AOL Launches Local Search

Joining its bigger search rivals, AOL ties into its Web properties such as CityGuide and MapQuest to deliver listings of local business and points of interest. Meanwhile, Google heads to the movies and Yahoo bolsters image search.

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America Online Inc.s local search service is open for business.

AOL on Thursday publicly launched its local search after previewing its plans earlier this month to incorporate more geographically targeted business information into its Web search site.

The initial launch focuses on integrating content from a range of AOL Web properties to provide 13 million business and points-of-interest listings, the Dulles, Va., company announced. The content includes business listings from AOL Yellow Pages, entertainment and event information from AOL CityGuide, movie listings and tickets from Moviefone, and maps and driving directions from MapQuest.

"AOLs goal is to help people find answers faster where they live, work and travel nationwide," Jim Riesenbach, senior vice president of AOL search and directional media, said in a statement. "Local search is an important and growing category of search services given that 20 percent of all online lookups are for something nearby."

AOL is joining its bigger search competitors, namely Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc., in targeting local search. Both Google and Yahoo in recent months have been bolstering their local offerings with new mapping and interface features.

/zimages/5/28571.gifWhat about the traditional phone directories? Click here to read about their local search efforts.

The move also is part of AOLs more aggressive push to offer Web search to the general public in addition to its subscribers. Last month, it revamped the features on its search site, though AOL continues to draw its general Web results from Googles search index.

Beyond integrating its own services for local search, AOL also has tapped a set of new partners. It has partnered with CrossMedia Services Inc.s to insert information on sales at local retailers into results, with OpenTable Inc. for making online restaurant reservations, and with for dining certificates. Visitors also can buy tickets to a range of local events from six online ticketing services.

AOL previously announced that it plans to add more options for geographically targeting search results. It is working with to provide online news from every U.S. zip code and 10,000 sources, and it is partnering with FAST Search & Transfer Inc. to expand its local search options.

An AOL spokeswoman had no timeframe for when the company would offer the additional features.

AOL also plans to incorporate pay-per-call advertising into its search site this spring from Ingenio Inc., a spokesperson said. Pay-per-call is a twist on traditional search-based ads. Instead of paying when a user clicks on a sponsored link, an advertiser would pay when a user calls a phone number provided in a sponsored listing.

In other search news this week:

  • Google is getting ready for the Oscars. The Mountain View, Calif., company Wednesday released a search feature for finding movie show times and online reviews.

Users can search for movie information by adding "movie:" to the beginning of a query on Googles home page. Including a zip code or city and state will return movies for theaters in a local area, while providing a movie title and zip code will return information on where a specific movie is playing.

Google also has reformatted the way it displays results for movie reviews. By entering a genre or even a general description of a movie like "great action sequence," users can then view results grouped by movie title. The results also include a compilation of the overall "stars" rating of online reviews and a link to read the reviews.

Googles movie feature also extends to mobile devices. Using the Google SMS (Short Messaging Service) service, users can send text messages to retrieve movie show times, Google officials said.

  • Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo late Tuesday expanded its index of Web images to 1.5 billion images and expanded its image search features.

Depending on the query, Yahoo now is including image results atop Web search results and providing a link into the full image results. Users also can e-mail an image result to others.

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