Yahoo has launched a new version of its local search that focuses on specific city neighbourhoods with user reviews and maps for local amenities.

The new "search by neighbourhood" function that allows users to search for information by neighbourhoods in major metropolitan areas, said Paul Levine, general manager of local services for Yahoo.

Yahoo Local now includes these neighbourhood break-downs for more than 60 US cities, which represent the majority of Yahoo Local's traffic, he said.

Searching by city neighbourhood is method that no other local search engine currently provides, he added. "We've really changed the game in local and redefined the way users find local content," Levine said.

What’s this then?

The new neighbourhood search includes a map of a city's neighbourhood and includes three columns of information, one for local events, titled "What's Happening Locally;" one for local restaurant recommendations, entitled "Users' Favorite Restaurants;" and the last for favorite local services, called "More Local Favorites." Each title is colour coded, and the entries under the titles are pinpointed on a map of the neighbourhood according to the colour code. The recommendations used in the listings have been rated by users in Yahoo's 181 million-plus user community, Levine said.

An optional personalization feature keeps track of a user's recent search history and makes suggestions based on interests displayed in previous searches, Levine said. The new version of the tool also adds RSS (Really Simple Syndication) support, allowing users to subscribe to feeds for local events, top restaurants and local favorites for a city or neighbourhood.

Battle for search success

Though Microsoft hopes to seize a slice of both the local and Internet search markets, it's currently a two-horse race between Google and Yahoo.

Google was used for 59.2 per cent of searches across all major search engines in July 2005, a 14 per cent increase in share versus a year ago, according to Hitwise. Yahoo Search captured 28.8 per cent of searches in the same month, with MSN Search grabbing only 5.5 per cent of searches during the same period.

Visits to Yahoo Local were 4.4 times greater than visits to Google Local in July, according to Hitwise. But Google is coming on strong locally, thanks to its new Google Maps search tool, according to the researcher.