AOL Grows Search With Local Offering
Google isn't the only search engine ramping up its local capabilities this month. AOL has announced a new Local Search service that integrates regionalized content from the company's media properties, as well as partners. The move continues AOL's strategy of building a central destination to access the company's wide range of content.
AOL previously launched its overhauled Web search in January, which included local highlights, but is now following Google's approach of separating location based searching. AOL Local Search remembers a user's location and displays weather information on the main page, along with popular search terms for that area.
Search results are pulled from AOL Yellow Pages, CityGuide, Moviefone, and MapQuest. But to create a full ecosystem of services, AOL has turned to its partners. ShopLocal.com features items on sale, while restaurant reservations can be placed with OpenTable and gift certificates purchased from Restaurant.com.
In addition to tapping its own local resources, AOL has focused on personalization to rise above its rivals. Users have two search views, and can refine results by type, distance or rating. Maps, photos and even schedules for events are displayed directly in search results
"AOL's goal is to help people find answers faster where they live, work and travel nationwide," said Jim Riesenbach, Senior Vice President of AOL Search and Directional Media. "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."
To capitalize on the growing local search market, AOL has designed a special program for merchants. Through a partnership with Ingenio, AOL will offer advertising solutions for small businesses that may not have a presence on the Web. The Ingenio program literally requires merchants to pay per call when customers telephone a specially crafted number found in their advertisement.
AOL also says it will work with local business to highlight special offers and provide printable coupons to what it calls "ready-to-buy" Web consumers.