Yahoo! Adds Map To Local Onebox. And Changes Local Algo?

Yahoo! Local followed Google’s Maps lead in adding a Map into it’s onebox results in a local search. Today is the first day I noticed it and I haven’t read anything about it. Yahoo Local’s blog has not been updated since September 27th. Here’s how a local search looks now in Yahoo! :

Yahoo OneBox Result For Local SearchClick for larger image.

In addition to adding the map, I believe they changed the algorithm as well. The evidence I have of this is slim but it was enough to convince me. That like Google Maps it will be rare for a business to found outside it’s home city in the top 3 results. That has large implications for local search marketers.

I figured it was only a matter of time before Yahoo and MSN followed Google’s lead on this because the set up is brilliant from the standpoint of “appearance of relevance” and generating revenue.

Here’s is what I mean by that:

  1. The Appearance of Relevance – Returning listings from just the town searched makes the result seem perfectly relevant. So, the searcher feels no dissatisfaction with the search engine. ( Even though, they were really asking the search engine to find the best businesses that serve their community, not just a list of businesses from their community, at least for a service like a contractor.)
  2. Revenue - I bet the lack of copy associated with these listings increases the CTR of the sponsored links on the page. I have no way of knowing this for sure but I bet it’s true. Nobody knows better than a search engine how important a snippet of information is to get someone to click thru.Also, if the heat maps are to be believed the F shaped eye pattern along with the lack of copy should make it more likely that ads on the right are read and clicked.

For a local search marketer we are left building our strategy around this onebox, especially for a service business that serves a large county. Take Nassau County, NY for instance, where there are around 100 different towns. A couple of years ago the strategy might have been to optimize the site to be found in each of those communities. But if you want to be found above the fold in any city but your own nowadays, you are forced to choose paid search.

So, the best strategy for such a business today, would probably be to first optimize for the business keyword+Nassau County, NY, and then set up a paid campaign for all of the towns. Only after those 2 things were done, would I consider optimizing for the individual towns.

This is really a perfect result for the search engine. There users are more satisfied, their ads are more effective & clicked more often, and more search marketers become paid advertisers. So, I would expect MSN to adopt this very soon. And I would not be surprised to see the local onebox with map come to County Searches sometime soon. Which would change the local search marketers strategy again.

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