher (a debate they are happy to let their users decide), but they’ve also rolled some additional features that will make it easier for users to contribute to the debate and make the local search experience more interactive.
The key new features as outlined on the post are:
- Commenting on User Reviews – No longer will it feel like shouting into the wind when you write a review. Now the people who benefit from your tips can reply back. You’ll also be able to track comments on your reviews from your My Local page.
- Weekender – Offers a weekly selection of events, movies (including show times and reviews), dining picks, and more to help you plan your weekend.
- More “Local Buzz” – Shows the top-moving search terms in your hometown with a new search cloud and exposes the most recent reviews of businesses in your area to see what people are buzzing about.
- Best Local Events – Taps into the Upcoming social events database to surface the best events in your hometown.
- Most Popular – Highlights the best of a city in the key categories of Restaurants, Health & Beauty, and Home & Garden.
- My Local Improvements – A new “save for later” feature so you can quickly archive those hidden gems you uncover along with your recent reviews, tags, and collections.
So as the local search juggernaut continues to gather momentum, developments such as this latest overhaul by Yahoo! mean that small businesses with a local focus need to jump aboard and start building their online local profiles. It now means encouraging customers to contribute reviews to help them build a reputation.